Every high priest is selected from among the people and is appointed to represent the people in matters related to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. He is able to deal gently with those who are ignorant and are going astray, since he himself is subject to weakness. This is why he has to offer sacrifices for his own sins, as well as for the sins of the people. And no one takes this honor on himself, but he receives it when called by God, just as Aaron was.
In the same way, Christ did not take on himself the glory of becoming a high priest. But God said to him,
“You are my Son;
today I have become your Father.”
And he says in another place,
“You are a priest forever,
in the order of Melchizedek.”
During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered and once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him and was designated by God to be high priest in the order of Melchizedek. (New International Version)
The New Testament letter of Hebrews is perhaps the most Christ-centered book in all the Bible. If you like Jesus, or are at all intrigued by him, this is the best place to go, outside the four Gospels.
Hebrews deliberately points out and exalts the supremacy of Jesus Christ over the Old Testament prophets, the angelic realm, and even Moses and the Law. And, as today’s New Testament lesson insists, Jesus is superior to the old Levitical priesthood because Christ is our salvation. His priesthood is from a different and better order.
With all this talk in Hebrews about Christ’s superiority over everything, some might expect a focus on his deity. Yet, it is the humanity of Jesus which gets the most attention. The actual lived experience of Jesus on this earth is the highest qualification there is to intercede between God and us.
Jesus, as a true bona fide human person, had to learn obedience just like the rest of us. He went through all the hardships and sufferings of life, too. Jesus was dependent on prayer, just as we are. And he was heard by God the Father because of his reverent submission.
One of the great deceptions which can befall Christians is that Christianity is all about strength, victory, and glory. That, however, is only part of the story. If Jesus needed to learn and grow by means of suffering, then how much more do we need to be spiritually formed through the adversities, challenges, and heartaches of life?
Jesus Christ proved himself through his obedience to God. Even though he himself was God, he submitted himself to being human with all of it’s limitations, weaknesses, and pains. Through it all, Christ maintained perfect submission and obedience to the will of God.
All of this means that Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, is eminently qualified to be our great high priest. Jesus can relate to us. Jesus knows us. Jesus understands what it’s like for us. And Jesus has dealt with the endemic issue of guilt and shame once for all through the cross.
So, what does this mean for you and me? Without a realization of who Jesus is, what he did for us, and continues to do for us, we easily take Christ for granted and slip into spiritual lethargy – and perhaps even spiritual self-loathing – and needlessly suffer in loneliness and despair.
The truth is: Jesus Christ loves us. He has become our high priest, the one who is able to intercede for us – constantly taking our prayers and advocating for us to God the Father.
Let Christians everywhere be reminded that we serve a Trinitarian God – Father, Son, and Spirit – who conspires to do what is best for us, at all times. There is a divine community of three persons, the Holy Trinity, who work seamlessly and with perfect unity to provide deliverance from sin, death, and hell. The God whom we serve is both willing and capable to meet our most pressing needs.
Here are 17 ways we can live into being mature Christian believers who are spiritually growing in the grace of God:
- Realize God has called you to be holy and righteous and has given you everything you need to do so. (2 Peter 1:3-4)
- Be an integral part of a Christian faith community so that you can be encouraged and encourage others. (Hebrews 10:24-25)
- Listen to the counsel of others and discern what is good and what is not. (Philippians 1:9-11)
- Stick to a consistent regimen of Bible reading and Scripture study. (Hebrews 4:12-13)
- Find good books to read and go through them carefully. (2 Timothy 2:15)
- Seek to obey Holy Scripture with all your heart. (Psalm 119:89-96)
- Persevere and keep growing spiritually. (Hebrews 10:35-36)
- Pray continually, realizing your utter dependence on Christ. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)
- Always look for ways to praise God and serve Christ. (2 Corinthians 1:1-7)
- Consider the consequences of your words and actions before you say and do them. (Galatians 6:7-10)
- Enjoy God and God’s people. (Philippians 4:4-9)
- Understand that the Christian life is not always easy. (Philippians 1:27-30)
- Be patient: Spiritual growth and maturity take time. (Hebrews 6:1-3)
- Use the spiritual gifts given to you for the benefit of others. (Romans 12:3-8)
- Make plans with other like-minded persons to become spiritually self-disciplined. (Proverbs 27:17)
- Pursue genuine and intimate spiritual friendships. (2 Corinthians 7:1-4)
- Engage in spiritual conversation and prayer around the Bible’s contents and message. (Colossians 4:2-6)
Gracious Father, we pray for Christ’s Church. Fill it with all truth and peace. Where it is corrupt, purify it; where it is in error, direct it; where in anything it is amiss, reform it. Where it is right, strengthen it; where it is in want, provide for it; where it is divided, reunite it; for the sake of Jesus Christ, your Son, our Savior. Amen.