Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Encouragement for the weary Christian (Hebrews 4:14-5:10)

After the long opening section about the supremacy of Jesus' revelation of God, the writer to the Hebrews turns to the supremacy of Jesus' high priesthood.

Studying this passage yesterday with the Relay Workers, I was struck by how much pastoral important the writer attaches to Jesus' high priesthood.

The context provided within the book shows that the Hebrews were under pressure to revert to orthodox Judaism, particularly to revert to making atonement sacrifices. The book shows that, at that time, it was a lonely thing being a Hebrew Christian.

This section of Hebrews, then, speaking of Jesus as high priest, is full of encouragement for the weary Christian. The writer draws attention to Jesus' humanity. He was fully human, and experienced the full range of temptations (including those the Hebrew Christians were at that time facing). Yet, even when faced by the greatest pinnacle of temptation possible in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus proved his commitment to the Father's will by submitting to him even then. Holding these two truths together, then, we see that Jesus knows what it is like to be tempted, and he has also proven his commitment (even under extreme pressure) to submitting to God's will. We might say that Jesus has shown that he's absolutely committed to joyful submission to God - in his own life and, by implication, in the lives of those he calls 'brothers'.

The full pastoral implications of this are understood when we realise now that Jesus has passed through the heavens and, through his sacrifice, brings us right into the very throne room of God. What does this mean? It means that Jesus knows what it's like to be under the very same pressures we face, he knows the spiritual grace and mercy we need to keep submitting to the Father's will, he longs us to keep submitting to the Father, and he has made access to these resources possible through bringing us into the heavenly throne room. He is able to help weary believers in a way that the high priests of the Old Testament never could.

This, then, should encourage Christians to pray for help. That's certainly what the writer to the Hebrews had in mind. As he writes in 4:16: 'Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.'

Yesterday evening I met a struggling Christian. She feels almost overwhelmed by the difficulties she is facing at the moment. What an encouragement it is to be able to share that Christ knows for himself the difficulties she is facing, that he longs for her to remain faithful to God in her struggles, and that he has made the mercy and grace that we need available. What an incentive for her to pray, and what an incentive for me to pray for her.


Stephanie said...

Thanks Dr Dray, this has encouraged me too. Steffy B

peterdray said...

Thanks Steffy. You might think that the doctrine of Jesus being great high priest was dry, but Hebrews shows otherwise!