The Rev. Paul J Cain, Jr.
Hebrews 4:14-16; 5:7-9
A Great High Priest FOR YOU
Good Friday, 29 March 2013
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming
In the Name of Jesus. Amen.
Quoted and adapted from LSB Altar Book: Good Friday is not observed as a funeral for Christ. It is a day for repentance over sin and restrained joy and praise for the redemption Christ accomplished for us on the cross. In keeping with this character, music is kept to a minimum, though not silenced. Tonight’s service contains a number of ancient elements, particularly the full reading of the Passion according to St. John, the Bidding Prayer, the cross procession and the reproaches, and the Responsory. It is a continuation of the service begun last night, and will conclude Sunday morning.
Jesus’ threefold office was that of prophet, priest, and king. We are quite familiar with His teaching, Jesus as prophet. On a crucifix we can see Him enthroned as Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews. The witness to the Hebrews speaks of Jesus as our great High Priest—Your great High Priest. A great High Priest for you—the royal priesthood of all the baptized.
Annas and Caiaphas—these names we know. These men were High Priests of the Jews. Several of Annas’ sons became High Priest. Caiaphas married a daughter of Annas. These men conspired with Judas. Along with the Sanhedrin, they condemned Jesus and led Him to Pilate. These leaders went after the disciples. They martyred Stephen and James the brother of John.
Jesus is a very different High Priest. He has passed through the heavens! He came down from heaven and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary and was made man. He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of the Father. He is what He claimed to be, the Son of God, the very thing for which the Chief Priests, elders, and teachers of the law condemned Him. It’s not blasphemy if it is a true confession!
Therefore, let us hold fast to our confession. Let us continue to confess one Lord Jesus Christ, crucified for us under Pontius Pilate. Let our confession of faith remain clear and strong in our hearts, minds, and on our lips. No wonder Dr. Luther recommended confessing the Apostles’ Creed at least twice a day, in the morning when you get up, and in the evening when you go to bed. Not only does the day start out properly, but comforted by Christ, we can go to sleep at once in good cheer and in peace.
Why do we have such confidence? We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Jesus was incarnate. He was made man. He suffered. He knows what it is like to live and work among sinful human beings. He knows what it is like to grow up in a sinful world, encounter stress, trouble, temptation, disease, tragedy, and death.
Jesus is the only one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Christ was sinless, the spotless, unblemished, whiter-than-snow-wool Lamb of God. In Old Testament times, an animal with any kind of imperfection would be an unacceptable offering. So too, with the once-for-all sacrifice for sin, Jesus. Only a male, sinless lamb would be an acceptable sacrifice of atonement, propitiation for our sins!
Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Pray in full faith, confident that your Father in heaven hears you. Pray persistently, knowing that He loves you and cares for you. Pray in harmony with His revealed will in His Word. Pray that His will would be done, and that your will would be brought into conformity with His. Pray confidently in the name of Jesus, your mediator and High Priest.
In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. Jesus prayed regularly in the gospel accounts, going off to a solitary place. He prayed in Gethsemane, knowing that it would only be a matter of time before Judas came with the soldiers. Jesus prayed upon the cross, “Father, forgive them…” And the Father heard Him and forgives us.
Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. I’m not here to tell you that suffering is fun. I can’t pretend that suffering is pleasant. It’s called suffering after all! It hurts!
It hurts to see someone else suffering, but Jesus’ suffering has purpose! It is far from meaningless pain. Jesus’ Passion—His suffering, crucifixion, and death, had the purpose of atoning for your sin. It is not simply unjust punishment given to an innocent Jewish Rabbi. The Father sent Him. The Son willingly went to the cross. There forgiveness was won. Here, today, the Spirit delivers the benefit to you and all who believe.
Yet, you suffer, too. Know that you are not alone. In our times of trial, it is easy to fall prey to the temptation to despair. Hymns provide hope and comfort in such a time. “Be Still, My Soul” may not be a typical Lenten or Good Friday hymn, but consider the text: “Be still, my soul; the Lord is on your side; Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain; Leave to your God to order and provide; In every change He faithful will remain. Be still, my soul; your best, your heav’nly Friend through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.” (LSB 752:1) We can imagine praying beside our Lord in the Garden, preparing for the cross to come. He is with us!
Christ is with you every step of your journey, when you pick up your cross to follow Him. We cannot choose our crosses, how we suffer for the faith in this world. As another hymn (LW version of LSB 756) says, “You designed the cross you gave me; Thus You know All my woe And how best to save me.” Faith sees through the gloom to the Lord’s defending hand and the noble graces our Lord shares with His heirs in the heavenly places.
And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him…Christ was perfectly sinless. Having accomplished all that His Father had given Him to do, He ascended into heaven and will come again with glory to judge both the living and the dead. His kingdom will have no end.
And (LSB 555) so we sing: “Salvation unto us has come By God’s free grace and favor;…Faith looks to Jesus Christ alone, Who did for all the world atone…” Christ is the source of eternal salvation—by grace alone, through faith alone, in Him alone, as recorded in the Old and New Testaments alone.
And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him, being designated by God a high priest after the order of Melchizedek. Jesus was descended from Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Judah, and David. Being from the tribe of Judah, He was not also from the tribe of Levi—the priestly tribe. So God designated Him a priest of a higher order, that of Melchizedek, the priest to whom Abraham gave a tithe.
Jesus is our priest forever. You have no need for any other high priest, or any other so-called Aaronic or Melchizedek priest! Jesus did not have to offer sacrifices for His own sin, since He was sinless. He enters the most holy place in heaven and intercedes for you directly with the Father. His Good Friday sacrifice was good enough once for all to forgive all your sins. Jesus is your great High Priest. “Offered was He for greatest and for least, Himself the victim and Himself the priest” (LSB 637). Amen.
In the Name of Jesus. Amen.