Hebrews 4: 14 - 16
Do you have clout? The answer is, it depends on who you know. Clout is what you have if you can call the traffic department and make a ticket disappear. Clout is what you have if you can get a private meeting with the mayor. If you’ve got clout, it means you’ve got a friend in high places. We all understand that because we all need help from time to time. Maybe we can’t get a job interview or we can’t get in to see the doctor or we need some help with municipal accounts. We need someone who can cut through the red tape and help us when we can’t help ourselves. I hope to encourage you - Jesus is exactly the friend we need. We love to sing “What a friend we have in Jesus,” but is there anything to those words? Our text gives us the answer. Jesus is the friend we need because he is the Right Person with the Right Past in the Right Place. We’ve got clout in heaven.
1. The Right Person v. 14
Most of us are at a disadvantage when we read this verse because we don’t have a clear notion of what a high priest is. The main thing we need to know is that the high priest was the number one person in the Old Testament religious system. There were various levels and orders of priests in Judaism, but there was only one high priest. His chief job was to represent the nation of Israel on the Day of Atonement. On that day he would go behind the thick veil that separated the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place. There he would offer the blood of a goat on the golden Mercy Seat that sat atop the Ark of the Covenant. When the blood was offered in the way God prescribed, the sins of the people were atoned or covered for another year (Leviticus 16).
That system was never meant to last forever. The high priest had to repeat the sacrifice year after year. When one high priest died, he was replaced by another who continued the yearly sacrifice on the Day of Atonement. Now that Christ has come, the sacrificial system of the Old Testament has been abolished. Christ has become our great high priest who has passed through the heavens into the sanctuary of God.
Unlike the sacrifices of the Old Testament high priests, Christ’s sacrifice never needs to be repeated. Through his death on the cross, he made a complete and final atonement for our sins.
He is the right person to hear our prayers because he has entered the Holy of Holies in heaven. He is Jesus (his human name) and he is also the Son of God (his divine title). The same Jesus who once walked on the earth is now in heaven, having opened the way to God by his own eternal sacrifice.
2. The Right Past v. 15
KJV - Jesus is “touched with the feeling of our infirmities.” He is “touched” by the weakness of our feeble flesh. Whatever touches us touches him. To say “I feel your pain” has become a cliché today, but in Jesus’ case it is true. He is moved by our sorrow, aware of our tears, and touched by our failure. He knows what we are going through.
Sometimes when we are in the middle of a hard time well-meaning people will say, “I know what you are going through.” In my opinion that is often a cruel thing to say. How can you be sure you know what another person is thinking or feeling? I think it’s better not to say that because if you really do know what another person is going through, your heart will make that clear to them. If you don’t, it’s far better not to say anything at all.
That’s what our text means when it says that Jesus is touched with the feeling of our infirmities. He knows our pain, he sees our weakness, he understands what we are going through. Because he was a “man of sorrows and acquainted with grief,” he truly knows what we are going through.
How good it is to know that he was tempted just as we are. The text means that Jesus faced every kind of temptation we can face. Basically every temptation falls into one of three categories: the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life (1 John 2: 14 - 17). Jesus defeated the devil in those 3 areas. Where we failed, he succeeded. Where we gave in, he stood strong. Where we collapsed under pressure, Jesus obeyed his Father. He was tempted, yet he never sinned by giving in.
C. S. Lewis on Temptation
I find great comfort in these words - “A silly idea is current that good people do not know what temptation means. This is an obvious lie. Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is. After all, you find out the strength of the German army by fighting against it, not by giving in. You find out the strength of a wind by trying to walk against it, not by lying down. A man who gives in to temptation after five minutes simply does not know what it would have been like an hour later. That is why bad people, in one sense, know very little about badness. They have lived a sheltered life by always giving in....Christ, because He was the only man who never yielded to temptation, is also the only man who knows to the full what temptation means.”
This has enormous implications for our spiritual life. Because Christ was tempted and never gave in, we may be sure that he is never surprised by anything we say or do.
We give in too early so we never felt the full force of temptation. But Jesus let the waves of temptation rush over him and stood like the Rock of Gibraltar. When we pray we don’t have to worry that we will somehow shock him. He’s heard it all and seen it all. We can go ahead and be totally honest about our failures. He knows about it even before we tell him.
We don’t have to prove ourselves worthy when we pray. Jesus - “Do you think having a quiet time this morning would have made you worthy to talk to me? Do you think doing good and treating people right would have somehow made you qualified to come into my presence? If that’s what you think, you don’t know yourself, you don’t know me, and you don’t understand the grace of God.” It’s so easy for all of us to believe that our good works somehow commend us to God, that if we’ll just “be good,” God is more likely to hear our prayers.
But to think like that is to deny the gospel itself. We are accepted by God only on the basis of what Jesus Christ has done.
I’m all for having a quiet time and all for treating people right and totally on the side of living for the Lord, but all of that cannot add even a tiny sliver to our acceptance before God. It is either all by grace or not by grace at all.
Because Jesus knows how sinful we really are, we don’t have to play games when we pray. We can come to God just the way we are, clinging only to the cross and claiming nothing but the blood of Jesus as our own hope of being accepted when we pray.
Our text contains one final truth that should encourage us when we pray. Jesus is not only the Right Person with the Right Past, He is also in the Right Place to give us the help we need.
3. The Right Place v. 16
When we pray, we are invited to come to the “throne of grace.” Because of Jesus, the throne of God’s justice is now a throne of grace. When we come before that throne, we will not be turned away. Many people think of God’s throne as similar to the principal’s office in high school. Do you remember what it was like to be called to the principal’s office? Nothing good could happen behind that closed door. You were bound to get in some kind of trouble if you went in there. Some students went in to the principal’s office and just disappeared! They were never seen again. No one knows what happened to them. That’s how many of us think of God’s throne because we have a vision of an angry God who is looking for a chance to hurl a lightning bolt at us. But it is not true. When we come to God in Jesus’ name, he’s glad to see us. He knows who we are, he calls us by name, and he welcomes us before the throne. “My child,” he says, “what can I do for you today?”
That’s why we are to come with confidence or boldness. The Greek word means "with freedom of speech."When we come before God in prayer, we don’t have to be ashamed or act shy or watch our words lest we say something wrong. We can unburden our heart before the Lord and say whatever we want to say.
God has given to every Christian a card that says “Admit to the Throne Room of Heaven." The card is stamped with the blood of Jesus Christ. But that card does you no good unless you use it boldly when you pray.
“Lord, Have Mercy”
Out text tells us that when we come to the “throne of grace,” we will “receive mercy” and “find grace.”Mercy is what gets us out of trouble. There are many times in life when the only thing we can do is to cry out, “God, have mercy. Lord, have mercy. Jesus, have mercy.” Our text assures us that when we pray like that, we will find the mercy we need from God.
v. 16 ends with the good news that we can find “grace to help in our time of need.” One modern translation says we can find “grace to help in the nick of time.” I like that. The last phrase literally means “at the right moment.” God’s answers are always perfectly timed. Not too soon and not too late. And often they do seem to come “in the nick of time.” God gives us the grace we need but not until we truly need it.
It’s a wonderful thing to feel complete freedom to come into God’s presence.
I come now to the bottom line, and it is good news for all of us. We’ve got a friend in high places. We’ve got clout. We’ve got connections in heaven. We’ve got a friend at the throne of grace who delights to answer our prayers. He’s the Right Person with the Right Past in the Right Place. Because he feels your pain, he can sympathize with what you’re going through. Nothing you say will surprise him. Come boldly. Come often. Come to the throne of grace and pour out your heart to God. You will not be turned away.