Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Yet without sin… (Hebrews 4:14-16) 180309

This passage is loaded with theological terms, highly religious. As George H. Guthrie writes in “Bridging Contexts” in The NIV Application Commentary: Hebrews, he points out the following:

With Hebrews 4:14 – 16 we move into a section of the book highly dependent on religious language from the Old Testament. For modern readers — especially those whose association with church and church culture is limited — the concepts of high priesthood, faith, temptation, sin, the throne of grace, and mercy may seem obscure at best. One can imagine a secular, hard-edged businesswoman sitting in on a church service in which this passage is being preached. She might stare ahead glassy-eyed as the minister delights in the intricacies of old covenant worship; she might be awed at his obvious education or cringe at her own stark ignorance; and she might not come back — if he does not help her see the phenomenal relevance of this text for her life, work, and relationships.

But at the same time, for me who has been a Christian for many years, this passage speaks of the divine reaching down to earth. The high priest here refers to Jesus, the Son of God. He is not a selected human agent who is given the honor to represent humanity as a high priest, but He is the One who ought to receive the sin offerings from human high priest, comes down to be that high priest. This blows the mind of many, including mine.

Jesus did not come as an invincible or know-it-all being. He came as a son of a carpenter in a Jewish family. He came and was tempted to sin in every way, but yet without sin (v15). In the Gospel accounts, we read only three temptations issued by the devil, but all scholars will agree that Jesus was tempted in every way during the forty days in the wilderness. Leon Morris writes in The Expositor's Bible Commentary that:

The main point is that, though Jesus did not sin, we must not infer that life was easy for him. His sinlessness was, at least in part, an earned sinlessness as he gained victory after victory in the constant battle with temptation that life in this world entails. Many have pointed out that the Sinless One knows the force of temptation in a way that we who sin do not. We give in before the temptation has fully spent itself; only he who does not yield knows its full force.

Whenever I read this passage, I know that I have failed my Lord Jesus. I have circum to temptation and fall into sins way too many times. The only comfort I have is that I know Jesus really understand and can sympathize with my weaknesses (v15). It is like one drug addict seeking help from an ex-drug addict, having the confident and comfort that he has been there, done that, and fully understands his struggles.

And by the grace of God, there is hope. I can always draw near to the throne of grace to receive mercy and find grace (v16). It is like a criminal coming before the judge, pleading guilty and the sentence is acquitted because I am the son of the judge. But the story doesn’t end like this, the judge who pronounces me not guilty, has to bear the sentence of my crime. This is the story of the Cross.

The season of Lent is the season of the Cross. Drawing near to the throne of grace is drawing near to the Cross. It is because what Jesus has done on the Cross; there is the throne of grace.

Are you feeling guilty today? Is there any temptation you are facing right now? A colleague who has been flirting with you, a click away from entering a pornography site, a cheque to your account which you do not deserve, a cheat in exam to get you a grade higher, or a clever idea to win at the expense of another person. Temptation is everywhere. Temptation is here. Jesus is tempted too, but yet without sin.


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