Let Us Holy Fast to Our Confession that Jesus Is the Son of God!
O Lord, we enter your presence fully aware of our own sins and weaknesses. We come, however, confident of Your blessing, for You have invited us to come in spite of our burdens and have promised to give us rest. Send Your Spirit to guide our worship, so that we might rejoice in Your forgiving love and be encouraged to live our lives in faithfulness to You. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.
God here tests Abraham’s faith by asking him to sacrifice that which was most precious to him—his son, Isaac. God hereby reveals the extent of His love for us, when He permitted His Son, Jesus, to die for us!
Jesus prepared His disciples for His upcoming death. At the time they objected to God’s plan of redemption, but Jesus explained that the way of the cross was the way to life!
Text: Hebrews 4:14-16
Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
In Christ Jesus, our beloved Lord and Savior—the Son of God, dear fellow redeemed:
Who is Jesus Christ? It is increasingly fashionable in our world even within the Christian community to answer that question by saying that Jesus Christ was a great teacher. Such an answer places Jesus in the same category with other great figures of history—Confucius, the Buddha, Plato, and Aristotle. Now, while it is true that Jesus was a teacher—in fact, He was the greatest Teacher of all, for He taught the truths of God within His Word, the Bible—He was much more than that! Jesus was not a mere, mortal teacher—a historic personage, who lived and then died, and whose teachings continue to be influential to this very day. He was not a mere human being, but rather He is the Son of God and the world’s only Savior from sin, death, and Satan! The world vehemently opposes this biblical teaching as too exclusionary. Consequently, they reject as narrow-minded and intolerant Peter's confession before the Jewish elders, “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Yet, Peter’s confession is true and on Judgment Day will be acknowledged by all people!
My dear friends, the truth that Jesus is the Son of God is absolutely vital to our Christian faith and life. It is central to God's plan of salvation and is the foundation of all biblical promises regarding our present life. Within the past several weeks a number of our members have lost close relatives through death, others of our members have undergone serious surgeries, still other families are facing difficult challenges, and all of us must endure the rigors of everyday life. It is essential that we “hold fast” to this truth, for therein we find the strength, the hope, and the endurance we need in life. The writer to the Hebrews was addressing people in the first century, who were under great stress and who were considering giving up their faith in Jesus as the Son of God. In our text he gives them and us three importance reasons to cling to this truth. I, therefore, urge all of you—LET US HOLD FAST OUR CONFESSION THAT JESUS IS THE SON OF GOD!
Let us do so, first of all, for Jesus has redeemed us and reigns in heaven! Our text begins by saying, “Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.” What does the writer mean when He says that Jesus is “a great High Priest” and that He “passed through the heavens”? God’s Old Testament people were led spiritually by priests, who taught them God’s Word and who conducted worship services. One of the priests was chosen to be the high priest. Aaron, Moses’ brother, was the first high priest. The high priest represented the people before God and God before the people. He fulfilled a number of important and unique responsibilities, but the most important was on the Day of Atonement. On that day each year, he would pass through the curtain in the tabernacle (or later in the temple), which separated the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies. This curtain represented the sins of the people, which separated them from the presence of their holy God. In the Holy of Holies stood the Ark of the Covenant and on its top was the mercy seat. The high priest would first sprinkle the blood of an animal sacrifice on the mercy seat to atone for his own sins, and then he would sprinkle the blood of a second animal sacrifice on the mercy seat to atone for the sins of the people. The blood of those animal sacrifices represented the blood, which one day would be shed by the Savior God had promised. Consequently, we might say, each Day of Atonement was similar to our Lenten Season today, for even as Old Testament Israel looked ahead to the sacrifice of the Promised Savior, so we look back to the sacrifice our Savior made.
What our text is saying then is that the high priest was a type of Jesus representing the people before God, offering blood to atone for sins. Jesus, however, was not merely a human high priest like Aaron. No, He was the Son of God. Therefore, He did not have to offer a sacrifice to atone for sin, for He had none! Nor did He have to pass from one earthly room to another. Jesus rather “passed through the heavens” directly into the presence of God. He offered Himself as the one sacrifice, which would atone for all the sins of the entire world at one time! In this way He redeemed us and having done so, He ascended to heaven having been given all authority in heaven and on earth to rule over us for our blessing and to prepare for us a place in heaven (cf. Matthew 28:20; John 14:2-3). Later in the book of Hebrews we read, “We have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all…this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God, from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool” (10:10,12-13).
