March 18, 2018 [Lent 5]  Hebrews 5:7-9  J.D.Roekle

During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. 8 Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered 9 and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him. 

Jesus, Our Great High Priest

Dear Friends in Christ,

          When I traveled over to Israel and wanted to charge my cell phone, I needed to be prepared.  I wasn’t able to simply plug my power charger cord into the outlet.  That’s because the outlet I was plugging the power cord into is meant for a cord with circular posts on the ends, rather than the flat edge of a typical power cord here in the United States.  So I needed to have along an adapter.  I would plug my phone cord into the adapter and the adapter had the correct posts that I could plug into the outlet in Israel.  If I didn’t have the adapter, I would have been carrying around a dead phone, since I wouldn’t have been able to charge it.  The adapter was necessary for my phone to receive the necessary charge from the outlet. 

          An adapter is also necessary in your life.  How is it that you and I can be connected to God?  We have something by nature that is not at all compatible with God: sin.  We’re all infected with it.  We are born with it.  On our own, we cannot plug into a relationship with God.  We need an adapter of sorts.  That adapter is Jesus.  The office, which Jesus holds that explains Jesus connecting us to God, is his office of High Priest.  Jesus is our great High Priest.  The thing that makes Jesus our High Priest so great is his perfect obedience.  He did everything that was asked of him in order to connect us with God. 

          The problem of our broken relationship with God has been around since the first sin in the Garden of Eden.  In order to show the children of Israel their need for someone to connect them to God, the Lord established the Old Testament office of High Priest.  This office was quite an exclusive club. 

While there were many priests, there was only one High Priest at any given time.  The High Priest was appointed by God himself with Aaron being the first one chosen.  Aaron’s line would provide the High Priest through the centuries. 

Because the High Priest was one of a kind, the Lord commanded the very cloths he would wear when he was doing his appointed work around the tabernacle or later the temple.  While there were quite a number of garments, he was to wear, today we will simply focus on a few items that shows what his role was all about.

He wore two onyx stones on his shoulders.  On them were engraved the names of the 12 tribes of Israel.  In wearing these, he was showing that he represented the people before the Lord.   He was also to wear a breastplate on which were 12 gemstones.  On each gemstone was the name of one of the tribes of Israel.  Carrying them near his heart, he was reminded of the great responsibility he had on behalf of the people.  On his head, he wore a gold plate with the words inscribed on it: “Holy to the Lord.”  This was worn on his head to show that he was the one appointed to do the sacrifices of atonement on behalf of the sinful people. 

Now each of these articles, and all the other ones we didn’t discuss, were to be worn by the High Priest as they entered the Holy Place and Most Holy Place.  If they would enter there without any of these articles properly worn, Moses says that they would “incur guilt and die.” (Exodus 28:43)  They were to carefully do as God had instructed. 

Jesus as our High Priest was much greater.  While he didn’t wear the garb of the Old Testament High Priests, he was perfectly clothed in perfection.  He did everything that God sent him to do.  And what a difficult task this was.  A task beyond our understanding really.

As our High Priest, he was to reconnect us to God, by being perfectly obedient in everything, including taking the very weight of our every sin on his shoulders.  You and I can hardly begin to appreciate what Jesus went through. 

          The writer to the Hebrews says: During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.” 

          It was a regular practice of Jesus to pray. To pray both for himself and for the people he came to save: you and me.  But the words here are clearly indicating a certain time in Jesus’ life when his earthly work was coming to a culmination.  When you look at these words carefully, they describe Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane after he celebrated the Lord’s Supper, and just before he was arrested on Maundy Thursday.  The prayers described here are more intense than we had seen Jesus give previously. 

          There’s good reason for that.  “During the days of Jesus’ life of earth” literally mean “In the days of his flesh.”  That captures much better what was going on here.  Remember, that while Jesus was fully God, he was also fully man.  Fully human.  As Jesus reached the Garden of Gethsemane, the full realization of what was about to take place hit him.  Remember Jesus’ prayer: “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” 

          Now some might say that once Jesus fully realized what he was about to endure, he was changing his mind; that he was trying to get out of it.  But the Hebrew writer makes it clear that this wasn’t the case.  God heard his prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane “because of his reverent submission.”  Jesus was all along submissive to the Father’s will.  He was going to do whatever was necessary to complete God’s perfect plan. 

          What this was on Jesus’ part was a reaction of his human nature.  Think of the things Jesus would endure through his suffering and death, and even the suffering of hell.  Who wouldn’t be taken aback at that!  God heard his cry and answered him.  He answered him not by taking the cup away from him, but by strengthening him for the task at hand.  In fact, the Gospel of Luke tells us that God sent an angel to Jesus to strengthen him. 

          This truth about Jesus should draw you even closer to him.  After all, he took on flesh.  He knows what it is to be human.  And while he never experienced sin, he experienced all the horrible results of sin.  In other words, he knows what you’re going through.  Whatever it is!  You may feel alone.  You may be afraid.  You may not know how to face the day.  Jesus knows.  With every ounce of his being, Jesus understands.  He’s been there too.  Take comfort, then, in all that he has done for you.  Take comfort in everything that he says to you. 

          After all, what Jesus experienced and accomplished is for your eternal welfare.  “Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered 9 and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.” 

          The phrase “once made perfect” might strike you.  It is not to be understood in the sense that Jesus was not perfect and so had to become perfect.  Jesus was already perfect.  The idea here is actually in terms of coming to the completion of a goal. 

          In being perfectly obedient, Jesus completed his goal.  Just as God commanded, Jesus lived the life we couldn’t.  He suffered an innocent death on the cross, and then rose victoriously. 

          In this way, Jesus is our great High Priest.  Our perfect High Priest.  In being fully obedient, he completed his goal of winning eternal salvation for us.  And so, he is the source, the only source in fact, of our salvation.  He alone saves! 

          And now it is up to us to obey God.  And what does he tell us to do?  Believe!  Believe in his one and only Son, Jesus Christ.  To believe that he has done everything necessary to save us.  Just so we’re clear: God gives you faith through the Gospel in his Word.  Through his Gospel in Baptism.  He even strengthens that faith through his Gospel in Holy Communion.  But you are the one who believes.  God doesn’t believe for you.  So believe what God tells you through the Hebrew writer today:  Jesus our great High Priest is someone you can relate to since he took on human flesh to experience everything you and I do.  And Jesus  our great High Priest is someone you can believe in because he became obedient to God in everything, even death on a cross in order to save us. Amen.