When the trials, temptations, oppositions, and discouragements of life as Christians in a fallen world threaten to strip us of our confident reliance upon Christ as the only sufficient Savior, we must be diligent to “hold fast our confession’ (v. 14). This charge to hold fast is given in the context of the greatness of Jesus as our great high priest. We have every incentive to hold fast our confession because:
I. Our Great High Priest has Passed Through the Heavens (verse 14)
The high priest in the Old Testament was appointed by God as a go-between for a holy God and His sinful people. His most important function was that of the sacrifice and offering of the atonement. In order to make atonement for God’s people, the high priest needed to take the blood of an animal into the holy place of the tabernacle, then into the holy of holies, over to the ark, and sprinkle it on the mercy seat in the presence of God. This represented the appeasement or satisfaction of the wrath of God in order that God could now deal mercifully and graciously with His people. Jesus the Son of God is the true high priest, infinitely greater than all who preceded Him and the One to whom all the high priests of the line of Aaron pointed. He is the One who intervenes between a holy God and His sinful people, satisfies God’s wrath, and brings us into God’s favor forever.
Jesus is not a high priest in a temple on the earth, but one who “has passed through the heavens.” The fact that He has passed through the heavens means that He has now taken His seat at the right hand of His Father (Hebrews 1:3). Just as the high priest would “pass through” the veil to get to the holy of holies in the presence of God, so also Jesus has “passed through” the veil of the heavens and entered into the true holy of holies in the presence of His Father.
However, there are three important distinctions to be made. First, the high priests passed through the veil for a time but then came back out until the following year; Jesus passed through the veil into the true holy of holies and remains there forever. Second, the high priests passed through the veil and then closed the veil behind them so that no one else could see them or enter with them; Jesus passed through the veil and left it open so that we will follow Him there—through faith now, but bodily and completely in the new heavens and new earth (c.f. Hebrews 6:19-20; Revelation 20:1ff). Third, the high priests passed through the veil on the basis of a sacrificed animal; Jesus passed through the veil into the true holy of holies on the basis of His own shed blood.
II. Our Great High Priest Sympathizes with our Weaknesses (verse 15)
The fact that Jesus has passed through the heavens and is now exalted at the right hand of the Father does not in any way mean He is distant, aloof, or unconcerned about our struggle down here. Instead, He is sympathetic, meaning that He understands our weaknesses in the face of temptation. We are weak, and we are in need of someone to come alongside and share the burden with us, to join in our struggle, and to carry us through the trial of temptation. Jesus is the great high priest who is perfectly suited for that task because He Himself experienced the same temptations. The fact that He never sinned does not mean that He is unfamiliar with the pressures of temptations we face—the opposite is actually true! Because He never sinned, He knows the pressures, schemes, and weight of temptation far better than any of us ever could. The fact that He sympathizes with us also implies that He is able to bring us safely through the temptation. Since He was tempted in the greatest imaginable ways and remained sinless, He is able to deliver us from temptation as well.
III. Our Great High Priest Gives us Confident Access to the Throne of Grace (verse 16)
To draw near to God’s throne of grace simply means that you look to Him in reliant prayer for the help that you need. The infinitely glorious throne of God is not only a throne of majesty and authority, it is also a throne of grace for those who are trusting in Christ. The presence of Christ at His right hand, securing His mercy and grace by the sufficient sacrifice of Himself offered on the cross, assures us that when we draw near to God we will receive HIs grace and not His wrath. Since it is a throne of grace and of welcome, we are to draw near with confidence. In other words, our drawing near is not mixed with uncertainty, wondering what sort of treatment we’re going to receive. In Christ, we come to Him confidently, freely, with the certainty of acceptance. The Lord is ready to send His help to you in time of need and temptation, carried by the Person of the Holy Spirit, but you are commanded to draw near to Him for it.
- Whatever the temptation you face, you do not face it alone. You do so with the shared sympathy and enabling power of the One who has walked the path of obedience before you. Jesus has was tempted in all ways like you are, then having offered Himself up as a perfect sacrifice for sins, He ascended to the right hand of the Father where He now sits in the true holy of holies, sympathizing with you in your weaknesses and giving you confident access to God’s throne to find the mercy and grace you need in every time of need. What are your times of need? What are the times you feel your weaknesses the most? Are you drawing near to God through your great high priest in those times? Most importantly, do you know Jesus as your high priest? Are you trusting in Him as the One who alone can bring you safely into the presence and grace of God?