“The unique thing about the early Christians was their radiant relation to a Person. ‘The Lord,’ they called Him tenderly, and when they used the term they gave it its own New Testament meaning. It meant Jesus Christ, who a short while before had been among them but was now gone into the heavens as their High Priest and Advocate. It was this engrossment with a victorious Person that gave verve and vibrancy to their lives and conviction to their testimony. They bore witness joyously to the One who had lived as a true Man among men. Their testimony was not weakened by the pale cast of metaphysical thought. They knew that Jesus was very Man and very God, and He had died, had been raised from the dead and had ascended into heaven. They accepted literally His claim to be invested with authority over everything in heaven, earth and hell. How it could be they never stopped to inquire. They trusted Him absolutely and left the details to their triumphant Lord.”
A.W. Tozer, The Root of the Righteous
Because Jesus has come, because He has taken on flesh to set us free, because there is now no condemnation for those who are in Him, and because He now sits at the right hand of the Father to dispense all His grace and glory upon those who would believe and ask, our present life in Him is as rich as we would have it be. Any sense of lack is simply you and I not living up to our heavenly privileges.
There is more for us. And it's all to be found in Him. Right now. Today.
God’s Spirit specifically tells us that in later days there will be men who abandon the true faith and allow themselves to be spiritually seduced by teachings of the devil, teachings given by men who are lying hypocrites, whose consciences are as dead as seared flesh. These men forbid marriage, command abstinence from food — good things which, in fact, God intends to be thankfully enjoyed by those who believe in him and know the truth. Everything God made is good, and is meant to be gratefully used, not despised. The holiness or otherwise of a certain food, for instance, depends not on its nature but on whether it is eaten thankfully or not. It is consecrated by the man who has accepted the message, and thanks God for food.
You will be doing your duty as Christ’s minister if you remind your church members of these things, and you will show yourself as one who owes his strength to the truth of the faith he has absorbed and the sound teaching he has followed. But steer clear of all these stupid Godless fictions... (1 Timothy 4:1-7a)
In actuality, either our life with Jesus is a matter of Union-with-Him (in His Life, Way, Death, Resurrection and an Experience-of-His-alive-Life-within-us) or it all becomes external observances, things measurable, rules followable, ie. a state of disunion. I highly doubt that the people trying to foist these ideas upon Timothy’s fellowship were “bad people”; more likely, they were just trying to be careful: “Timothy, this stuff you and Paul are talking about is pretty out there; let's rein it in a little, shall we?”
But, my friends, it’s our personal digging-into-Jesus, our Branch-clinging-to-Vine-ness that’s most imperative for us each playing our proper part in the Body of Christ. Without your Belief and experience of Him, we’re all in danger of descending into “stupid Godless fictions,” into externals disconnected from the Life and Way of Jesus.
So what do you say? Shall we dig in - and delight - this day?
There is really no need to "defend our faith." If you and I would only live it - enjoying all the wonders of the splendor of our inheritances in Jesus - the world's counterpoints would become utterly indefensible.
Then Jesus told his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it..." Matthew 16:24,25
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During the 1812 Battle of Ostrovno: “To messengers of doom requesting permission to retreat or warning that more and more Russian guns were being put out of action, General Ostermann-Tolstoy responded by his own example of calm and by orders to ‘stand and die.’ Radozhitsky commented that ‘this unshakeable strength of our commander at a time when everyone around him was being struck down was truly part of the character of a Russian infuriated by the sufferings being inflicted on his country. Looking at him, we ourselves grew strong and went to our posts to die.’”
Dominic Lieven, Russia Against Napoleon
“[This] was the answer of God to the world which nailed Christ to the cross: blessing. God does not repay like with like, and neither should the righteous person. No condemning, no railing, but blessing. The world would have not hope if this were not so. The world lives and has its future by means of the blessing of God and of the righteous person. Blessing means laying one’s hands upon something and saying: You belong to God in spite of all. It is in this way that we respond to the world which causes us such suffering. We do not forsake it, cast it out, despise or condemn it. Instead, we recall it to God, we give it hope, we lay our hands upon it and say: God’s blessing come upon you; may God renew you; be blessed, you dear God-created world, for you belong to your creator and redeemer.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Meditating on the Word
Just a little reminder of your position and inheritance:
Your past is swallowed up by what Jesus did in the past on the Cross; your present is lived in His presence because He rose - He's alive!; and your future is to spend all eternity with the One who's presently sitting on the throne, loving you, empowering you, being your living hope.
