Fifth Sunday in Lent

Trust Jesus, Your High Priest


You need to trust instantly and completely. There are those times in our lives when you are told to trust someone instantly and completely. I think of what happens in hospital rooms. A person goes into the E.R. The doctor takes one action after another to keep the person from dying. And the loved ones are there in the waiting room with nothing to do with their time but simply trust that the doctor knows what he is doing. The same was true in the Old Testament when it came to the high priest. The high priest was the one man who on one day was allowed to go into the one place—the most holy place. He went into the most holy place with a bowl full of the blood of animals. He sprayed blood everywhere in the most holy place. And then if he came out and sprinkled that blood on the people, then they knew their sins were forgiven. They had to trust instantly and completely. In the New Testament we learn that Jesus is our Great High Priest. And in these words here in Hebrews we learn why it is that we should trust him: 1 For every high priest taken from among men is appointed in matters pertaining to God for the people, to offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins. 2 He is able to deal gently with those who are ignorant and are going astray, since he is also clothed with weakness. 3 Because of this, he must make an offering for his own sins as well as for the people.” (Hebrews 5:1–3 CSB17)


Sometimes you have to wait to figure out the point to a certain part of God’s word. Not here. The writer to the Hebrews right away tells you why you should trust Jesus your High Priest. Notice the two reasons: First, He was chosen by God. Second, he suffered perfectly for you. The writer to the Hebrews works so very hard to encourage us that we have every reason to trust Jesus as our Great High Priest. First, he was chosen by God. And he elaborates and explains that point in the words which follow: 4 No one takes this honor on himself; instead, a person is called by God, just as Aaron was. 5 In the same way, Christ did not exalt himself to become a high priest, but God who said to him, You are my Son; today I have become your Father, 6 also says in another place, You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.” (Hebrews 5:4–6 CSB17)


How do you know you can trust this man? He did not choose to glorify himself. Instead God is the one who chose him. The High Priest was chosen from among the people, but by God himself. The same is true today. One of the reasons you can trust the pastors you have had in this congregation is that they didn’t choose themselves. Oh sure, each of the men who has preached in this pulpit as your pastor chose to study to be a pastor. But from there others chose. At the end of eight years (or nine in my case) of studying, our Seminary officially said, “We chose this man as a pastoral candidate.” Then what happened? Then you chose that man to be your pastor. Pastor Monday didn’t have a clue about this church until he was called here. And the same is true for me. You can trust them because they didn’t choose and glorify themselves. No, God chose them through you. How much more so is that true of Jesus. God chose Jesus to be the Great High Priest.


What’s the problem though? How do you trust someone you can’t even see? As Jesus speaks to us from his word he tells us to trust him many times and in many different ways. And our great sin is shown when we trust him in the easy ways, but doubt him or trust ourselves in the more difficult ways. Jesus says, “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:33 NIV) But in our lives we so very often do the opposite. We get our ducks in a row when it comes to the financial, earthly details, then, when we think those are figured out, we then move onto the churchly issues. The high school student chooses the college that will pay the best paycheck and get the best job, but doesn’t consider how he or she will remain a Christian and even grow as a Christian. The grown-up is offered a pay-raise and the first thing he or she thinks about is the money. Then he thinks about traffic and travel. What is the last detail to consider: where is a WELS church? When we think like this we show that we do not trust Jesus as our High Priest.


And that’s where these words are so important for us to hear. All the other high priests had to offer up something else. They had to sacrifice an animal to take away first their own sins and second, the sins of the people. Jesus was different. First, he was perfect. So he didn’t have to sacrifice for himself. Second, since he was the perfect human and son of God, he could offer up himself to pay for our sins—all the times we should have trusted Jesus but didn’t. And with that then he gives us every reason to trust him. For he was chosen by God. He didn’t choose this work himself. But he did it perfectly for us. But there’s also another reason we should trust Jesus. We trust him because he was chosen by God. But we also trust him because he suffered for us. We read: 7 During his earthly life, he offered prayers and appeals with loud cries and tears to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. 8 Although he was the Son, he learned obedience from what he suffered. 9 After he was perfected, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him, 10 and he was declared by God a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek.” (Hebrews 5:7–10 CSB17)


You probably haven’t thought about it, but every person in the pew expects the impossible of their pastor. You want a pastor who has lived enough and maybe even made enough mistakes that he knows what you’re going through. And yet, if he’s made too many mistakes, then he’s not qualified to be a pastor. The same paradox is true in the Old Testament. They wanted and needed a high priest who could sympathize with them because he would be the one praying for them. If he didn’t have a clue what their lives were like, how could he offer up any prayers that dealt with what they were going through? Here, we read some absolutely beautiful words. First, Jesus cried and prayed to God because he knew that God would save him. You think of the cries and prayers Jesus offered up for us in the darkness of the garden of Gethsemane and the darkness on Good Friday. Why was Jesus so willing and faithful to continually cry out to God? Jesus knew that his Father would be with him at the end, on Good Friday, because he was with him all the way from the beginning. The Father taught the Son to trust him through suffering. And he learned that lesson perfectly in our place.


Take, for example, when you were a child. You fell down and skinned your knee. You came running inside and yelled and cried for your mommy to help. Now, I don’t know about you, but my mommy used to take out this reddish-orange liquid. And she said, “This is going to hurt. But then it will feel better—I promise.” And what do you think I did? I ran away. All I heard was, “This will hurt.” And we as adults do the same thing. How many of us avoid seeing the doctor for one simple reason: we think it might hurt. But Jesus, our Great High Priest did the opposite. Throughout all the pain Jesus endured, he clung to the promise his Father spoke to him. And how do we know we can trust that Jesus will get the job done on Good Friday and take away our sin? We know this is true and can trust him because of hundreds and thousands of times Jesus endured pain because he trusted the promise from his Father that he would not abandon him. What comfort this gives us to know that when we run away from any kind of pain, Jesus didn’t. Jesus trusted his Father throughout all the pain. And he did this for us, so that his obedience would cover and smother our cowardice.


So my dear friends in Christ, trust Jesus, your High Priest. For he was chosen by God. And he suffered for you. Amen.


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