Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For 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. 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.
For every high priest chosen from among men is appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. He can deal gently with the ignorant and wayward, since he himself is beset with weakness. Because of this he is obligated to offer sacrifice for his own sins just as he does for those of the people. And no one takes this honor for himself, but only when called by God, just as Aaron was.
So also Christ did not exalt himself to be made a high priest, but was appointed by him who said to him,
“You are my Son,
today I have begotten you”;
as he says also in another place,
“You are a priest forever,
after the order of Melchizedek.”
In the days of his flesh, Jesus[a] 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. Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. 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.
It’s a new year…and a new decade…and “2020” sounds so much better than “2019”. Are we excited? If we’re honest, our response to a new year is often mixed. Some of us are motivated—who doesn’t welcome a fresh start? Some of us are annoyed, like the elementary student trying to figure out why she has to write a different year at the top of her paper. Some of us are anxious because we’ve tried making resolutions many times, and we never hit the target. From exhilaration to apathy, the dynamics that come with a new year are fascinating. When the sun sets on December 31 and rises on January 1, why does it feel like more than one day has passed? Why does it feel so weighty and leave us feeling so wanting?
A new year accentuates the “gaps” in our lives, the areas where we feel the distance between what is and what should be. We feel it when we step on the scale. We feel it when we log in and see our account balance. We feel it when we notice the absence of deep friendships. We feel it when we do that again. We feel it when we can’t remember our last significant time alone with the Lord. We feel it when we walk out our door and look down the street and when we turn on the TV and look around the world. What are we going to do about all these gaps? New Year’s culture packages and repackages the same strategy: make a resolution, recommit, try harder. The assumption: If we coach ourselves or find someone to coach us hard enough, we will close the gaps. And yet here we are again. It’s a new year…and a new decade. Why are we not excited?
The author of Hebrews gives us glorious good news. As helpful as coaches are, Jesus Christ is not our coach. He is our great High Priest. Jesus is not the football coach who never played the game barking orders at his players in the trenches. No, He is our great High Priest, who sympathizes with our weaknesses (Heb. 4:15). He has been in the trenches, and He experienced temptation that we will never know, and yet He stood firm. Jesus is not the cycling coach calling us to strain every muscle fiber while he rides in a comfortable car behind us. No, He is our great High Priest, who came as the greatest sacrifice the world would ever see. Unlike other priests, He didn’t offer sacrifices for His own sins (Heb. 5:3). He offered Himself—His own blood—as the sacrifice for the sins of His people. Jesus is not the trainer yelling at us as we try to set a new personal record lifting a stack of weights. No, He is our great High Priest, who took the greatest weight upon Himself on the cross. And why would He do that? Because He loved us. He didn’t want us to be crushed by the weight of our sins and our own self-hatred. He wanted to set us free to sing and dance as the beloved children of God. If we are united with Him by faith, is that our posture as we welcome a new year?
Since Jesus is our great High Priest, “let us hold fast our confession” (Heb. 4:14). Let us not tire of preaching to ourselves and to one another that our hope is not in ourselves, but in His sin-slaying, shame-shaming, death-defeating, gap-closing, forever-finished work. Let us hold fast to the reality that, united with Him, the Lord sees us as clothed, covered, and righteous in His sight. The God of all grace has closed the most important gap. So how should we understand the gaps that still exist in our lives? They are reminders that we are already new creations in Christ, but not yet what we will be in glory. They are reminders that God is calling us to become, not who we’re not, but who we are. He’s calling us to work out the implications of such a great salvation, for He Himself is working in us by His Spirit. The gaps are reminders that we always need Him. So as we begin another year, let us draw near to His throne of grace with confidence, trusting that the one who sits on the throne is not a coach but a Priest. He loved us and gave Himself for us. He sympathizes with our weakness. He prays for us. Since we have a great High Priest who closes the gaps, shouldn’t we be confident that we will receive mercy and find grace to help in our time of need?