“For every high priest taken from among men is appointed for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins. 2 He can have compassion on those who are ignorant and going astray, since he himself is also subject to weakness. 3 Because of this he is required as for the people, so also for himself, to offer sacrifices for sins. 4 And no man takes this honor to himself, but he who is called by God, just as Aaron was” (NKJV).
Over the past few weeks, we have talked about Jesus’ role in our sinful state and how He is there to help us to sin less and also to help us be restored when we sin. There has been and is a lot of discussion about sin in the life of a Christian and what is and is not a Christian. There are things that we are called to be and do as Children of God. But a child of God is a child of God. If one is saved, whether he is the next Samson or the next Paul, he is a child of God. The ‘heroes’ of the Scriptures, except for a few like Daniel and the Christ types like Joseph and Joshua, all have sin recorded in their lives. All the way from lying and adultery like Abraham to murder like David.
In the New Testament, we find Jesus and Peter sparring over the direction of the movement; we find men vying for positions; we find lying, deceit; we find adultery that even the Gentiles did not talk about, according to Paul as he addressed the church in Corinth. There are a few things that we should look at here in these four verses. I pray that they will encourage us when we fall, that they will inspire us to be gentler with those that fall and help us to truly be loving spiritual siblings. One may say that I am becoming soft as I get older; maybe. But I think that as we get closer and closer to the time of the accounting of our lives to the Lord, we can maybe see life more and more clearly.
- The High Priest and Compassion, verse 2
The word that we get in the New Testament for compassion is often this word in the original language: SLAGCHNIZOMAI; it means to ‘be moved as to one’s bowels, hence to be moved with compassion.’ In the time that the writer was writing Hebrews, the bowels were thought to be the seat of love and pity. We get the phrase ‘a gut feeling’ from this concept. The High Priest was not to be a judgmental superior; rather, he was a man who loved you and felt compassion in that he understood your weakness. He would have to offer sacrifices for his sins just like he was offering sacrifices for yours.
By the time of Jesus’ day, the Pharisees and other sects had hijacked the whole Judean religion and made it to be a source of hatred rather than a source of compassion. The high priest took on a role of superiority rather than being a compassionate servant. The high priest that God called, beginning with Aaron, knew they were sinners, humbly acknowledged it, and used it as a tool to help them deal with their fellow Jews lovingly and in Godly pity. At no point did this compassion condone sin – never; rather, the compassion acknowledged the weakness that we all have, and the high priest had to come face to face with his own sins each time he performed a sacrifice on behalf of a brother or sister.
We have lost or, for the most part, suppressed this kind of compassion in our churches and in our lives. While we are not to condone sin, we are not to behave so Pharisaical that we present ourselves as sinless and as above anyone. Many Pastors fall into the trap; they want to appear spiritually mature, so they portray a façade of sinlessness. But spiritually mature means acknowledging our/my sins and asking for God’s forgiveness, and then extending the same compassion and grace to others when they ask me to forgive them. Look at Luke 7: 3-4,
“3 Watch yourselves. If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. 4 Even if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times returns to say, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him” (Berean Study Bible).
Notice the imperative command in verse four above, ‘you must forgive him.’ Why? Because this is what compassionate, saved people who live in God’s grace do. This is the love from John 13: 34-35, not tolerance for sin but compassion for our human weaknesses and frailty.
- Jesus, God’s Choice for High Priest verse 4
God sent Jesus to be our final and eternal High Priest. Jesus, the Bible tells us in Hebrews 12:1-2 that Jesus became both the High Priest and the sacrifice for us and that He did so with joy.
“Therefore, we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (NKJV).
Jesus did not have to be coerced or cajoled into helping us; why? Because He is our compassionate High Priest. He does not condemn us and does not turn us away. He never leaves us, and when we fail, even the consequences can be mitigated by His compassion. Even in the sinfulness of Samson, there was a victory; Solomon came out of David’s sin; the sparring between Peter and Jesus did not disqualify him from being the leader when Jesus left.
Now, there are some sins that reap immediate and seemingly harsh results. Ananias and Saphira died instantly, Moses was forbidden from entering the Promised Land, and we can think of a few others. But for the most part, the Bible is filled with a compassionate God, who sent His Son; that Son came joyfully to show us God’s love, to be our Advocate, and to be the full payment for sins. He took on our flesh so that He could understand the frailty of man and deal with us compassionately. Stop giving up on each other; rather, be compassionate and helpful. The one you help today will one day be the one to rescue you. Galatians 6: 1-2 reminds us of this.
“Brothers, if someone is caught in a trespass, you who are spiritual should restore him with a spirit of gentleness. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. Carry one another’s burdens, and in this way, you will fulfill the law of Christ.”
Notice, we are to use a ‘spirit of gentleness’; this is compassion and pity. The goal is to forgive and restore, not to recall and destroy. We are to carry each other’s burdens; this is what Jesus does for us, and this is what we need to do for each other. Lord, please forgive us for the number of brothers and sisters we have given up on when You did not give up on us. Lord help!!
My family and I will be away for a much-needed break next week; the next lesson will be on August 13th.
God bless you,
Dr. Sean Gooding
Pastor of Mississauga Missionary Baptist Church
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