No aspect of your human experience is untouched by His love. No aspect of this particular day is unknown to Him; He is with you.
Acts 4:13 with some notes in italics -
"When the Sanhedrin saw the complete assurance of Peter and John – the “παρρησίαν”: the outspokenness, the frankness, the freedom of speech, the freedom of action, the fearlessness, the liberality and lavishness – even though they were obviously uneducated and untrained men, they were staggered. They recognized them as men who had been with Jesus…"
And not in some sort of facial-recognition sort of “recognized them” - that would not have “staggered” the members of the Council. No, “they recognized them as men who had been with Jesus” – Jesus, the protagonist of that sentence, the antagonist of the Old Way, the One who somehow died, lived again, and now seemed to be standing here right before them – HE is the power that, through these two uneducated untrained men, “staggers” this whole group of educated, well-trained ones. Nothing is more frightening to their foundational historical religious-spirited suppositions than this earthquake of the eternal Kingdom of Heaven impossible: Jesus somehow lives on – in His followers. What the Council had attempted to murder cannot be killed!
And, since you know me well, you know where I’m going next: Have we been with Jesus in that same way? Have we accepted His call to “Follow Me” not as only a prayer of salvation, but as His actual invitation to be saved, to be changed, to be made fruitful; indeed to actually, everyday, learn to better follow Him? Have we grown hungrier and thirstier for understanding of the four Gospels, not just intellectually, but as the way His life still hungers and thirsts to break forth out of our hearts? Have we gone to the Cross and died with Him? Is it only His life that now raises us up, breathes in us, speaks through us, shows the world that He’s never ceased to live?
Friends, is there anything about our “Christianity” that staggers anyone? Oh, that it would be so! And ever more, everyday!
As we launch into this New Year and make all kinds of personal resolutions about what we'd like to do and be within it, here's a little reminder to keep in front of ourselves all year long:
You and I are part of a Kingdom that cannot die because we follow a King who cannot be kept dead. May we take up an indomitable spirit all throughout this year, living by His Spirit, so that all the world may know.
“If anyone wants to follow in my footsteps, he must give up all right to himself, carry his cross every day and keep close behind me. For the man who wants to save his life will lose it, but the man who loses his life for my sake will save it..." Luke 9:23,24
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"With eyes wide open to the mercies of God, I beg you, my brothers and sisters, as an act of intelligent worship, to give him your bodies, as a living sacrifice, consecrated to him and acceptable by him. Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mold, but let God re-mold your minds from within, so that you may prove in practice that the plan of God for you is good, meets all his demands and moves towards the goal of true maturity." Romans 12:1,2
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“Everyone has to give up a great deal of life to live anything deeply. But it’s worth it.”
John Dos Passos, Three Soldiers
The ending of 1 Thessalonians 1 (vv. 6b-10), with some thoughts in italics -
You remember how, although accepting the message meant bitter persecution, yet you experienced the joy of the Holy Spirit. And, by the way, the Holy Spirit is joy. No circumstances, no human hardships, trump the Holy Spirit’s ability to invest our spirits with His wondrous and eternal joy! (Test that fact today – and everyday - and you'll see what I mean.)
You thus became examples to all who believe in Macedonia and Achaia. You have become a sort of sounding-board from which the Word of the Lord has rung out, not only in Macedonia and Achaia but everywhere where the story of your faith in God has become known. We find we don’t have to tell people about it. They tell us the story of our coming to you: how you turned from idols to serve the true living God, and how your whole lives now look forward to the coming of his Son from heaven…
Don’t you just love the sentiment of that section? How absolutely wonderful that these believers, simply by believing and loving and hoping in Jesus, have become a “sounding-board” for the whole Gospel to the whole world! Their story needs no telling because the fruit is so obvious. And what joy Paul felt at how his friends were making the name Jesus famous!
