Today is Friday the 16 March, The Fourth Week of Lent
Prayer of Presence:
Spirit of the Living God, free my mind from error, teach my heart the living words of Jesus, and inspire my lips to share the Good News, in the name of the Blessed Trinity. Amen.
(Adapted from a Prayer of Illumination, North United Methodist Church)
Scripture: Today’s reading is from Hebrews 5:5-10
So also Christ did not glorify himself in becoming a high priest, but was appointed by the one who said to him, “You are my Son, today I have begotten you”; as he also says in another place, “You are a priest forever, according to the order of Melchizedek.” In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered; and having been made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him, having been designated by God a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek.
Several titles are used to describe the beautiful person and redemptive work of Jesus in the Bible. Some names and titles are God, Rock, Emmanuel, the Alpha and Omega, Light of the World, the Good Shepherd, the Rock, and the Bread of Life. Other titles are The Resurrection and the Life, Christ, the Bridegroom, Savior, Lord, Healer, Liberator, Prince of Peace, Wonderful Counselor, Master, Son of God, Son of Man, Son of David, Lamb of God. Still, other titles are King of the Jews, Rabbi, the New Adam, and Messiah.
The author of the epistle to the Hebrews describes and titles Jesus as the high priest of the order of Melchizedek. A high priest functioned as a mediator between God and the people. They were understood to be holy people, set apart for God and careful not to become unclean through contact with people considered unclean such as the sick, sinners, and corpses. They were ministers of the Lord that oversaw the day to day operations of the worship sites. One of the primary roles of the high priest was to intercede for the sins of the nation before God by overseeing and performing the sacrificial rites that would atone for their sins. A high priest would also oversee aspects of the people’s lives; they would discern God’s will as expressed through the Torah, adjudicate legal matters, and pronounce blessings on the people (Numbers 6:22-27).
The uniqueness of Jesus’ role as our eternal high priest is that he understands and sympathizes with our human weaknesses and struggles. Hebrews 4:15 says, “We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin.” Jesus walked among the people in love, listening and sharing in their joys and hopes and their difficulties and sufferings. He preached good news to the poor, proclaimed release to the captives, made the blind to see, set free the oppressed, and proclaimed the kingdom of God had come near. He touched and healed the sick, fed the hungry, and ate with sinners. He prayed and made supplications to God for himself and for the people he served and loved. With tears, he cried out to God to save him from the hour of suffering. And in obedience, he tasted death for everyone (Heb. 2:9).
Because Christ lived our lives and suffered our deaths, he sympathizes with our human weaknesses. He does not condemn us but prays for us and helps us in our time of weakness and struggle. When we look to him in our time of struggle and suffering, we find a Savior, our high priest and our mediator, seated at the right hand of God (Heb. 1:3) interceding for us. Christ understands us, cares for us, prays for us, and helps us. He is the source of our salvation, now and for all eternity.
Questions for Reflection:
- How does your understanding of Jesus as your high priest interceding and praying for you in your times of testing comfort you?
- Do you come to Christ in prayer to ask for mercy and grace with a spirit of confidence and boldness or fear? Explain.
- Does Jesus’ sympathy for our weaknesses imply that He condones the continuation of our sins?
Prayer Focus: For the grace to approach Christ with boldness to receive mercy and find grace in our time of need (Heb. 4:16).
Now may the God of peace, who brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, make you complete in everything good so that you may do his will, working among us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.