Written by 10:42 pm Bible Studies, Hebrews • 2 Comments

He Gets Us – Hebrews 4:14-16

I hope no one is triggered by my title. And I hope that simple phrase hasn’t been trademarked. Despite how “He gets us” is being used by the current movement, He Gets Us, it’s actually appropriate for our conversation today. This might be the smallest portion of Hebrews that we will tackle at once. I really do want to keep us moving at a good pace through this, but I looked down at how many notes I had taken for these three verses and decided to stop. These verses are so pastoral, I can’t help myself. We’re going to look at just these three, and then continue our march forward.

14 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. 15 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. 16 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.
– Hebrews 4:14-16 (ESV)

Here in verse fourteen, the discussion of Christ’s high priestly role begins in earnest. Recall, though, that as a sermon/letter, there is a flow of thought at work. This isn’t a clean break where he begins a completely different subject. This is intimately connected to his prior thoughts. I’m going to reference back just a bit to verse thirteen to connect the dots.

13 And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.
– Hebrews 4:13 (ESV)

So here’s what we have. This verse serves as the weight. There is nothing hidden from the LORD. Every thought, every motive, and every intention is visible to Him. Those thoughts that you don’t tell anyone about are as good as said out loud. You stand before the LORD completely stripped of all privacy. This is why the author used the image of being naked before Him.

Americans value privacy… I think. Probably all humans value privacy, despite how we seem to give it away willy-nilly online. You will seldom see me get on social media and complain of an invasion of privacy because it’s kind of oxymoronic. Big Brother/Big Tech knows you better than you know yourself because you’ve been feeding them behavior data for over a decade now. I mean, it’s not supernatural ESP or anything, it’s just a probability algorithm that predicts what you’re likely to enjoy or purchase or want to read or want to listen to… etc.

And people get mad about that. It’s not even real intelligence. Some may imagine that there’s a human being on the other end of the line listening. But all it is is a computer algorithm that is really good at making predictions. And those predictions don’t go to a human being. It’s all handled by computers. Humans only enter the equation when somebody gives or receives money, when something breaks down and needs repair, or in the production of a better, more accurate algorithm.

Many are upset about this. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t, I’m just saying it’s not even real intelligence that we’re getting upset and paranoid against. It’s artificial. It’s cold and calculating, unfeeling and uncaring. It couldn’t care less if you actually click that clickbait. It only responds to your response one way or another. There’s nothing malevolent in the algorithm. At best, it’s only holding up a mirror to reflect your online choices.

And we’re paranoid and upset about it.

What about when real intelligence knows things about you? I would wager that you’ve probably been exposed to or a victim of gossip. Sometimes gossip is true, but often it’s a distorted version of the truth, rife with exaggerations. Other times gossip is simply untrue, which is actually slander. But let’s just say some accurate things that you wanted to be kept private become public knowledge. Depending on the nature of those things, you may be angry, embarrassed, or perhaps even ashamed. Regardless, though, you feel violated because somewhere along the line, there was a violation of trust.

We value privacy. Do you feel the weight of this? I’m sure that as you read this, some frustrations came to memory; frustrations with privacy online, privacy offline, and violations of trust among friends, all create callouses that jade our worldview just a little.

The bad news is worse than you could ever imagine. The LORD of the universe knows everything you’ve ever said, done, or thought. You stand before Him so utterly naked that even your best, most altruistic thoughts will be uncovered as selfishly motivated and condemning. It’s a weight that you can never lift from yourself because you don’t understand or perceive the depth of how broken and sinful you truly are.

Now the good news, or the beginning of it.

13 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.
– Hebrew 4:13 (ESV)

We have, in Jesus, a great high priest. Jesus, the Son of God, intercedes for us. Look ahead in Hebrews.

25 Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.
Hebrews 7:25 (ESV)

It should be clear that we have a great high priest in Christ who always lives to intercede for those who draw near to God through Him. This is why the ascension is so important. His ascension wasn’t merely a return to heaven to hang out until the Father tell Him to go back. His ascension was to a continuing work of high priestly intercession for everyone who belongs to the Father, through Him. By the way, His ascension is what the author meant by saying he passed through the heavens. He ascended to the right hand of the Father, where He intercedes for us. His ascension may be called his high priestly entrance into the heavenly Holy of Holies. And there He will remain until His intercessions are complete.

Verse fourteen is the fact of His high priestly role, not an explanation of how. Verse fifteen offers why it is good news.

15 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.
– Hebrews 4:15 (ESV)

In one regard, this isn’t unique. Hebrews 5:1-2 reveals that all priests under the Law of Moses shared these same qualities. In part, all high priests are chosen because they can sympathize with human weaknesses. Here’s a good moment to remember that Jesus Christ is completely human. He must be completely human to qualify to be our high priest. A high priest can’t be less than completely human, otherwise, he wouldn’t be able to completely sympathize.