And where did the Thessalonian church source its spiritual power? … the Son Jesus, whom God raised from the dead, and who personally delivered us from the judgment which hung over our heads.
And right there is the source of the Early Church’s zeal and steadfastness: their foremost belief in Jesus’ present “aliveness.” Nothing could faze them in the face of a Living Christ. For them, the Resurrection perfectly proved the power of the atoning Cross forevermore and they’d learned to live in this “personally delivered” posture with wild and unflappable joy.
How about us today?
“Thus I stretch out my arms to my Savior, who, after being foretold for four thousand years, came on earth to die and suffer for me at the time and in the circumstances foretold. By his grace I peaceably await death, in the hope of being eternally united to him, and meanwhile I live joyfully, whether in the blessings which he is pleased to bestow on me or in the afflictions he sends me for my own good and taught me how to endure by example." (Blaise Pascal, Pensees)
"Yes, and I shall go on being very happy, for I know that what is happening will be for the good of my own soul, thanks to your prayers and the resources of the spirit of Jesus Christ. It all accords with my own earnest wishes and hopes, which are that I should never be in any way ashamed, but that now, as always, I should honor Christ with the utmost boldness by the way I live, whether that means I am to face death or to go on living. For living to me means simply 'Christ,' and if I die I should merely gain more of him." (Philippians 1:18b-21)
Just this morning, I was reading through Romans 5 and relishing how Paul describes our freedom from the Old and our complete, joyous inheritance of the New through Jesus. And reading the latter half of the chapter, I started realizing the degree to which he was using point- and counter-point analysis to show us what's now ours.
Below, for your reading pleasure are his phrase-by-phrase juxtapositions from Romans 5:15-21. I found it helpful to see it broken out by columns...
This is the story of how good our life in Jesus really is! Let's relish it, and Him, today!
"It is through the Son, at the cost of his own blood, that we are redeemed, freely forgiven through that full and generous grace which has overflowed into our lives and opened our eyes to the truth. For God had allowed us to know the secret of his plan, and it is this: he purposes in his sovereign will that all human history shall be consummated in Christ, that everything that exists in Heaven or earth shall find its perfection and fulfillment in him. And here is the staggering thing — that in all which will one day belong to him we have been promised a share (since we were long ago destined for this by the one who achieves his purposes by his sovereign will), so that we, as the first to put our confidence in Christ, may bring praise to his glory!" Ephesians 1:7-12
"Yet every advantage that I had gained I considered lost for Christ’s sake. Yes, and I look upon everything as loss compared with the overwhelming gain of knowing Jesus Christ my Lord. For his sake I did in actual fact suffer the loss of everything, but I considered it useless rubbish compared with being able to win Christ. For now my place is in him, and I am not dependent upon any of the self-achieved righteousness of the Law. God has given me that genuine righteousness which comes from faith in Christ. How changed are my ambitions! Now I long to know Christ and the power shown by his resurrection: now I long to share his sufferings, even to die as he died, so that I may perhaps attain as he did, the resurrection from the dead." Philippians 3:7-11
Isn't it interesting that our life in Jesus is the juxtaposition of these two elements: inestimable inheritance and complete cost? Yet what a beautiful, impossible balance it creates within us: our only hope to live it rightly will be He Himself!
"Do not be swept off your feet by various peculiar teachings. Spiritual stability depends on the grace of God, and not on rules of diet — which after all have not spiritually benefited those who have made a speciality of that kind of thing. We have an Altar from which those who still serve the tabernacle have no right to eat. When the blood of animals was presented as a sin-offering by the High Priest in the sanctuary, their bodies were burned outside the precincts of the camp. That is why Jesus, when he sanctified men by the shedding of his own blood, suffered and died outside the city gates. Let us go out to him, then, beyond the boundaries of the camp, proudly bearing his 'disgrace.'" Hebrews 13:9-13
Like so much of what we've seen throughout Hebrews, these few verses have hidden deep depths of goodness and richness for us to enjoy. There's also a kind of rhetorical elegance here. Have any of you ever heard the term "chiasmus" before? It's a figure of speech that turns in on itself in the arrangement A-B-B-A; the most famous example of which is probably JFK's, "Ask not what your country (A) can do for you (B), ask what you (B) can do for your country(A)." These kind of expressions stick with us because they tend to pull us in, and sort of enwrap us in their logic...
