Hebrews 4 verse 14: begins, Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. Let’s break this down a little bit. The author once again commands us to hold fast to our confession.  He already mentioned this in Hebrews 3:6 and will mention it again two other times (Heb 6:18; 10:23). Why? Because as they say, “Repetition is the mother of learning.” This is something he really wants them (and us) to remember.

Now, the term hold fast does not mean “just continue as you are,” or “make sure you keep believing what you already believed,” but the verb means “to arrest” (Matt 21:46) or “to seize” (Rev 20:2) like when Michael will seize the devil and bind him for 1000 years. This is a call to be proactive and hold on for dear life. This is a priority.

While the confession is not laid out, it encompasses everything we have seen before: that the divine Messiah took on flesh in order to atone for our sins. And through His resurrection and ascension, He has become our heavenly High Priest.


The Right Kind of Zeal

But why? What is different now that we should have more zeal? The author tells us: we have this  “since we have a great high priest who passed through the heavens.” What does that mean? In the Hebrew Bible, Jacob had 12 sons, who eventually became the 12 tribes of Israel (more or less). One son was Levi, and from his descendants, the Levites were chosen to work in the temple and engage in sacrifices. To be part of the temple service, you had to have the Levi genes.  And within the Levite clan, there was one person —Aaron — who was selected as a High Priest, and this is the only person who could enter the holy of holies (the presence of God) once a year on the Day of Atonement.

And as the High Priest would enter the holy of holies to sprinkle blood in the ark for his sins and the sins of the nation, he was our representative before God. He was our access to God. If we did not have a High Priest, we could not enter God’s presence.

And keep in mind that to enter even the tabernacle of God was very dangerous. For example, in Leviticus 10, we have the story of Nadab and Abihu, two of Aaron’s sons who had the right to enter the tabernacle, but it says that they offered strange fire on the altar. We are not entirely sure what that is, but they were struck down for their irreverence.  We also see the case of Uzzah at the time of David, who was carrying the ark, but when it started to fall, he reached his hand out to touch it, and the Lord struck him down (2 Sam 6:3–8). Why? The Lord prohibited anybody from touching it, or they will die (Num 4:15) — it represented the presence of God.

You could think of God’s presence like a fire; it is essential for life and our well-being (heat, warming food, heating water), but you cannot act carelessly with it, or it could devour you. Therefore, to enter the presence of God is a fearful thing, and this is why we needed a High Priest as our representative once a year.

However, according to Hebrews, now we have a great High Priest who does not just represent us on earth once a year, but who has passed into the heavens and has entered the holy presence of God as our representative. The notion that He passed through the heavens recalls imagery of righteous men in the Hebrew Bible —like Enoch who walked with God, or Elijah the righteous prophet. But in Greek, the verb pass through doesn’t just mean “enter,” but He is currently ministering before the throne of God on our behalf. This means we could approach the throne of God at any time through the Messiah! So, we are encouraged to hold fast our confession because we have a better High Priest.


The Epitome of Purity

Now, in verse 15, the author shifts his argument a little bit. Not only is Yeshua the source of our salvation, but He is also the model of our sanctification. He does not just give us the what (our salvation), but by the example of His life, He tells us the how (our sanctification).  Verse 15: For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.

Sometimes we look at political leaders and movie stars and think “they can’t relate to us, they have a completely different lifestyle.” But the author here is saying that whatever struggles we are going through, and whatever we think would keep us away from God — it won’t, because we have a compassionate High Priest who represents you, and sympathizes with our weakness.

Now, how is that possible? It comes down to the full humanity of the Messiah. In the early church, there was a big debate regarding in what way Yeshua became human, since he was also divine. Some argued that He wasn’t really human, but only appeared human. Others said that He had a human body, but inside was pure deity. But the argument of Hebrews is that He had to be fully human in every way we are. This way, He could sympathize, or show compassion, to us.

It says He has been tempted in all things. Now, I do not think this means that He was tempted to do every single temptation you could think of.  Rather, the point is that He has felt the full weight of what a temptation is, which is something that brings us away from God. James says that each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust — and that brings about sin. (James 1:14-15). Yeshua endured this because of His humanity. Not only did He endure the full weight, but He was tempted in every facet of sin. 1 John 2:16 says “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.”

And we see this while He was tempted in the wilderness by Satan. For example, Satan said to turn the stones into bread to eat — that was the lust of the flesh. When he showed Him the kingdoms of the world and said, “fall down and worship” and this will be yours — that was the lust of the eyes. And then he told Yeshua to jump down from the temple and God will catch you, testing God — that was the boastful pride of life. So, in every category and to the fullest weight He has been tempted, and yet, He was without sin.


What does it mean that Yeshua is our model?

Now, we could read this and say, “Well, He did not really experience temptations like us if He never sinned” However, a better way to understand this is that He endured everything we did, yet He did not succumb to it. And that is why Yeshua is our model for endurance.

You know, several years ago I had an opportunity to get level 1 certification as a squash coach. In level 1, we learn the basics. In level 2, there is a great focus on developing skill sets, and level 3, when you take the sport seriously, there is a huge emphasis on how to remain mentally focused in a game. Because at a professional level, many people have a similar skill level, the question is: after an hour of playing, when you are physically exhausted, who can keep their mental concentration? And at times like that, the advice is always: Return to the basics; Keep your mind focused on a single goal.

In the same way, in the midst of our difficulties, we are given Yeshua as our model who did not succumb to temptation when the storms rolled in, but He endured. For that reason, we can as well (see 1 Cor 10:13).

As Yeshua is our model, we have to consider: What did He do to overcome temptation? What tools can we use? When we read Matthew 4, we see that He quoted Scripture; He knew His theology. Each time He was tempted, He responded by quoting Deuteronomy. Why? Every temptation attempts to skew reality (“This will fulfill you; you will be happy from this”) and Scripture turns it back and gives you a proper perspective.  So, we see that the Messiah is not only the source of our salvation, but he is the model of our sanctification.

Messiah our Priest – Sermon Link