Someone’s Here to Help You
A Pocket Paper
The new Spiderman movie tells the story of Peter Parker, a young man who has spider-like qualities. In one scene, Peter’s abilities are fading, and he desperately wants to be Spiderman once again. He wants to be able to leap from building to building. So he decides to practice. He stands atop a tall building and concentrates all his energy on leaping to the adjacent roof. He says to himself “Strong focus on what I want.”
Then he runs across the roof, his face set in grim determination, and as he approaches the edge of the rooftop he begins screaming, “I'm back! I'm back!” He leaps into the air, but almost instantly he realizes he wasn’t going to make it to the other side. He tumbles from the sky — striking clotheslines along the way. He grabs one, which breaks his fall and sends him careening into the side of the building and onto the ground with a heavy thud.
In obvious pain, he manages to get up and limp away, groaning, “My back! My back!”
We live in a world that places a high value on “positive thinking” and having a “can do” attitude. We believe that if we just focus on what we want and take a strong leap of faith, that we can achieve it.
But it takes more than will power to get to the other side. A positive outlook alone will not carry us far enough. We need someone to help us.
In biblical terms, we need a great high priest.
Now the word “priest” brings us a lot of different images for different people. But in essence and in its biblical sense, a priest is a go-between between heaven and earth. A priest represents our needs to God, and he represents God’s grace to us.
Let me give you some other words. A priest is an intermediary, a connecting link, a go-between, a liaison, a mediator.
One of the best verses in the Bible on this subject is 1Timothy 2:5
· For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus (NIV).
· There’s one God and only one, and one Priest-Mediator between God and us—Jesus, who offered himself in exchange for everyone held captive by sin, to set them all free (the Message).
· God is on one side and all the people on the other side, and Christ Jesus, himself man, is between them to bring them together (Living Bible).
Now, I want to take you to two places in the Bible today to show you how this is portrayed for us. The first is in Leviticus, as we continue our summer sermon series from that book.
In Leviticus 1-7, we have the descriptions of the five great Levitical sacrifices that were offered on the Tabernacle altar. All five of these teach us various aspects of the life and ministry and death of Jesus Christ. They are prophetic in nature—prophetic object lessons, types or prototypes of the coming Messiah.
Now, pressing deeper into Leviticus, we come to chapters 8 and 9, and the subject of these chapters is the ordination of the priests. And here we find the second great truth about Jesus Christ in the book of Leviticus. He is not only our sacrifice, He is our priest. The grand purpose of the Levitical priests was to portray for us in advance aspects of the ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Just as we see Jesus in the sacrifices, so we see Him in the priesthood. I’m not going to read both of these chapters, but let’s dip into some of the verses found here:
And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: “Take Aaron and his sons with him, and the garments, the anointing oil, a bull as the sin offering, two rams, and a basket of unleavened bread; and gather all the congregation together at the door of the tabernacle or meeting.” So Moses did as the Lord commanded him. And the congregation was gathered together at the door of the tabernacle of meeting. And Moses said to the congregation, “This is what the Lord commanded to be done.” Then Moses brought Aaron and his sons and washed them with water. And he put the tunic on him, girded him with the sash, clothed him with the robe, and put the ephod on him; and he girded him with the intricately woven band of the ephod, and with it tied the ephod on him. Then he put the breastplate on him, and he put the Urim and the Thummim in the breastplate. And he put the turban on his head. Also on the turban, on its front, he put the golden plate, the holy crown, as the Lord had commanded Moses. Also Moses took the anointing oil, and anointed the tabernacle and all that was in it, and consecrated them. He sprinkled some of it on the altar seven times, anointed the altar and all its utensils, and the laver and its base, to consecrate them. And he poured some of the anointing oil on Aaron’s head and anointed him, to consecrate him (Leviticus 8:1-12).
The rest of chapter 8 and the first part of chapter 9 describe a lengthy process of sacrifice and preparation involved in the installation of the Aaronic priesthood, and then we come to Leviticus 9:22ff:
Then Aaron lifted his hand toward the people, blessed them, and came down from offering the sin offering, the burnt offering, and the peace offerings. And Moses and Aaron went into the Tabernacle of meeting, and came out and blessed the people. Then the glory of the Lord appeared to all the people, and fire came out from before the Lord and consumed the burnt offering and the fat on the altar. When all the people saw it, they shouted and fell on their faces.