That's what happening here in Hebrews 13:9-13. As it now pertains to the priesthood of believers over against the old Hebraic systems of the priests:
"Grace is not to be found through our food and our location, it is by His food and His location that we are invited into His grace."
In the Old Covenant, the priests sought and maintained grace by the careful keeping of meal and meat offerings in the cloistered confines of holy sequestered spaces not open to the common man. In the New Covenant, by feasting upon Jesus, by going outside the religious camp, we encounter His grace, even while "sharing in his disgrace," and show His availability to everyone we meet.
That's why - all along - the writer of Hebrews has been saying, "Don't let the Way of Jesus get under its own systems" - because that had been Judaism and it was no longer the way. The engine of this thing is now the Holy Spirit and He is miles ahead of our best human-religious systems and plans. All this happens outside of safe churchly spaces and at the pace of the Spirit, not our pace. And may we never forget that!
"By faith Moses led the exodus from Egypt; he defied the king’s anger with the strength that came from obedience to the invisible king. By faith Moses kept the first Passover and made the blood-sprinkling, so that the angel of death which killed the first-born should not touch his people. By faith the people walked through the Red Sea as though it were dry land, and the Egyptians who tried to do the same thing were drowned." Hebrews 11:27-29
Have you ever stepped far enough outside your sense of historical inevitability - meaning, "Well, of course the Bible stories happened that way" - to realize that these are not stories, that the people involved did not know they were "in the Bible," and that, frankly, these incidences are crazy and these people probably looked insane? A friend was sharing that thought with me last week: the look of sheer insanity comprised by so many of these "faith moments" in Hebrews 11.
And so here we go again: A formerly royal shepherd demanding release for his enslaved people, goods being painted in blood to ensure freedom from the darkness of death, and millions of refugees crossing through a Sea because of one man with arms outstretched at back of them.
But, let's be honest, what does our faith look like? It looks like our King of Kings, our Good Shepherd, earning eternal release for all enslaved people everywhere. It looks like lives painted in blood, washed in blood, so that full freedom from death might be theirs who would choose to believe. It looks like millions upon billions of lost broken refugees crossing forevermore from death to life because of one man with arms outstretched at back of them.
Faith means faith to actually believe the fullness of the Gospel. Unbelief is always getting stuck upon one's own salvation. Oh, may we grasp the fact that we have, today, once and for all time, entered into the Kingdom of Heaven... forever and ever!
In studying through Hebrews this fall, and in seeing how fully Jesus represents the dividing-line between the Old and New Covenants, I was struck this week by how the calling of Matthew - referenced in Matthew, Mark and Luke - is such a perfect picture of Jesus' way of showing the difference. Consider the text with some "Old Covenant reminders" thrown in for context:
On a certain day, Jesus went out and looked straight at a tax-collector called Matthew, as he sat at his office desk. The Old would say “This man is a despicable sinner, unworthy of any fellowship with the living Embodiment of God.” “Follow me,” Jesus said to him. The Old would then say, “Well, now this man must go through elaborate rituals of purification, sacrifice and external proofs of the change of heart in order to even have a chance of following God.” And Matthew got to his feet at once, left everything behind and followed him.
Then Matthew gave a big reception for Jesus in his own house… And the Old would say, “Okay, but let only the perfect, pure and utterly righteous come to this party; let only the exactingly religious sit at table with God’s Son.” ...and there was a great crowd of tax-collectors and other disreputable people at table with them. For there were many such people among his followers. The Old would say, “Well, at least these disreputable people, tax collectors and riffraff are now going to get an earful from their God, regarding their sin and lawlessness to this point...” But it was: The Pharisees and their companions, the scribes, [who] kept muttering indignantly about this to Jesus’ disciples which, yes, according to the Old, was the proper way of doing business: at second-hand, away from God, and they said, “Why do you have your meals with tax-collectors and sinners?” To which the Old would say, “Precisely! What sort of person associates with sinners?”
