The Fifth Sunday in Lent March 28, 2004
142, 143(1-5), 220, 184
[Jesus], in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear, though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him.
Dear friends in Christ:
“Live and learn.” Most often you hear this after you’ve made a mistake. Experience is usually the best teacher. You can tell a child a hundred times not to run around the edge of a swimming pool with the slippery wet concrete, but if he falls down even one time most likely he’ll remember that for the rest of his life. Today you have the opportunity to “live and learn” in a different way, one that is not painful. Today, we are going to learn about the role of Jesus as your High Priest and that you live because of Him. May the Holy Spirit open your hearts to receive His message as you LIVE AND LEARN FROM JESUS, YOUR HIGH PRIEST. I. Live because of His obedience and suffering, II. Learn from His obedience and suffering, and III. Learn from Jesus that God listens to you.
We generally speak of three different kinds of Law that God gave to His people in the Old Testament. The Moral Law is the will of God for all time. The Civil Law is that body of laws which governed the daily life of Old Testament Israel. The Ceremonial Law regulated the worship life of Old Testament Israel.
While the Ceremonial Law has never applied to us as New Testament Christians because it has been fulfilled in Christ, it is valuable for us to study. There are pictures of Christ throughout the Ceremonial Law and it helps us to gain a further understanding of our Lord’s work for us.
Today, we especially focus on the role of the Old Testament High Priests. There were many priests, but only one High Priest. The most important work for the High Priest was on the Day of Atonement (Jews still celebrate this day—Yom Kippur). This was the one day of the year that the High Priest, and he alone, was allowed into the inner most room of the tabernacle (and later the temple)—the Holy of Holies. The Ark of the Covenant was in the Holy of Holies and represented the dwelling of God. The Mercy Seat was on top of the Ark of the Covenant. The Mercy Seat was a gold cover with two cherubim facing each other with their wings arched toward each other. On the Day of Atonement, the High Priest sprinkled the blood of a perfect lamb on the Mercy Seat to atone for the sins of the people. In this way, the High Priest was acting as the mediator between God and the people.
This was the most important day of the year for the Israelites, and yet that day was always full of imperfection. The imperfection began with the High Priest himself. Not only would he bring the sacrifice for the people’s sins, but he also had to make a sacrifice for himself because of his own sinfulness. You can also see imperfection in the repetition. This sprinkling of the blood had to be done every year. It was not the “be-all-end-all” payment for sin. That would only happen when the true High Priest would come into the world and pay for sin with His own blood. That was a sacrifice once and for all, a perfect and complete payment for the sin of the world.
To make the perfect sacrifice, Jesus had to live a life of perfect obedience. However, this obedience would lead Him through tremendous suffering. Let us reflect on this in the first verse of our text: “who, in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death.” [v.7] Think back to Jesus praying in the Garden of Gethsemane. He was anticipating what was on the road ahead. He knew full well of the excruciating ordeal He was about to undertake. He prayed so hard that we are told that His sweat was like drops of blood. This was agonizing. So often in life the anticipation is worse than the reality, not so with Jesus. In this case, the reality was as bad as the anticipation.
Yet, even knowing this, Jesus asked for His Father’s will to be done. If there was no way for the cup of suffering to be removed then He would drink it. Jesus was obedient unto death even the death of the cross (cf. Philippians 2:8). We are told that Jesus learned obedience through suffering, not that He was deficient in anything, but this was His experience. As the perfect Son of God Jesus had not experienced suffering, but for the sake of mankind and out of obedient love to His Father, He drank the cup of suffering down to the very dregs. For Jesus obedience and suffering went hand in hand.
Because of His perfect obedience, Jesus became the perfect High Priest offering the perfect sacrifice. This was not some animal, but the Lamb of God Himself.
Not all the blood of beasts
On Jewish altars slain
Could give the guilty conscience peace
Or wash away the stain.
But Christ, the heavenly Lamb,
Takes all our sins away;
A sacrifice of nobler name
And richer blood than they.