All of this speaks of Jesus Christ. The clothing of the High Priest was designed to teach us lessons about Jesus Christ. I preached two sermons on this subject a year or two ago. The anointing and ordination and functions of the high priest all speak of Christ. I could try to explain it to you, but I don’t need to; God has given us His own explanation of all this. He has preached His own sermon on these chapters, and He did so in the book of Hebrews.
One of the great themes of Hebrews is the high priestly ministry of Jesus Christ—what it means to us that Jesus is our High Priest. I was surprised when I looked it up to discover that the word “priest” occurs 32 times in the book of Hebrews. I think the best way for us to understand this passage in Leviticus is not to try to plunge into it and interpret every detail, but to look at it through the prism of Hebrews 2:16 – 3:1.
So for the third time today I’m going to ask you to turn to a new portion of Scripture as we continue to trace out this uplifting theme.
Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted. Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, Christ Jesus.
Notice that last sentence. This is a commandment. The God of the Bible is telling us to consider—to think about and ponder—the High Priestly ministry of Jesus Christ. There’s something about this subject that is needed by our souls. Consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, Christ Jesus.
As we consider this subject, you’ll notice that in this text there are two descriptions of Jesus as our High Priest, and there are two functions (two things He does for us). So that’s our outline: the two descriptions of our Great High Priest, and His two functions in our lives. What He is to us, and what He does for us.
1. What Our Great High Priest Is To Us
First, He is merciful. Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful…High Priest in things pertaining to God.
This comes from the Greek word éleos, which is usually translated mercy. It conveyed the idea of looking at someone, seeing their need, and having compassion and sympathy for them.
I want to quote you three times when this work occurs in the New Testament.
Luke 1:58 says about Elizabeth, mother of John the Baptist: When her neighbors and relatives heard how the Lord had shown great mercy to her, they rejoiced with her.
Luke 1:78 says that John the Baptist came to give knowledge of salvation to His people by the remission of their sins, through the tender mercy of our God.
1 Peter 1:3 says: Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.
Notice those three adjectives: His great mercy, His tender mercy, His abundant mercy. He is a merciful High Priest. Someone told me the other day about a new term that’s becoming popular in the United States. It’s called “Dumpster Driving.” People go from dumpster to dumpster, pulling out things that other people have thrown away and restoring them to use.
Sometimes we feel like we’ve been thrown into the dumpster of life. We feel worthless. We feel tossed aside. We feel dirty and broken. But we have a merciful High Priest who recovers, reclaims, and restores.
I think the best thing I’ve ever read about the mercy of our Great High Priest is a hymn, a poem, written by Charles Wesley. Even though this is a very old hymn, it still conveys the mercy of God with such vivid imagery:
of mercy! Can there be
I have long
withstood His grace,
There for me the
Now incline me to
The Bible tells us to consider and study and think about Jesus in as our merciful High Priest.
The second adjective that is used to describe Him is Faithful. Look at verse 17 again: Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest.
The word faithful just means that He is going to keep every single promise and obligation He has made. At the end of the book of Joshua, there is a remarkable testimony about this. After the Exodus, the years of wandering, and the conquest of the land of Canaan, after Joshua had led his nation and fought and claimed the land, as he was finishing his course, he said, “Not a word failed of any good thing which the Lord had spoken to the house of Israel. All came to pass” (Joshua 21:45).
Two chapters later, Joshua said, “You know in all your hearts and in all your souls that not one thing has failed of all the good things which the Lord your God spoke concerning you. All have come to pass for you; not one word of them has failed” (Joshua 23:14).
Centuries later, when Solomon was dedicating the Temple in Jerusalem, he said, “Blessed be the Lord, who has given rest to His people Israel, according to all that He promised. There has not failed one word of all His good promise, which He promised through His servant Moses” (1 Kings 8:56).
Psalm 89:33 says that God will not allow His faithful to fail.
Lamentations 3:22 says that His compassions fail not.
I was reading again the other day about what hymn writer Frances Havergal said on her deathbed: “Splendid to be so near the gates of heaven! I am lost in amazement! There has not failed one word of all His good promises!”
I’ve been thinking a great deal recently about that wonderful promise in Romans 8:28: All things work together for good to those who love Him, for those who are the called according to His purpose.