But Jesus heard this and replied, “It is not the fit and flourishing who need the doctor, but those who are ill! Suppose you go away and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’ The Old would now be shaking in its boots as He continues: In any case I did not come to invite the ‘righteous’ but the ‘sinners.’” Which is a verbal invalidation of everything that the Old has ever stood for.
The constant question for our hearts: Is this the Jesus we're following?
For now Christ has come among us, the High Priest of the good things which were to come, and has passed through a greater and more perfect tent which no human hand has made (for it was no part of this world of ours). It was not with goats’ or calves’ blood but with his own blood that he entered once and for all into the Holy of Holies, having won for us men eternal reconciliation with God. And if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a burnt heifer were, when sprinkled on the unholy, sufficient to make the body pure, then how much more will the blood of Christ himself, who in his eternal spirit offered himself to God as the perfect sacrifice, purify your souls from the deeds of death, that you may serve the living God! (Hebrews 9:11-14)
In the midst of the overwhelming wonder and mystery of these verses, let us not lose sight of the declarations - the realities of our new reality - that are so beautifully offered up here:
Now, because of the blood of Jesus, you may serve the living God; now, because of the blood of Jesus, your soul is forever purified; now, because of the blood of Jesus, the Body has been made pure; now, because of the blood of Jesus, we men and women are eternally reconciled with God; now, because of the blood of Jesus - and for the first time mentioned in Hebrews - Jesus has gone through the veil, our Heavenly High Priest, and has entered the Holy of Holies for us, and yet He beckons us, to come in through that forever-torn curtain and to be with Him there forever.
The perfect simultaneity between "It is finished" and the temple's curtain tearing is no perfect coincidence. It is the perfect invitation: Come in... now and forever! The ultimate proof of the blood of the Cross is your personal intimacy - NOW - with Jesus of Nazareth. How you personally come to know Him each day now is the world's best proof for how strong His blood was then.
So, "Come closer," He is saying, "come in today!"
"Under the old arrangement the outer tent [of the Tabernacle] was habitually used by the priests in the regular discharge of their religious duties. But the inner tent was entered once a year only, by the High Priest, alone, bearing a sacrifice of shed blood to be offered for his own sins and those of the people. By these things the Holy Spirit means us to understand that the way to the Holy of Holies was not yet open, that is, so long as the first tent and all that it stands for still exist. For in this outer tent we see a picture of the present time, in which both gifts and sacrifices are offered and yet are incapable of cleansing the soul of the worshipper. The ceremonies are concerned with food and drink, various washings and rules for bodily conduct, and were only intended to be valid until the time when Christ should establish the truth." Hebrews 9:6-10
And as good as that last sentence sounds, when compared to the stringencies of the past, the actual Greek wording is even better: "these consisted only of ordinances of the flesh - foods and drinks and various washings - until the time was imposed of restoration, of the making straight..."
Do you remember, back in John 1, when the religious leaders asked John the Baptist exactly who he was? They said:
"Who are you? We want to give an answer to the people who sent us. What would you call yourself?" [And John replied:] “I am ‘The voice of one crying in the wilderness: Make straight the way of the Lord…’"
How wonderful that John's self-perception, his calling, was to "make straight" the Way of the One whose Way would "make straight" the way for all of us!
That should be the business, the self-perception, the calling of everyone who calls on the name Jesus: that our lives would make straight the Way, so that all may walk it!
"For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” Jeremiah 31:33,34
All of you reading this certainly know my passion for the Early Church, for learning the ins and outs of what made their experience of Jesus so explosive and so world-changing. And I think what keeps me up at night about it is that nothing - not Jesus' life, not His death, not His resurrection, not His ascension, not the work of the Holy Spirit - none of it has changed from back then and yet, on our end, we so often think, "Hmmm, doesn't it all seem really different back then?"
No! Again, nothing has changed! "Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever." If we want to see the Book of Acts alive in our day, this prophetic passage from Jeremiah 31 is like a checklist for the fullness of the experience:
Is that the sense of the Kingdom of Heaven as it pours through us? Through you?
