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I Feel Your Pain

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Jesus, the Great high Priest knows how we feel because He became human like us.

I Feel Your Pain Hebrews 5:5-10 The Epistle to the Hebrews is a treasure trove for Christians, even though one has to have a good understanding of the Old Testament to mine this trove. It shows the relation between the Old Testament and its promises, and their fulfillment in Jesus Christ. Let us look at today’s passage from Hebrews 5 and see how our understanding can be enriched. Some have seen Hebrews as an extended sermon, which would make it the most complete sermon in the New Testament, even longer than Stephen’s sermon in Acts7 and Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. Others think it was a Pentecost sermon using the texts for the day from the Jewish lectionary. Psalms 2, 95, and 110 receive special treatment, and here Psalm 110:4 is quoted. Psalm 110 begins with “the LORD said unto my Lord, sit here until I make your anemias a footstool. This was quoted earlier. Hebrews begins by revealing Jesus as the most complete revelation of God. The Old Testament contained snippets collected over thousand of years which truly spoke for God, but not completely. Jesus has been presented as being the express image of God, and divine in every sense. But Jesus is also presented as a human being as well. The relation between Jesus as Son of God and a humans being as well is a profound mystery. It was summed up as well as could be a few centuries later and the Council of Chalcedon, where the two natures, divine and human, that these natures are distinct. However, there is only one Christ. Psalm 110 was written by King David who is also called a prophet as well. But nowhere is David called a priest. God forbade the ruler from exercising priestly authority because the other rulers in the Ancient world had combined the two, resulting in the oppression of the people. The office of priest and king were to remain separate. Saul was rejected as king because he dared to offer the priestly sacrifice when Samuel was late arriving. King Uzziah, who was otherwise a good king, was struck with leprosy when he attempted to offer incense. And even 150 years before Christ, the Hasmonean kings who were from Judah took over the office of high priest also, which was very unpopular and led to formation of groups such as the Essenes and Qumran. Moses came from a priestly clan and was also a prophet, but not king. The LORD was king then. It was only when Israel rejected the LORD as king that Saul was appointed king. But Jesus was of the tribe of Judah, the ruling tribe. As Son of David he was entitled to be king. He was also a prophet. What makes Jesus different is that He also serves in the office of High Priest. So Jesus is prophet, priest, and king. David prophesied about a coming descendant who would be a ruler as well as a high priest after the order of Melchizedek. This mysterious person appears out of nowhere in Genesis 14 after Abram defeated the coalition of five kings that had taken his nephew Lot captive. He came and shared wine and bread. His name means “Prince of Righteousness” and He was the prince of Salem or “Prince of Peace.” Many scholars think he was from what would become Jerusalem, and was therefore king there before David who conquered the city from the Jebusites hundreds of years later. Melchizedek was also called a priest unto El-Elyon or (Most high God). So this person was both priest and king as Jesus was. We will find out later in Hebrews a little more about this mysterious person, but this is enough for now. Hebrews reminds us that Jesus who was from Judah could not be called after the order of the Levitical priests as he belonged to a different tribe. So he had to be a priest of a different order than Levi. He was also to be high priest “for ever” which means his priesthood would not be ended by death. This becomes part of the later argument about the superiority of Jesus’ priesthood over the high priests who descended from Levi. For now, it must also be noted that Melchizedek was from an earlier time in history than Levi. What Hebrews states is that Jesus did not appoint Himself to this priesthood like The Hasmonean kings had. Rather He was appointed by God in the same way that God had appointed the priesthood of Aaron. This idea of submission is important. We see from Philippians 2 the same humility of Jesus, who even though He was equal with God, He did not take divine authority upon Himself, although entitled, but humbled Himself, even to the point of dying on the cross. This same humility is clearly on display here. Even though He was the Son, he submitted Himself to suffering, and even to learn by suffering. In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus, who had just finished astonishing the religious leaders in Jerusalem with His knowledge, being only twelve years ofage, and knowing that He was in His Father’s house, submitted Himself to His earthly parents. It says that He grew in grace and favor with God and man. This is a great mystery, indeed. This Jesus, the Divine Son of God, declared king by the Father’s decree as well as made High Priest was humble in His earthly affairs and completely submissive to the will