Meditations in Hebrews 4: 26. Jesus is there for us
Heb 4:14 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, (or gone into heaven) Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess.
Jesus, the high priest: And so we come to the third reference to Jesus as our high priest. The first was, “he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God.” (2:17) and the second was even more brief, “Jesus, the apostle and high priest whom we confess.” (3:10) The first pointed out his means of identifying with us taking human form and the second simply noted that in this role Jesus is the core of our confession.
Now again the writer returns to this idea as a means of both challenging and reassuring us. “Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess.” (v.14) Note he isn’t expounding on the actual role or activity of the high priest – that will come later – but simply on his humanity and divinity.
The Heavenly High Priest: This high priest, the writer says, has “gone through the heavens” or, as the alternative shows, “gone into heaven”. I quite like the “through the heavens” for it reminds us of the human body that ascended up into the clouds (the heavens) and disappeared as he returned to heaven (Acts 1:9). The ascension is very much a picture where the human is transformed before the very eyes of the disciples, into a miraculous – flying – Son of God returning home. “Gone into heaven” simply reminds us of the end product but thus puts the emphasis on where he now is – as against where he was previously, with us – with full access to the Father and (implied) able to speak up on our behalf: “we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense–Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.” (1 Jn 2:1)
Encouragement/Exhortation: It is because of this assurance that the writer exhorts us, “Let us hold firmly to the faith we profess.” i.e. Jesus is doing his part on our behalf, speaking up for us to the Father and sending his Holy Spirit to help us, very well, let us make sure we play our part in this as well. That is what he is doing here. It is yet another of these warnings or exhortations to play our part in holding on to our faith and the reason or encouragement we are given to do that is that Jesus is rooting for us in heaven and is there with all the resources we need.
The Humanity of Jesus: To help us grasp the wonder of this he reminds us yet again that it is the human Jesus who is now in heaven at his Father’s right hand speaking up for us: “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet was without sin.” (v.15) This high priest, this representative of ours, isn’t cold-hearted and uncomprehending about what we are like, he is not like some stern headmaster who has no feelings, he is not like some callous judge who cares not what happens to us, one way or another.
Oh no, Jesus has been here, lived the life, knows what it is like, knows what it is like to get tired and weary, knows what it is like to be hungry or thirsty, no doubt knows what it is like to go without sleep, knows what it is like to have people against you. Oh yes, in all these ways Jesus has been here and lived the life. Indeed, just like us, he has been through temptations, so he knows what it is like to have the enemy come against you with suggestion after suggestion of how to live another sort of life. Oh yes, he knows the pressure of temptations, the pressure to give way – but he didn’t give way, he didn’t sin. That is the one big different between him and us, but the truth nevertheless remains, he knows and understands all that we have gone through and are going through.
Again, see how this is an encouragement to conform to the exhortation to hold firmly to our faith. We can do this because, as I said earlier, Jesus is rooting for us, a Jesus who knows what it is like to live down here on this Fallen World, and he knows the sort of weaknesses we suffer and he sympathizes and understands and is for us!
The Throne of Grace: So, with all that he gives us a further gentle exhortation: “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.” (v.16) That’s where Jesus is, on a “throne of grace”. His throne, his rule, is a rule of grace which, in this context means warm, loving acceptance and provision. He is there for us with everything we need.
First of all this “throne of grace” is a source of his mercy which simply means loving acceptance based, not on what we deserve or have earned but, simply on his good will towards us. Mercy involves loving understanding and forgiveness and a desire to bless us and restore us. That all flows out of God’s love for us.
But this “throne of grace” is also a place where there is an endless supply of his grace “to help us in our time of need”, i.e. it is his unlimited resources to provide absolutely everything we need in life to help us cope in this Fallen World. This “time of need” encompasses all those times when you and I find ourselves stretched, times when it all seems to be going wrong, times when people appear against us, times when we seem to have got it wrong. These are not times when God stands there laughing or deriding us for our weakness or condemning us for our folly; these are times when Jesus feels with us (sympathizes and empathizes) and is there for us, not to push us down but to lift us up, not to condemn us but to encourage us. This IS the truth, this is why you and I can, with the readers of this letter, “hold firmly to the faith we profess”, because he is there to help us. All we have to do is “approach the throne of grace with confidence.” Do it.