Hebrews 8:3 - "Every High Priest is appointed to offer gifts and make sacrifices. It follows, therefore, that in these [heavenly] holy places Jesus has something that he is offering..."
...which is a logic that made perfect sense to the Hebrew readers of this epistle, but, let's be honest, you and I are not Hebrew readers and, I bet, most of us don't know all the forms and functions of the historical High Priests of Israel. Beyond, say, the Day of Atonement and the regularly-offered sin offerings, do you know what a High Priest's main duties and responsibilities were? Because, if they're a representation of what Jesus is now perfectly up to on our behalf, I'd sure like to know what those duties were and are...
Well, in doing some research this week, I think I found the full list of all that they did. And wow! do they delight my heart in what Jesus is up to for me!
Here we go...
I. The High Priest conducted the service on the Day of Atonement and entered the Holy of Holies (Leviticus 16 & Exodus 30) – which, as it pertains to Jesus, I'll leave for further thoughts from Hebrews 9 & 10 - there's just too much for right now!
II. The High Priest offered continual sin offerings not only for the sins of the whole congregation, but also for himself (Leviticus 4) – which, with Jesus, was unnecessary: He Himself was perfect; and His one perfect offering – Himself! – covers all our sin for all time, end of story.
III. The High Priest was the mediator between God and the people (Numbers 16:20-22) – wherein, as Hebrews 7 said of Jesus, “he is always living to intercede on our behalf” – in fact, He has probably turned to the Father half a dozen times over the last few minutes to explain you and me – and our faults – to Him!
IV. The High Priest was charged with the responsibility of pronouncing blessings over the people (Numbers 6:22-27) – which, with Jesus, would seem to be one of His highest and favorite works toward us, as He is Himself the best and greatest Blessing – a living alive Blessing! – that mankind has ever received.
V. The people could go to the High Priest in order to know the will of God, (ie. the Urim & Thummim) (Moses, Numbers 27:21) – which Jesus now reveals to us – anytime we ask! – by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2) and by His bestowal of the “thoughts of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2) within our minds.
VI. The High Priest oversaw the responsibilities of all the other priests (Jehoshaphat, 2 Chronicles 19:11) – which, since we are now the new “royal priesthood” (1 Peter 2) for the Kingdom of Heaven, means that we are directly under His perfect, ever-helpful oversight.
VII. The High Priest offered a meal-offering every morning and evening for himself and the whole body of the priesthood (Leviticus 6) – of which, perhaps, Jesus was thinking when He said, “Give us this day our daily bread” (Matthew 6) and then “Do not be anxious for tomorrow, for tomorrow will take care of itself” (Matthew 6), ie. He will take care of tomorrow!
VIII. The High Priest kept guard over the sanctuary (Numbers 18) – and Jesus’ "sanctuary" is now both the Throneroom of Heaven and your inner life: It is His work within you that matters most toward your experience of being made new.
IX. And – (and how good is this?!) - when a High Priest died, all those in the cities of refuge were granted freedom (Numbers 35:28) – and it is by Jesus’ death that, once and for all time, we WERE and ARE and FOREVERMORE SHALL BE free!
I think this is just a beginning of the flavor of the activities and blessings and offerings that Jesus is engaged with - on our behalf - in the presence of the Father right now, today. And isn't that all pretty wonderful?
"Now to sum up — we have an ideal High Priest such as has been described above. He has taken his seat on the right hand of the heavenly majesty. He is the minister of the sanctuary and of the real tabernacle — that is the one God has set up and not man." Hebrews 8:1,2
Right now, even as you're arranging your attentions to focus on Jesus via these words, He is there, sitting at the right hand of the Father, minister of the sanctuary and of the real tabernacle, and He is totally and intently focused on you. He is ever at work. And yet He is steadfast, seated, in firm control.
So, following the opening words of this chapter, let us "sum up" - and be reminded of - all that has been described of our High Priest to this point in Hebrews. To do that, I've gone back and collated every single High Priestly description from Hebrews 1-7, and then shifted them from the third person to the second to make them all the more personal. If you have the time today, let these act as a prayer from your heart to His...