of His Father. This Jesus, even though divine, could feel our pain. We had a leader in high position who made “I feel your pain” a campaign slogan. How easy it is for the rich and powerful, many of whom were raised with a golden spoon in their mouth able to pontificate over the poor and humble without having a clue to what is going on. Marie Antoinette when told that the peasants were starving for bread said, “Well then, let them eat cake.” The French people did not like that answer and eventually cut off her head. Hebrews said Jesus learned through His pain and suffering. And in the midst of the most brutal temptation when He faced the appalling death by crucifixion cried out in agony to the Father. He was not spared from the cross, nor did He shirk from it, even though it was in His power to do so. He was tempted to the extent that anyone could be tempted. The devil promised Him all the kingdoms of the world, but Jesus refused to bow the knee before the promise of wealth and power. He was tempted to make bread to feed His starving body but refused. In the Garden of Gethsemane, he was in such agony that sweat was mingled with blood, but He drank the bitter cup. He did this as Hebrews says in chapter 12, for the glory set before him. He endured the cross for it. He was willing for God to exalt Him rather than to exalt Himself. And God did so, raising Him from the dead and setting Him at His right hand. He is there seated not making intercession for us. Is it not wonderful that God feels our pain, that He is acquainted with our grief? We know that we have an intercessor in heaven who is willing to show mercy. He walked where we walk. When we look into that great stadium and see the heroes of our faith and there sufferings and perserverance, we know that the same Lord who brought them through will bring us through as well. He Himself has completed the race and cheers us on. The question now is how we should respond to such mercy. Do we really feel the pain of the broken and discouraged. The churches here in America tend to cater to either the rich or the middle class. We claim to care for the poor and marginalized. We come into our richly furnished churches and throw bisuits out the back door to the poor and call that our mission to the poor. And even when we go out on a church mission to a poor area and help put roofs on houses and paint porches of the poor wh know we can go home to our air-conditioned houses when we are done. We thinl we know what poor is when we see broken down houses. We think we empathize with the poor. The trouble is that we can be rich in goods and bankrupt in spirit. Let us now consider the recipients of Hebrews. It seems that a lot of them lived in towns and some of them had some means. But when they confessed Christ, amny of them had had their citizenship revoked and their houses and goods confiscated, They considered poverty for the gospel to be richer than the comforts they had in this world. They wandered around in country places looking for shelter. People in the country tended to be poorer in this worlds goods, yet they were admonished to open their doors to these wanderers and receive them as they would angels. Christians shared mutual hardships together which forged them into a living body for Christ. When we live in our comfortable homes thinking that if it is well with us, it is well with the church of the living God. Can we not see those Christians in places like Iraq, Egypt, North Korea, and other parts of the globe whose only comfort is knowing that their Lord suffered such hardship. Do we suffer with them? Do we feel their pain? Are we willing to open our hearts and even our doors for them. If poor country folks were willing in past times to share their meager means with fellow Christians, do we do well when we have money to build bigger sanctuaries to worship and think we are doing well to give $100 to missions. If we look at it, our churches who are at ease in Zion are dying from affluence. It was said of Thomas Aquinas when the Pope showed him all the riches of the Vatican and said that we no longer have to say “Silver and gold have we none.” Thomas answered, “True, but neither can you say to the lame man, ‘Rise up and walk.’” Hard times may be coming for the American church. It might not be too long that our wealth might be confiscated. We might have to face homelessness and even suffer unto the shedding of blood. Then maybe we could again appreciate what Christ did for us. Even though He was rich, He became poor for us. It says in Scripture that all who live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. Jesus Himeself tells us that those who persecuted Him would persecute His followers also. Jesus talks about cross bearing discipleship. If the political tide in which Christians in American Christians are placing their hope turns again, persecution of Christians is a sure thing. Would it not be better to suffer as a real Christian than to suffer for being half a Christian? In our suffering for Christ, we share in the pain of Christ’s cross, and remember that He in every way shares our pain as a merciful High Priest. And as Jesus finished the race and ascended to heaven, we are also promised true heavenly riches in Christ when our race is complete.
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