If we really believed that, it would virtually banish all sustained discouragement or frustration in life. It would alter our mood and impart optimism for every day. He is not only a merciful High Priest, He is a faithful High Priest. Those are His two adjectives. Those are the two attributes that characterize His ministry to us as He represents us before the Throne of a Holy God.
2. What Our High Priest Does for Us
That’s who our High Priest is to us, and the remainder of this text tells us what our High Priest does for us. Just as there are two adjectives in the first part of this passage, there are two activities in the last part.
Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God…
First, …to make propitiation for the sins of the people. I’m reading from the New King James Version, and some of you are saying, “What in the world is propitiation?”
It is a sacrifice that turns away or averts the wrath of God. I’m so glad that God is a God of wrath, because there would be something very insufficient about a God who could look at the evils that torment this world and be passionless about it.
There was a very interesting article this week about a new exhibit that will go on display soon at a museum in Baghdad, sponsored in part by the International Olympic Committee. It is made up of certain instruments of torture that Saddam Hussein used on Iraq’s Olympic athletes who didn’t win any medals. They were taken to a prison outside of Baghdad and tortured, along with their coaches and managers.
To hear of that, to see that, to be aware of that, and to have no emotion, no anger would be wrong.
The problem, of course, is that some of that evil is inside of you and me. There is none righteous, no not one. And so we all face the holy and pure and perfect wrath of an Almighty God. And the Bible says that it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of an angry God.
But there is one thing in the universe—one substance in heaven and earth—that will avert the judicial wrath of God, and that is the blood of the Lamb of God, the crimson blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. It averts the wrath of God. And Jesus Christ had to be made like His brethren (that is, He had to become a human being) that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.
That’s the first thing our High Priest does. The second thing is given in the next verse, verse 18: For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who art tempted.
He helps us in our times of trials and temptations. He comes alongside as a pastor, as a priest, as a comforter and counselor and friend. He knows and He understands and He helps.
The other night I attended a reception for Mrs. Vonette Bright, the wife and widow of Bill Bright who was the founder of Campus Crusade for Christ. She told us about her husbands home going, and then she gave us a copy of his last book, a book that he wrote while he was dying, called The Journey Home. I’ve been reading that book, and it has been such a blessing.
When Bill and Vonette entered the doctor’s office some time ago, the doctor told Bill that he had only a short time to live. He was suffering from a lung disease.
Bill’s response was, “Thank you, Lord.”
The doctor said, “You don’t seem to realize what’s happening to you. You’re dying. It’s worse than cancer. It’s worse than heart trouble. We can deal with those in some measure, but nobody can help you with pulmonary fibrosis. You are going to die a miserable death.
Bill’s response was, “Well, praise the Lord. I’ll see the Lord sooner than I had planned.”
In this final book The Journey Home, he said that when he was a boy growing up in Oklahoma, a school bus took him to class each day, but he often had sports practice or drama rehearsal afterward, and that would mean a five mile walk home. The sun would set before he had finished the journey, but his dear mother always came to walk with him the last mile of the way. Just the knowledge of her presence turned that part of the journey into something to look forward to. And when they got about a quarter mile from the house, he could see the light of home. He said, “It always buoyed my spirit and put strength in my pace…. My father and the rest of our family soon would welcome me.”
Now, he said, “I am on the last mile, but I am not alone. The Lord Jesus by His Holy Spirit is with me, and the knowledge of His presence dispels the darkness and allays any fears. We have tender conversations. I can see the light of my real home, heaven, and it beckons and buoys me more than ever, the nearer I draw to it. It is a glorious sight. My precious heavenly Father and loved ones in the great family of God are open-armed, and I can barely wait to get home at last.”
That’s Jesus, our High Priest. He is our Propitiation and He is our Preoccupation. He is merciful and faithful. He atones for sin and gives us strength in our weakness.
Jesus, my great High Priest,
Offered His blood, and died;
My guilty conscience seeks
No sacrifice beside:
His powerful blood did once atone,
And now it pleads before the throne.
We grant permission for any edition of The Pocket Paper to be photocopied for use in a local congregation or classroom, provided no more than 1,000 copies are made, the material is distributed free, and the copies include the notice: "Copyright (year) The Donelson Fellowship."
For any other use, advance permission must be obtained from The Donelson Fellowship church office.
 Bill Bright, The Journey Home (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2003), p. xvi and 7.