Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Drawing Near to a Sympathetic High Priest

Imperial CU this evening... speaking on Hebrews 4:14-16... some cut-down thoughts from it:

How do we feel when we’re struggling in the Christian life? How do we feel when the fight to keeping going as a Christian just seems too tough? When we’re tired and weary… when we just feel like giving up… when that temptation that we fight hard to resist… just overcomes us once again…

I’m guessing we probably feel weak, pathetic, guilty, frustrated… ashamed… And the question for us is – how does that then make us feel towards Jesus?

I guess we might think Jesus is angry at us… that he’s shouting down – “I can’t believe you just slipped up again”… If we feel weak – maybe we hear Jesus saying “you’re feeling like this again? Come on – pull yourself together!” If we feel ashamed, that we’ve let Jesus down in some way – we then picture Jesus shaking his head, tutt-ing in disappointment.

And how do we then respond, to Jesus?

Well – we keep him at a distance… pushing him away from us… either because we fear his anger, or because we fear his disappointment… And so Jesus becomes this distant figure… a figure just stuck in a stained-glass window somewhere… We make Jesus out to be a figure who didn’t experience these kinds of trials… we can think it must have just been easy for him to live the Christian life – he was perfect after all – God Himself… it must have been easy for him and that his expectation is that it should be easy for us…

"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. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathise with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” Heb 4:14-15
Jesus takes on flesh… that he might experience life in the flesh – that he might experience life just as you and I experience it… so that he would be a merciful, sympathetic high priest… able to help those who are being tempted… because he was tempted in just the same way as you and I are tempted. So what did living in the flesh mean for Jesus? Well, chapter 5, verse 7 tells us – look ahead to it… chapter 5, verse 7:
“in the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears…”
I’m sure we’re all aware of Jesus’ heart-wrenching prayers in the garden of Gethsemane as Jesus heads towards the cross… but this verse points not just to the garden, but to his entire life… the days of him being in the flesh… And it was hard… it hurt… so much so that it lead him to cry out to God… to cry before his God… with real tears, in real pain and anguish… as he battled to live for God…

Granted he hasn't experienced every detail... he never had to sit a fluid mechanics exam, and he's never actually sinned... but He has been truly one of us… he’s experienced real life, with real suffering, with real tears… and because of this he can sympathise with us…
When we’re exhausted in living for God
When we’re let down, hurt or betrayed by good friends
Bereavement, mockery
Parents who think we’re crazy
Persecution for our faith
The attacks of the devil we face each day

And Jesus says “I understand – I’ve been through it too… and I’m not ashamed to be associated with you… I stand alongside you in all the temptations you face…”

Jesus isn’t a distant figure who looks down at us and thinks to himself “come on guys… I can’t believe you’ve just fallen into that sin again”… or “come on – grit your teeth and pull your socks up”. No – we can cry out to Jesus in our weakness… we can cry out to him about how much of a struggle it is… we can cry out to him at how much of a battle it is… we can cry out to him about how much it hurts… we can cry out to him, and cry with him... And all the time Jesus is replying “I know….” “I know exactly how you feel”… “I’ve faced the same things… I know how tough it is… ”
"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” Heb 4:16
The writer encourages us… in our weaknesses, not to hold Jesus at a distance…But rather, to draw near to him... to go to him. Knowing that the one who represents us before God acknowledges how difficult it is… and that he sympathises with our weaknesses.

And we should go to him… with confidence... Not fearing that he’ll be angry… not fearing his disappointment with us… but knowing that the one who represents us before God understands how hard it is… he sympathises with us...

We can draw near with confidence… because our high priest – our mediator - was like us, and so knows what it’s like for us… he sympathises in our weaknesses and replies “I know… I understand”

That’s what we really need when we’re struggling isn’t it?

To draw near to God… through our high priest… our mediator – who knows and understands…
To draw near to God – who offers mercy and grace in our time of need….
To draw near to him offers mercy – forgiveness for where we’ve failed…
To draw near to him who offers grace – strength to keep going, to keep battling as we live for Him each day…
"We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathise with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 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"

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Mark the Movie - a box office flop?

Just heading back from Kings CU... was speaking on Mark 15:40-16:8... here are some of my thoughts:

It's been a rollercoaster of emotion in the passages leading up to this... as Mark reaches the high point, the climax in his Gospel... and yet at the same time we see Jesus go through betrayal, his friends run away... he's arrested, handed over to a council acting as judge, jury and executioner... his people shout "crucify"... he beaten, spat on, nailed to a cross, takes God's judgement... dies!

As we reach the climax of what Mark has been persuading us of since verse 1 of chapter 1 - that Jesus is the Christ... yet at the same time, we reach the lowest point for Jesus, humanly speaking... as we see him give his life for a proud, arrogant, fickle, betraying bunch of followers...

And so we reach the end of Mark's Gospel... verse 8:

And they went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had
seized them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.

and the screen fades to black... and the credits start to roll...

what a flop ending... or so we might think...

Mark uses two character types... Joseph who pledges absolute total allegiance to Jesus, no matter the cost to his reputation, social standing, career... alongside the women, who run away scared... not saying a word.

Mark is leaving us the question - which are we going to be like? Jesus has done enough - he's proved himself to be who he says he is... and we're left with the question - am I gonna be bold and confident like Joseph - no matter the cost; or am I gonna flee scared, keeping quiet like the women.

The good news is of course that we're all like the women much more than we are like Joseph... after all, Jesus came for the sick, not the healthy; he's told us we all have a heart defect that means we don't life for Jesus perfectly - that's why he had to come and offer his life as a ransom for many...

And so, the angel in the tomb says "go tell his disciples, and Peter"... and Peter... Peter who after just a little questioning from a servant girl says that he doesn't even know Jesus...

And so, right at the end of Mark we get the great reminder of who the Gospel is for.... weak failures... weak failures like Peter, like the women... weak failures like you and me! What a box office smash!

Gotta love the good news... the gospel... of Jesus the Christ!