Lenten Sermon on Christ Our High Priest
“Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 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 without sin. Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”
I love the season of Lent. I really do. It can be hard, but I love it. I struggle with a whole lot of issues – I’m human right? Selfishness, insecurities, perfectionism, the occasional bitterness from time to time. But this season, I’m trying to give up thinking negatively. All of it: negative thoughts about myself, about my circumstances, about other people… I want to be rid of all that negativity and be a more positive person.
I love lent because most of the time I feel like I need to do everything I can to hide my weaknesses. But Lent… Lent is a time where I get to face them, even focus on them, to embrace my struggles and work through them. Lent is a time of reflection and self-examination, of allowing myself to accept those areas in my life that I need to work on and to allow God to come do something in them.
And is that not exactly why Christ came? To enter into our brokenness and bring restoration?
Hebrews 4:15 is one of my favorite verses in all of scripture: “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.”
I propose that all of our theology of Christ, all of our Christology, our understanding of who Jesus Christ is, rests on this truth: that we have a great high priest who is able to sympathize with our weaknesses.
If we had a high priest who could not sympathize with our weaknesses, he would be no priest at all; he would not be acting on behalf of his people, for he wouldn’t truly even know his own people. And we, his people, we would have no means of identifying with him if he didn’t come and share in the same human experience as us.
It is because of the incarnation that both Christ can sympathize with our weaknesses and that we can identify with Him. God Almighty, the sovereign creator of all things, through holy love humbled himself and entered into our physical world, in a particular space and time, to take part in his own creation. It truly is remarkable if you think about it!
God took on flesh, which includes all of the human condition: all of our weakness, all of our brokenness, all of our impulses and our emotions… including a free human will, with the capacity to sin – not the total depravity of inheriting Adam’s sin, for Jesus was born not of a man but of God – but in His humanity Jesus had the freedom to choose. He had to! Otherwise, how could He have truly been “tempted in every way, just as we are, yet without sin”? How could he truly sympathize with our weaknesses without inheriting the source of all our weakness, that is, the freedom of the human will with the capacity and possibility to disobey?
Though he experienced the same human freedom as us, he was without sin, his flesh fully obedient to his divine will, the will of the Father, never deviating from the path of righteousness… though in every way He was tempted as we are, in every way He was perfect as we are not.
In fact, the only man ever able to fulfill the righteous requirement of God’s law was God himself in Jesus Christ. He took on the broken nature of humanity and lived it out perfectly.
That’s what’s so beautiful about the humanity of Christ! In the incarnation, Christ experiences human nature and suffers its effects with us and for us:
He knows what it’s like to be tempted; and he knows that the strength to resist and overcome temptation is only available through grace.
He knows what it’s like to be hurt, to be abused, to be sinned against; and he knows that healing and forgiving others can only be possible through the power of grace.
He knows what it’s like to be lonely, to be afraid, even to know that death itself is drawing near; and he knows that love, courage, even life itself are only made real by grace.
“Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven…”
Jesus Christ, the god-man, fully divine and fully human, gave himself for us, was raised from death and ascended to the right hand of God the Father Almighty with every single one of us in his flesh and blood. He is still fully God, and He is still fully man. He represents humanity in heaven, standing before God the Father, and the scars from the cross continue to scar him. His empathy is a present reality, not an ancient memory.
He stands before the Father as the Son of Man, so that we might be there in him as sons and daughters of God.
Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
This is why I love lent. Because in this desert season, as I try my best to give up negativity, as I reflect on own my weakness, and take time to examine my own heart, confess my sins and turn toward God, I know that I am not alone. I know that Christ our Lord is standing before the Throne of God above, with His strong and perfect plea, advocating for each and every one of us.
About the Author
Kevin Cook is a 4th year student at Asbury Theological Seminary and an Aspirant for Ordination in the Anglican Church of North America (ACNA). After graduating, Kevin hopes to plant a contemporary three-streams Anglican Church. He and his wife Nicole attend Wilmore Anglican Church in Kentucky.
Kevin holds a Bachelor of Arts in Music and a Master of Business Administration from Florida State University. Kevin enjoys playing music and leading worship, reading fiction and spiritual classics, drinking coffee, and spending time with family and friends.
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