My dear friends, with these few words our text summarizes the entire Lenten, Easter, and Ascension messages—Jesus is the Son of God, our Savior from sin, Who currently lives and reigns. Let us never join those who in a spirit of religious political correctness would suggest that Jesus is merely another great man. Rather, LET US HOLD FAST TO OUR CONFESSION THAT JESUS IS THE SON OF GOD!
Let us do so secondly, for our text reveals that Jesus sympathizes with our weaknesses! We read, “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.” These words are intended by God to be of great comfort to each of us. God sent His Son into this world to take on our flesh—to become one of us in the midst of sin, yet to be without sin. The point is that He understands what it means to live day after day in the midst of the trials and troubles of this world. Therefore, He understands what we are going through!
How often have we not sat looking at someone else to whom we are talking and thought, “You simply don’t understand my problem!” That may well be true, when we are talking about another human being, who has a limited range of experiences and a limited capacity to understand. This is not true when we are talking about our Savior Jesus. As a human being our text says Jesus “was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.” He is true man and experienced the temptations we have experienced, but He is also true God—omniscience and so aware of all things!
Are you facing severe trials in your life, praying and seeking solutions, and perhaps tempted to address the trials in ways contrary to the will of God? Was this not the very temptation Jesus faced when after fasting for forty days and nights in the wilderness, Satan tempted Him to altar the situation into which His heavenly Father had placed Him in a selfish way by turning stones into bread? Are you facing the ridicule of enemies and the rejection of friends? Jesus was betrayed by one of His twelve closest friends and blasphemed by the very religious leaders who were supposed to point people to the promised Savior! How did He react? Peter writes, “Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: ‘Who committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth’; who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judged righteously, who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed” (1 Peter 2:21-24). Have you lost someone you love to our great enemy death? Jesus, too, experienced such loss and we are told that He “wept” as He saw the terrible effects of sin in the lives of those whom He loved (cf. John 11:35). But remember that Jesus is “the resurrection and the life!” (John 11:25) Only believe in Him and you will “never die” eternally!
Yes, my dear friends, who among the great teachers of this world—mere human beings could promise such a thing and fulfill that promise? None, but Jesus, for Jesus is the Son of God. LET US, therefore, HOLD FAST TO OUR CONFESSION THAT JESUS IS THE SON OF GOD!
For, as we see finally, Jesus provides mercy and grace to help in our times of need! Our text says, “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Confucius, the Buddha, Plato, Aristotle, and every other great teacher of past ages are dead! Only Jesus is alive! Only Jesus can encourage, yes, even command us to “come…to the throne of grace” for He is true God as well as true Man. This He does, and He tells us to do so “boldly!” My dear friends, we cannot come before God’s throne of grace with boldness on the basis of our own merit, but we can because by faith we now have the righteousness of our Savior! We have confessed our sins once again in this worship service and been assured of our forgiveness. We will humbly, but with joy, receive added assurance of the forgiveness of our sins through the Lord’s Supper later in our service. Count von Zinzendorf expressed it so beautifully when he wrote two centuries ago:
Jesus, Thy blood and righteouesness my beauty are, my glorious dress;
Midst flaming worlds, in these arrayed, with joy shall I lift up my head.
Bold shall I stand in that great Day, for who aught to my charge shall lay?
Fully thro’ these absolved I am from sin and fear, from guilt and shame.
Yes, we can “come boldly to the throne of grace,” but why should we come? We should come because there in the presence of our Savior “we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Jesus can provide just the help we need, because He is true God and all-powerful! He will provide just the help we need, because He as true God is all-merciful! But, at times we might be tempted to object, I have come and come again, but with no apparent results! Remember, dear friends, to be patiently persistent! Did not Jesus urge us to be like the old woman returning time and time again to the unjust judge? (cf. Luke 18:1-8) He will respond and He will do so completely, but at His own time and in His own way! Remember how Abraham waiting twenty-five years for a son. Remember how Israel as a nation waited for hundreds of years to be delivered from Egypt. Remember how David spent many years being chased by Saul before becoming king. Remember how Paul spent two years in prison in Rome before being released. Our God has a plan for each of our lives and has promised that “all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). God does have a purpose for us in this life, even as He has prepared a place for us in the next. Cling to that truth, dear friends, even in the midst of trials, for Jesus will provide the mercy and grace to help you in times of need!
Recognizing that truth, LET US HOLD FAST TO OUR CONFESSION THAT JESUS IS THE SON OF GOD!
—Pastor Paul D. Nolting