Immanuel Lutheran Church

Sermon

Epiphany 4

Our Merciful and Faithful High Priest

Hebrews 2:14-18

February 2, 2014

In some ways, people may think today's theme is a real yawner. The Purification of Mary and the Presentation of our Lord doesn't generate a lot of excitement. Since there are no traditions or gifts associated with it, why bother? Good question. Why bother? We will take our clue from the epistle reading for today.

Hebrews 2:14-18 Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives. For assuredly He does not give help to angels, but He gives help to the descendant of Abraham. Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted.

Our Lord is both just like us and quite unlike us. How so? First, we have the mystery of the Incarnation. Our Lord became truly and fully a human Jewish male. It's not enough to say He became human. He had to become a human Jewish male in order to fulfill all of the promises of Scripture.

Our Lord came into the world the same way we all did, even if a bit differently. In the creed we confess that He was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. He was conceived, incubated in the womb and born the same as all babies. The difference is that He had no human Father. 

As a baby He nursed at His mother's breast. She changed His diapers and sang Him lullabies. He played the games the kids played. He learned to read and write. As a young man He learned the carpenter trade of Joseph. He had friends. He joined in the community celebrations and attended the synagogue on the Sabbath. From all outward appearances, He was just a regular guy.

He had to be Jewish in order to be a physical descendent of Abraham and David. The Messiah could not be a Gentile. Jesus could trace His lineage back to David, Abraham and even Adam. He was fully and truly a human, except, of course, He didn't sin. Yes, Jesus was like us in every way.

He had to be male in order to take on the role of merciful and faithful High Priest. The Law required that the high priest, like every sacrifice, was to be an unblemished male. Oh, that sounds so chauvinistic! Consider this. Most of the pagan religions were headed by women in the roles of high priestesses. The Lord was setting Israel apart by decreeing His priests should be men. Jesus, in order to step into His role as merciful and faithful high priest had to be a man.

Christ, as our high priest is both merciful and faithful. As our High Priest, He is merciful toward us. As much as we may object to being the objects of pity, our sinful condition leaves us no other option. There are those who think they are perfectly capable of being good enough for God. Many people simply don't care. They figure God is like a cosmic marshmallow. He's big, sweet, sticky and will (wink, wink) look the other way. In the end, we cannot save ourselves. We are both lost and condemned without a merciful High Priest who comes to our rescue.

Christ, our High Priest, is faithful toward God. He is what we can never be: fully and genuinely faithful to God. Sin keeps us separated from God. It is humanly impossible for us to truly fear, love and trust in God above all things. If you take an honest look at how fickle you can be with other people, is it a surprise that you're not 100% faithful in your dealings with God? Jesus is faithful for us. We are forgiven and restored only through faith in Jesus.

How can this be? What was the role of the High Priests? The High Priests of the Old Testament slaughtered the sacrificial animal for the expiation of sins. On the Day of Atonement the High Priest personally killed the animals of sacrifice and collected their blood in bowls. He then took a censure and fogged the Holy of Holies with the heavy smoke of incense. When that act was completed, He took the blood of the sacrifice and sprinkled it on the lid of the Ark of the Covenant called the Mercy Seat.

The blood of the sacrifice covers the lid and thus the tablets of the law laying inside. The presence of God no longer saw the bare and accusing Law but, instead, the blood of the sacrifice covering it. This is why we say the blood of Jesus cleanses and covers our sin before God.

After that, the high priest came out to the people and sprinkled them with the blood as a sign that their sins were forgiven. Under the old covenant the blood of the sacrifice was offered to God. But since Jesus offered His holy, precious blood as the perfect sacrifice to God, He now offers it to us in the sacrament of the altar. He joins Himself to the bread and wine in order to give His true body and blood for the forgiveness of our sins.

Jesus is both the Victim and the Priest. He suffered and died as the atoning sacrifice for the sin of the world. He is the expiation of sin. Jesus came to bring us forgiveness. It is forgiveness preached to you on Sunday. It is forgiveness sung in the liturgy and hymns. It is forgiveness taught and proclaimed over and over again. It is forgiveness that is unearned and undeserved yet richly poured out on you and me as unworthy sinners.

Because of His great and wonderful sacrificial love, Jesus proves to us that He is merciful and faithful not only as our High Priest but as our Savior Redeemer. Thanks be to God for giving us the gift of His Son to be ours now and ours forever. Amen.


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02/15/2015
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January
01/25/2015
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December
12/28/2014
12/21/2014
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12/07/2014
November
11/23/2014
11/16/2014
11/09/2014
11/02/2014
October
10/12/2014
10/05/2014
September
09/28/2014
09/21/2014
09/14/2014
09/07/2014
August
08/31/2014
08/24/2014
08/17/2014
08/10/2014
08/03/2014
July
07/27/2014
07/20/2014
07/13/2014
07/06/2014
June
06/29/2014
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06/08/2014
06/01/2014
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05/11/2014
April
04/27/2014
04/20/2014
04/13/2014
04/06/2014
March
03/30/2014
03/23/2014
03/16/2014
03/02/2014
February
02/02/2014
January
01/26/2014
01/19/2014
01/12/2014
01/05/2014