14 Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. – Hebrews 4:14-16 ESV
The life of faith is not an easy one. Following Christ requires commitment and a determination to keep on believing and trusting even in the midst of the constant and sometimes deadly barrage of the enemy. Paul encourages us, “In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one” (Ephesians 6:16 ESV). Peter warns us, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8 ESV). Later on in this letter, the author of Hebrews tells us:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up. – Hebrews 12:1-3 NLT
The Christian life requires endurance and perseverance. It demands that we keep our eyes focused on Jesus, not just for our salvation, but for our ongoing sanctification. He is the “champion who initiates and perfects our faith.” We are to look at His example, recalling how He endured the cross and was “tempted in every way, just as we are” (Hebrews 4:15 NLT).
Jesus suffered and died because of sin; not His, but ours. He sacrificed His life so we wouldn’t have to give up our own. That is why the author of Hebrews goes on to say, “After all, you have not yet given your lives in your struggle against sin” (Hebrews 4:4 NLT).
We will never have to pay the ultimate penalty for our sins, because Jesus took our place and died the death we deserved to die. But we still have to struggle with the very real presence of indwelling sin. While we live on this earth we will have to “strive to enter that rest” (Hebrews 4:11 ESV) – the rest that comes with trusting in the finished work of Christ, which includes not only our salvation but also our sanctification and ultimate glorification. We will have to constantly “hold firmly to the faith we profess” (Hebrews 4:14 NLT). Our hope is in Christ, or as Paul puts it in his letter to the Romans, “from faith for faith” (Romans 1:17 ESV).
Our faith must remain in Christ, from the beginning to the end. Paul told the Philippian Christians, “I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns” (Philippians 1:6 NLT). We have to hold firmly to that fact, even in the face of difficulty and disappointments.
And when we find ourselves in need, we are to turn to Jesus, our great high priest. He represents us before God and He fully understands what we are going through because He has been in our shoes. He is able to sympathize with our weaknesses. He was tempted just as we are. He knows what it is like to be under attack and to feel overwhelmed. And He also knows what it is like not to sin or to give in to feelings of doubt and despair. During His earthly life, Jesus never stopped trusting in His Heavenly Father. On no occasion did He ever fail to obey God.
Paul tells us that “being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:8 ESV). So when we find ourselves in a difficult spot, we can confidently turn to Him as our divine high priest, and we can find the grace and mercy we need to help us in our time of need. In times of testing or trial, we won’t find a high priest who shakes His finger in our face and condemns our weakness. No, we will find a sympathetic and empathetic high priest who reminds us that our sins have been paid for and any need for us to try to atone for our own sins has been done away with. The author will expand on this theme in chapter nine.
But when Christ came as high priest of the good things that are now already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not made with human hands, that is to say, is not a part of this creation. He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption. The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God! – Hebrews 9:11-14 NLT
Jesus played a dual role. He acted as the high priest, bringing the atoning sacrifice for man’s sins before God the Father. But He also played the part of the sacrificial lamb. He gave His life because it was the only sacrifice that would be acceptable to the Father. He was the unblemished, sinless Son of God, offering His own life as a substitute or stand-in for sinful humanity. And as those who have trusted in His substitutionary death on the cross, we can still come before the throne of grace and find mercy, hope, strength, comfort, assurance, and a constant reminder of God’s everlasting, never-failing love for us. We will face trials and tribulations in this life. We will encounter difficulties and experience times of doubt and despair. But we have an understanding high priest who knows our weaknesses and has provided the cure for all that ails us. As the author put it earlier in his letter:
Therefore, it was necessary for him to be made in every respect like us, his brothers and sisters, so that he could be our merciful and faithful High Priest before God. Then he could offer a sacrifice that would take away the sins of the people. Since he himself has gone through suffering and testing, he is able to help us when we are being tested. – Hebrews 2:17-18 NLT
We have help in times of need. We have a God who understands our weakness and has made compensation for it. We have not been left on our own. We don’t have to face the trials of this earth in our own human effort. We can stand firm and hold on to our original confession because our high priest is there to help us. As the old hymn so clearly reminds us, we need Jesus every hour.
I need Thee ev’ry hour,
Most gracious Lord;
No tender voice like Thine
Can peace afford.
I need Thee ev’ry hour,
Stay Thou nearby;
Temptations lose their pow’r
When Thou art nigh.
I need Thee ev’ry hour,
In joy or pain;
Come quickly and abide,
Or life is vain.
I need Thee, oh, I need Thee;
Ev’ry hour I need Thee;
Oh, bless me now, my Savior,
I come to Thee.
New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.