“Because we have a great High Priest who has ascended into the highest heaven, Jesus, the Son of God, let us continue to hold firmly to our profession of faith and never stop trusting Him. Our High Priest is capable of sympathizing with our infirmities, for He has been tested in every possible way like we are tested – but without sinning. Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with confident assurance to obtain mercy and grace, for we will find Him responsive in our time of need.” (paraphrased)
Having alluded to the high-priestly ministry of Christ (2:17), the author begins an exposition of a theme which dominates the remainder of his epistle. In order to fathom the book of Hebrews, it is imperative we seek to better comprehend the benefits of redemption.
Moses delivered the Israelites from Egypt. Joshua brought them into Canaan. But it was Aaron, as the high priest, who made ceremonial atonement for their sins. All other priestly functions were subordinate to his reconciliatory duties. As the writer proves later in his epistle, earthly priests were part of a process that was never completed. Whereas priests in the tabernacle offered sacrifices for sin, the Son of God became the final sacrifice for sin. Believers today have no need for obsolete tabernacles, temples, or earthly priests. The writer refers to Jesus as our great High Priest, thereby exalting Him far above all others. Jesus completely fulfilled the typological teachings the tabernacle was designed to portray.
The tabernacle services were designed to prepare the way for Jesus’ high priestly ministry. When Jesus died, the veil in the temple was torn from top to bottom, indicating free and unrestricted access to the mercy seat (Mk. 15:38). The Levitical high priest, passing through the innermost veil into the holy of holies, is an allegory of Jesus passing into the innermost heaven. Our Divine Intercessor did not pass through a man-made veil in a tabernacle, but through His Father’s heavens, “now to appear in the presence of God for us” (Heb. 9:24). Jesus ascended far above principalities, powers, might, and dominion to fulfill all things (Eph. 1:21 & 4:10). Whereas Levitical priests stood momentarily in the presence of God, Christ continues His mediatorship from heaven. It is imperative we “hold fast” (krateo) our faith in Him. Krateo means “to grip tightly and not release the grasp”. We must cling tenaciously to our relationship with Jesus.
“Touched with the feelings” is sumpathesai, from which we derive our word “sympathy.” Jesus is empathetic, not cold and impersonal like the Pharisees of Jesus’ day (Mk. 3:5). In contrast, our High Priest took our infirmities and bore our sicknesses (Mt. 8:17). Jesus endured the complete range of human suffering while remaining sinless. When referring to Satan’s temptations, Luke uses the phrase panta peirasmon, meaning “every single kind of temptation” (Lk. 4:13). The writer uses the same word panta when he speaks of Jesus being tempted in every respect. Only the One who did not yield to sin can fully comprehend the horror of sin. His sinless nature caused Him to feel the full and agonizing force of temptations more intensely than anyone else. He has first-hand knowledge of our weaknesses. As a result of His perfect resistance to sin, Jesus knows how temptations can be victoriously overcome. Jesus promised the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him (Lk. 11:13). Led by the Spirit, we also can overcome temptations.
Jesus did not have to sin to understand sin. Because Jesus loved His Father, He had no inclination to disobey Him (Jn. 8:29). It was necessary for Him to be exposed to temptations in order to fully experience the pain of resisting them. Sinful enticements need not result in sinful actions. “Yet without sin” means Jesus adamantly refused to respond to the lures of Satan (Lk. 4:1-4 & Jn. 14:30). Jesus did not sin because He could not, but because He would not. His human nature allowed Him both the power to sin as well as the power to not sin.
To “draw near” to His throne is the same term the writer uses to encourage us to enhance our relationship with Christ in full assurance of faith (10:22). “Boldly” is parrhessias and indicates we can come confidently, but not arrogantly. Boldness to commune with Jesus is based on His authority, not human merit.
The facts set forth in this verse are as follows:
God has a throne.
It is a throne of grace.
We are invited to approach it.
We are invited to approach confidently.
We will receive mercy and grace when we come.
We will receive mercy and grace in God’s perfect timing.
A throne bespeaks kingship and our Sovereign Lord is there to dispense mercy and pardon. The word throne occurs over forty times in Revelation and in almost every case depicts the authority and power of God. The phrase “throne of grace” implies compassion is at the heart of His authority and power. The throne of judgment for sinners becomes the throne of grace for believers. Christians are not restricted from God’s mercy seat, but are invited to unhesitatingly approach Him with reverence and godly fear (12:28).
We need mercy for past sins and grace to keep us from future sins. We can be courageous when we speak of Him in public (v. 14) and confident when we speak with Him in private (v. 16). Whereas Levitical High Priests could only stand in the presence of God once annually, we may come to Him daily. Because He actively assists those He redeems, we will find the timely help we need. We can depend upon Jesus for suitable and seasonal help in times of persecution, affliction, and temptation.
Our daily dependence upon Him will cause us to discover His strength, counsel, and direction. Our great High Priest understands human weakness and is therefore sympathetic (v. 15). Because His is a throne of grace, empathy flows from it. Because Christ is omnipotent, we can expect His direct assistance in overcoming temptation. Jesus closes the distance between heaven and earth by personally assisting His children. Now in heaven, He “ever lives to make intercession for us” (Heb. 7:25).
QUESTIONS: CHRIST – GOD’S GREAT HIGH PRIEST
1. List the three ways in which Satan tempted Jesus in Matthew 4:3-9.
2. According to I Peter 2:22, what did Jesus never do?
3. According to Leviticus 4:20, 26, 31 & 35, what was the primary duty of the priest?
4. According to Ephesians 1:20, where is Jesus now seated?
5. According to Matthew 15:22-25, what did the Canaanite woman want Jesus to do?
6. According to Mark 9:17-22, what did this man want Jesus to do?
7. What is said concerning Jesus in Matthew 8:17?
8. What is the throne called in Revelation 22:3?
9. What specific things do you ask God for when you draw near to His throne of Grace?
10. List your greatest temptations.