Jesus, it was imperative that you should be made like us in nature, since you were to become a High Priest both compassionate and faithful in the things of God, and at the same time able to make atonement for my – and for our – sins. For by virtue of your own suffering under temptation, you are now able to help us who are exposed to temptation… We meditate on you, the messenger and High Priest of the faith we hold, Lord Jesus. We see you as faithful to the charge your Father gave you…
Jesus, seeing that we have a great High Priest who entered the inmost Heaven – you! the Son of God! – help us hold firmly to our faith. For you are not some superhuman High Priest to whom are weaknesses are unintelligible – you yourself have shared fully in all our experience of temptation, except that you never sinned. We will therefore approach your throne of grace with fullest confidence, that we may receive – from you, Jesus! – mercy for our failures and grace to help in the hour of need…
Jesus, you did not choose for yourself the glory of being High Priest, but you were honored by the One who said: ‘You are my Son, today I have begotten you’… When you had been proved the perfect Son by your death for us on the Cross, you became the source of eternal salvation to all who desire to obey you, being now recognized by your Father Himself as High Priest ‘after the order of Melchizedek…’
Jesus, by two utterly immutable things, the word of God and the oath of God, who cannot lie, we who are refugees from this dying world now have a source of strength, and can grasp the hope that you are holding out to us. This hope we hold as the utterly reliable anchor for our souls, fixed in the very certainty of your Father in Heaven, where you, Jesus, have already entered on our behalf, having become, as we have learned, ‘High Priest for ever…’
Jesus, you who are described as our High Priest belonged to another tribe of Israel, no member of which had ever attended the altar! It is a matter of history that you were a descendant of Judah… You derived your priesthood not by virtue of a command imposed from outside, but from the power of indestructible life within… Quite plainly, Jesus, there is a definite cancellation of the previous commandment because of its ineffectiveness and uselessness – the Law was incapable of bringing anyone to real maturity – followed by the introduction of your better hope, through which we approach your Father. Yes, you mean a ‘better’ hope for us, Jesus, because you have become our priest by the oath of God…
Jesus, because you live forever, you possess a priesthood that needs no successor. This means that you can save fully and completely we who approach your Father through you, for you are always living to intercede on our behalf. You are the High Priest we need. A Man who is holy, faultless, unstained, beyond the very reach of sin and lifted to the very Heavens. There is no need for you, like the High Priests of the past, to offer up sacrifice, first for your own sins and then for the people’s. You made one sacrifice, once for all, when you offered up yourself… The word of the oath, which came after the Law, makes for High Priest you Jesus, the Son, who is perfect forever!
"By two utterly immutable things, the word of God and the oath of God, who cannot lie, we who are refugees from this dying world may have a source of strength, and may grasp the hope that he holds out to us. This hope we hold as the utterly reliable anchor for our souls, fixed in the very certainty of God himself in Heaven, where Jesus has already entered on our behalf, having become, as we have seen, 'High Priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek.'" Hebrews 6:18-20
Let me do my best to paint the picture of what is being said here. Jesus, the Word and Oath of God incarnate, having lived and died for our sakes, tore the curtain between God and men, men and God, forever. Then, in rising from the dead, He showed us the unending power of the new and resurrected life that is now ours, and, in ascending to the Father, He lifted our life to Heaven. No separation now exists between Heaven and earth. Jesus is the Way, the Door, the Go-between...
And so, in bursting back through the doors of the Throneroom of Heaven, in re-approaching His Father upon the throne, it was as if He carried all our hope, our certainty, our belief, under His arm. And, in retaking His seat next to the Father, in their shared smile of acknowledgment that "It is finished," it was as if Jesus hooked the arms of the Anchor of our Hope firmly around the legs of His throne...
Do you and I always have grounds for hope? Why, yes! We have our Friend, our Teacher, our Savior, alive, upon the very Throne of Heaven. Do you and I always have grounds for an audacious certainty in this life? Why, yes! Our hope is hooked like an anchor to Jesus Himself.
My friends, as we prepare to start another month, do you see Him there, watching you, loving you?
You and I never lack for anything - especially hope - when our hope is in this Man, a Man we know and love, a Man who is God, the One we know as Jesus.