St. John's & Zion Lutheran Churches

Learn About Jesus, Our Great High Priest

Sermon on Hebrews 5:7-10

Text: 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. 8 Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered 9 and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him 10 and was designated by God to be high priest in the order of Melchizedek.

We often speak about Jesus’ work on the earth as being a three-fold office. We speak of Jesus as being a prophet. Just as the Old Testament prophets spoke the word of God to the people to whom they had been sent, so Jesus came to the people and told about the good news of the kingdom of God. The Old Testament kings fought for their people and ruled over them. Jesus, our King, not only fought for us, but also won the victory for us. He now rules in the hearts of his people. Jesus also acted as a High Priest. This morning, we are going to LEARN ABOUT JESUS, OUR GREAT HIGH PRIEST. We will see that 1. For You He Obeyed, 2. For You He Suffered and 3. For you He Was Glorified.

In order to appreciate this section of God’s Word, we need to remember the purpose for the Epistle to the Hebrews. The book was written to Jews who had been brought to faith. Since then, however, a persecution against Christians broke out. There were some Hebrews who wanted to return to Judaism, because that was a safe religion. The author to the Hebrews wrote to them to tell them what they would lose, if they returned to Judaism. They would lose their salvation, because they would be turning their back on the Savior. Throughout the book, the author shows the superiority of Christ. Here, in this section, the author shows Jesus to be the Great High Priest.

In verse 7, we are reminded of Jesus’ humiliation, when he gave up the full use of his heavenly powers. The words, “During the days of Jesus’ life on earth,” in the Greek have the idea of Jesus’ flesh. He, the unlimited Son of God, chose to limit himself to the body during the thirty-three years of his life. It speaks of the fact that Jesus “offered up prayers and petitions.” There are many times when we read that Jesus went off by himself to pray. However, the prayers and petitions that are spoken of here are more than just every day prayers for those things that we need for our survival. It speaks of the fact that these prayers and petitions were offered “with fervent cries and tears.” There was an immense struggle that Jesus was going through when he offered these prayers. One cannot help but think of Jesus’ anguished prayers in the Garden of Gethsemane. We are told in Luke 22:44, “Being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.” We get a glimpse of the struggle as we hear some of the words that Jesus spoke to his Father in prayer, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me.” (Matthew 26:39) Jesus knew exactly what was going to happen over the next couple of hours and his human nature recoiled at the thought of it.

Maybe we can get a feel for what Jesus was going through in the Garden of Gethsemane, if we were to imagine the following situation. Suppose, you knew that in a week, you were going to face a terrible catastrophe. You might think of a horrible accident or painful disease. How would you live the rest of the week? Even the strongest among us might be destroyed by the anticipation of the event! Now multiply that many times over and you will start to understand what Jesus was going through. He knew that he would not only have to suffer physically; he would also suffer the depths of hell for the sins of the world.

Yet, in spite of this, he went “to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard.” (Verse 7) He went to his Father in heaven. His prayer was heard. Some might think, ‘How can that be? He still died.’ Yet, remember the last part of Jesus prayer. After asking “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me,” Jesus continued, “Yet not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:39) Jesus was willing to follow his Father’s will in this, even if it meant that he would suffer and die. His Father’s reply is found in the fact that he sent an angel to Jesus to strengthen him for what lay ahead. His Father’s will was that he suffer and Jesus obeyed his Father’s will.

This is but one more example of Jesus perfectly following his Father’s will, and we thank God that he did. For, there is no way that we could perfectly follow God’s will for our lives. God demands that we are to be “kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as, in Christ, God forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32) There is no place in the heart of a Christian for grudges. We are to forgive each other completely. That means that we don’t keep bringing up the past every time that we are hurt. If these words or actions have been forgiven, they will be forgotten. Jesus, as our Great High Priest, perfectly followed his Father’s will and did so in our place.