[TLH 156, st. 1-2]
No matter how many sacrifices were made by the Israelites, no matter how blood-stained the altars were, no matter how great the obedience of God’s people was, it could not pay for sin. Atonement required the perfection of Christ.
Jesus is called the “Author of our salvation” [v.9], in other words, Jesus is the source of salvation. If you are to be saved, it will have to be through Christ and His payment for sin. Our text tells us that He is salvation to all who obey Him. This obedience is not the keeping His Law, because if it were then no one would be saved. The Scriptures tell us that this obedience is linked to faith. “This is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment” (1 John 3:23). There is nothing extra required. You live because of the obedience and suffering of Christ.
We also learn from Jesus’ obedience and suffering. First of all we learn to submit to the will of God. When Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane it was a more intense prayer than anyone of us has uttered. Everything was at stake in that prayer. Yet Jesus concluded by saying, “Not My will, but Thine be done.” This is also part of the Lord’s Prayer which Jesus taught us. We often say, “Thy will be done,” but how often do you think about that? We are saying, “Not what I want to happen, Lord, but what you want.” God does want what is best for you. He has shown this by sending you His very best—His only-begotten Son. This is proof of His dedication to your spiritual well-being.
God has the long term vision that you and I do not possess. Sure, we like to speculate on what we will think will happen, but seldom are we correct. It is a matter of trust to rely on God for the future. It is also a matter of trust to submit yourself to His will. Here learn of Jesus and His obedience in carrying the cross. God may say (for reasons that you cannot understand), “I want you to go through a financial crisis.” He may allow grief to come into your life as He takes your mom or your husband away before you think you are ready. God may also allow trials to afflict your own body. In God’s will there may be tough times for us, but it is all for a greater goal. In Acts 14:22 we read, “We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God.” Learn of Christ to bear the cross, willingly submitting yourself to the will of your Heavenly Father.
We also learn patience from our Savior. For thirty-three years He hid His glory as the Son of God. This was especially true when it came to His death. It was not until after His resurrection that He was glorified. Jesus’ rightful glory will be evident to everyone when He returns on the Last Day as the Judge of all. The glory that you receive through Jesus will also have to wait. God has promised you a perfect body, freedom from sin, and complete happiness, but none of that will be complete here on earth. Searching for that here on earth will leave you empty and frustrated. You’ve no doubt heard of great success stories of people in business or entertainment or sports, and yet when you see a biography of their lives many of them are not happy even though they accomplished everything that they set out to do. Many of them make a wreck of their lives with drugs or an overindulgence in alcohol while seeking happiness. For some, the lesson that perfection and glory cannot be found on earth is one that is slowly learned.
I tell you I’m growing very tired of seeing sin make a wreck of so many lives. I see so many lives turned into shambles because of sin It grieves me to see the pain of others even more than going through hardships on my own.
I get frustrated, as I’m sure you do as well, with falling into the same pitfalls of sin on my part, and seeing sin have such a strong grip on others. Here is where we need to learn patience from Jesus. Look at what happened to God’s own Son. If Jesus endured all of that, much more than we’ll ever go through, before He claimed His rightful glory, surely we can wait for glory that we do not deserve. It’s coming. It has been promised, but patience is needed.
Finally, learn from Jesus that God listens to you. We read of how Jesus was heard by God “because of His godly fear.” [v.7] Today, God hears you because of your High Priest, Jesus. Another role of the Old Testament High Priest was to be a Mediator (go-between) between God and the people. Jesus does this for you. He has made you godly so that you can speak to your Heavenly Father. There is not a prayer that goes up to Him that is unheard or unanswered. Often when there is a crucial situation that goes our way we often say that our prayers were answered. But that is also true when things don’t go the way that we wanted. Jesus came to bring you and your Father together. God does pay loving attention to every detail of your life, answering your prayers in the way that is best for you, even when you can’t see it.
You will live because of your High Priest Jesus. Now also learn from His life and His death. Amen.
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