3rd Wednesday of Lent
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! In the name of Jesus, dear friends in Christ, I have a silly question for you, if you would like to know what it’s like to give birth to a baby, would you ask me, OR would you ask my wife who’s given birth to six babies? Obviously, you’d ask my wife. Why so? Because she’s been there, she’s done that. If you wanted to know what it’s like to live in Canada, would you ask me who’s never lived outside of the U.S., or my wife who lived there for about a decade? Obviously, you’d ask my wife. Why? Because she’s been there, she’s done that. The principle is: If you want to know what it’s like to do something, you ask someone who’s been through it.
We’ve been looking at the fact that Jesus is our High Priest as is shown in the Book of Hebrews. The author to the Hebrews seems to be writing to Jewish Christians who were being tempted to fall back into the old forms of Judaism. They were being persecuted for their faith. It was tempting for them to go back to Judaism. Judaism was a recognized religion in the Roman empire and so it was permitted. Being a Christian was considered a “new” religion, even though, of course, it is the only true religion and fulfills the true Judaism of the Old Testament.
Perhaps it was tempting for them to go back to following a visible high priest who served in the temple in Jerusalem. He was a human, you could see him, he was your intermediary between you and God. But, as God reminds us here in Hebrews, Jesus is far superior, Jesus is the Great High Priest!
First of all, we’re told that Jesus has “ascended into heaven.” He’s not just like the earthly high priest who worked in the temple and only once/year could go behind the curtain into the Most Holy Place. Jesus, has gone to THE Holy Place. Jesus is always at God’s right hand and is constantly interceding on our behalf.
So, “let us hold firmly to the faith we profess.” Hold firmly to the faith we profess. One of the classic examples of not holding firmly to Christ was Peter whom we read about in the passion reading this evening. In the face of the questions of the servants, Peter denied even knowing the Savior, with oaths and curses he said that he didn’t know “this man,” didn’t even acknowledge his name! He caved under the pressure of temptation, he gave in to weakness, didn’t look to Jesus for strength.
Has that happened to you? Have you been tempted to turn away? To not hold firmly to the faith we profess? Perhaps we’re tempted to turn away from our calling in life to be a faithful spouse or a faithful parent, just like Satan tempted Jesus in the wilderness to turn away from his calling as the Savior. Or maybe we’re tempted to turn away in the midst of suffering just like Jesus when he was weak and hungry when Satan tempted him. Or maybe we’re tempted by friends to take the easy way out instead of standing up for our faith, like Peter tempted Jesus not to go to the cross as we heard on Sunday. So often we fail, we given to the pressure of temptation. But Jesus never did.
And isn’t that the good news? “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet he did not sin.” Jesus knows the full brunt of Satan’s temptations because he faced every one of them. And since he knows our weaknesses, since he knows what temptation feels like, he’s able to deal gently with us. Remember Peter? As Peter is denying Jesus, Jesus looked straight at him. Jesus’ look preached a silent sermon. Jesus knew, Jesus knows all things, we can’t hide our sins from him, his look called Peter and it calls us to repentance, our sin is not ok. Jesus doesn’t ignore our sins. But Jesus’ look was also a look of love. “Turn to me Peter, see what I’m doing here? I’m taking the burden of your sins- all of them- I’m taking them to the cross to pay for them in full. Come to me, turn to me, trust in me.”
Jesus invites us to come to him. He knows our weakness, He knows our sins. Confess them, lay them before Him.
And what does He do? Not only does He know what temptation feels like, but he can do something about it. If I visit someone who is sick, I can empathize with them- I know what it’s like to feel lousy and be sick, I can give some comforting words, but that’s all I can do. Jesus not only can empathize with our weaknesses, but as the all-powerful Lord, He can do something about it.
“Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Jesus invites us to come to Him for strength, for help in our time of need. How do we do that? Remember what Jesus had told the disciples? “Watch and pray so that you do not fall into temptation.” God invites us to pray to him, to cast all our anxieties on him because he cares for us, to call upon him in the day of trouble, he will deliver us and we will honor him, even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.
God invites us to pray to him for strength. And how does God give that strength? Through His Word and sacraments. Remember, God’s word is living and active sharper than any two edged sword. The gospel is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes. In your baptism you were buried with Christ and given a new life. In the Lord’s Supper God gives you Jesus for forgiveness and the strength to live a new life.
You see, Jesus is our compassionate High Priest. He’s able to empathize with us in our weakness, but he’s also able to strengthen us in our weaknesses, so let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Amen.