A major function of the high priest was to offer sacrifices. When you read through the Old Testament, you read of many different sacrifices that were offered. Jesus, as our Great High Priest, also offered up a sacrifice. In verses 8&9 we read, “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.” These verses speak of Jesus’ suffering for all people. When it says in verse 9 that he was “made perfect,” it has the idea of being reaching a goal. Jesus’ goal in coming to the earth was to be the world’s Savior. In speaking to Pontius Pilate, Jesus said that this was, “the reason I was born and came into the world.” (John 18:37) Earlier we stated that Jesus knew what lay ahead of him. Time and again he told his disciples exactly what was going to happen to him. He had come to the earth to live, to suffer and die and to rise again, so that all people might be saved.

Once he had reached that goal, “He became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.” (Verse 9) Through Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, we are saved. There are many people who try to find their source of salvation in other places. They think that it doesn’t matter what you believe, as long as you are sincere about it. They think that, if they just try hard enough, if they do more good than bad they will be saved. Others ignore that natural knowledge of God and hope that this life on this earth is all that there is. But, as we are reminded in Acts 4:12, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” It is only through the Spirit-born faith, that we receive the benefits of what Christ has done for us. Because God demanded that sin be paid for, Jesus stepped in and took our place. He suffered hell so that we might never have to. Our Great High Priest offered a sacrifice on our behalf, to pay for our sins. The sacrifice he offered, though, was not an animal. The sacrifice he offered was himself. Our Great High Priest suffered for us.

However, we know that this is not the end of the story. Jesus didn’t just suffer and die. He also rose again. The first verse of our text spoke of Jesus’ humiliation, when he gave up the full use of his heavenly powers. Now in verse 10, we find a reference to his exaltation, when he once again took up the full use of his heavenly powers, when the Father raised him up. In verse 10, it says that Jesus “was designated by God to be high priest in the order of Melchizedek.” Melchizedek is a figure that is mentioned only briefly in the Bible. After Abraham rescued his nephew Lot, he returned to the region where Lot was from. When he reached there, we are told that he was greeted by Melchizedek, who is referred in Genesis 14:18-20 as the “King of Salem” and as a “priest of God Most High.” Later, in Psalm 110, David refers to Melchizedek and sees him as a type of Christ, who would be both king and priest. If Jesus had not completed the work that his Father gave him to do, he would still have remained in the grave of Joseph of Arimathea. He would be like so many other religious leaders who have come and gone. But he didn’t. He was raised to life that first Easter morning. That fact shows us that he is indeed the Son of God. Since that is true, we are reminded that everything he has promised us will happen just as he said it would. When he promises that he will provide for all of our needs, we have no need to worry about the future. When he promises that all of our needs are heard by him when we pray, we know that they will be taken care of. This, too, was part of the duties of the Old Testament high priest. He would intercede for the people. Jesus acts as our Great High Priest as he takes all our prayers to the Father’s throne on our behalf. In addition, when he promises us that heaven is our home, we know that it is ours. He is our Great High Priest.

Since he is our high priest, he has commissioned each of us for service in his Church. This is not exclusively limited to pastors and teachers. Each of us has a role that we can play in the Church. It might be in a leadership role, as in serving on Church Council, being an officer in the Ladies Aid, or ushering. It can come in the form of teaching Sunday School or Vacation Bible School. It is found in supporting the church with our offerings. We serve as we see to it that the grounds of our church are well-kept and attractive. We serve as we remember others in prayer or just by having a kind word for someone who is down. God gives us the wonderful opportunity to serve him as our way of saying “Thank you.” He doesn’t need our help, yet, he accepts our service as worship of him. This is done to the glory of our Great High Priest, Jesus Christ.

Very soon we will enter Holy Week, as we focus our attention on Jesus’ suffering and death for our sins. Jesus Christ, our Great High Priest, sacrificed his perfect, obedient life for us. He suffered in our place. As a result, the Father has glorified him. His humiliation and exaltation are described in the words of Philippians 2:7-11: “[Jesus] made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death — even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” We blend our voices with theirs in hymns of praise to our Great High Priest, Jesus Christ. Amen.