But the thing that separates Jesus from all other high priests is His sinlessness. He was tempted in every way that we are tempted. Now, please don’t apply a rubric to that statement that the author didn’t have in mind. If you’re wondering if Jesus was tempted to smoke weed, well, probably not. Was Jesus tempted to knock over mailboxes? No. These are modern conventions that didn’t exist in the first-century middle east. Think of it in broader categories. Was Jesus tempted to rely on something other than God for peace and calm? Yes. Was Jesus tempted to destroy someone else’s personal property out of anger, or just for teenage mischievousness? Yes.

He was tempted in every way and did not sin. Do you understand the depth of that? Nevermind the sins we commit with our words and actions. Jesus never sinned in thought either. Friends, that is the thing that amazes me. There are very occasional days where with my words and actions, I might somehow squeak by with a perfect score, but in my 17,000+ days of living, I’ve never had a day where my thoughts and motives achieved that perfect score. Never. Jesus achieved that perfect thought-motive score every day of His earthly life.

In every way, He never failed.

If He never sinned, how can He truly sympathize? That’s a fair question. We often take comfort in that, though we sin, we’re not alone in it. The fact that everyone sins levels the field for us and gives us a sense that our sins don’t make us worse than the next guy because he sins too. So, we often turn to others for sympathy because there’s a camaraderie to be found with others who have failed in similar ways. They understand, and so offer mercy and grace to your failures with the same things.

There’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s also completely wrong if this is where it stops. The mercy and grace you need doesn’t come from other people with similar failures and struggles. They aren’t the one to whom you’ll give your final account. You need a greater sympathy. You need divine sympathy. Christ can and does sympathize with you because though He never sinned, He gets why you failed. He understands the urge to do what you did. He also understands that, unlike Him, you aren’t fully divine. He is completely human and completely God, while you and I are merely human, lacking the capacity to always successfully resist sin in word, action, and thought at all times.

Sometimes this question arises. If Jesus was fully God, did it really matter that He was tempted at all because there was never any real danger of Him failing? The question misses the point. It assumes that the risk of failure was somehow a critical component of Christ’s mission. The purpose of His humanity has more to do with His exaltation as the Son of Man so that He could assume the responsibilities of the final and ultimate high priest. Remember 2:10?

10 For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering.
– Hebrews 2:10 (ESV)

Jesus experienced the power of temptation as a human because, as God, He is untemptable. Remember James 1:13?

13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one.
– James 1:13 (ESV)

To serve as our high priest, He had to become human and experience the power of temptation Himself, so that He can empathize with us. He had to take on a real human body and experience hunger, thirst, sexual desire, loneliness, and anger, among many other things, through the filter of flesh. Christ received on-the-job experience through His humanity, which qualified Him to be our forever high priest!

Does the lack of possibility of failure disqualify His humanity? No. Adam was one hundred percent human before his fall. We needed a fully human Savior who wouldn’t fail. Jesus, the God-man, came to succeed where Adam failed. He took on one hundred percent humanity, like Adam, but was also one hundred percent God, unlike Adam. So then, the real problem is that the rest of us are actually less than human. God designed us for His purposes and pleasure, but in our fallen and sinful state, we never accomplish those purposes for which we were designed. We are the ones with the humanity problem. We are the ones who are disqualified from the LORD’s intended purpose for humans.

That’s why we need a Savior.

16 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.
– Hebrews 4:16 (ESV)

If verse thirteen is the weight, verse sixteen is the promise, because of verses fourteen and fifteen. The author includes himself. Let us do this together. Naked as we are, fully exposed, with every thought, every intention of the heart, and every motive laid bare, let us draw near to the throne of grace with confidence. What confidence? Confidence that in Christ, we have a high priest who is not ashamed to call us brothers because He gets us. He sympathizes with us in our weakness because He understands why we fail. And though we approach the throne of grace naked and exposed, we will receive mercy and grace.

What is that mercy and grace? I haven’t mentioned it much in this lesson, but this is still in connection with entering His rest. The mercy and grace we need is given when we come in confidence with no pretense and repent. I know that from the macro point of view, we are forgiven and adopted into His family, and nothing can separate us from the Father’s love. But in the micro sense of the daily grind of life, we have a relationship that is to be cultivated. We follow Him, and when we grieve the Holy Spirit with our sins, we repent and renew fellowship with Him. That daily repentance and renewal is what the apostle John had in mind.

7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
– 1 John 1:7-9 (ESV)

When we do this, we enter His rest every day. Jesus intercedes for us as our high priest. He prays the Father’s will for us. The Holy Spirit works out those prayers in us in real-time as the member of the Godhead who resides within us. The Father welcomes us to come as we are to His throne, naked as we are. And if we walk in the light, we will find rest for our souls every day.

This is the why of Christ’s high priesthood. He gets us. Therefore, we can come, confidently, to the Father, in repentance, to receive the mercy and grace that renews us every day and gives us the rest Jesus promised.

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Last modified: June 7, 2023