Fix Your Thoughts On Jesus
Key Verse 3:1
“Therefore, holy brothers, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, the apostle and high priest whom we confess.”
In the last passage the author began to give us very good reasons why Jesus, the Son of God had to take upon himself our humanity, become a man, and eventually suffer and of course, also experience death as well. He told us that in order for him to bring many sons and daughters to glory, (that is, in order to bring us to eternal salvation). Jesus had to be made our Perfect Savior through suffering— which could only happen if he became a man like us. (10) Scripture gives us another reasons as well. He had to share in our humanity, so that through his death experience Jesus might destroy the power of the devil in death and free us from the fear of death that has crippled the human race since the fall. Human beings may think they are unafraid of death, but the truth is that no one is brave enough to face death, because for the most part human beings are afraid of God’s judgment. But for those who are in Christ, whose sins are forgiven, the power of death is defeated by the pioneer of our Salvation who has safely crossed us to the other side without harm. This is the faith by which we stand, that death no longer has any hold on us.
But as we also said in the last lesson, these are not all the reasons why Jesus had to take on our humanity. The author gives us still another two reasons in verses 17-18. First, the Savior’s coming as a man and his suffering death was necessary so that he might become for us a merciful and faithful High Priest. And second, the Savior needed the humanity experience so that he might also be able to help those who are being tempted. Otherwise how could he understand the struggles we have in life! But our Savior became our High Priest who atoned for our sins with his own blood, and remains merciful and faithful to all who belong to him, always defending them before God in heaven. This too is the faith by which we stand as we live in him and for him.
Read verse 17. “For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people.” What do the words “in every way” mean when it says that Christ had to be made like his brothers (or like us: like you and me) in every way? It means that he had to be made fully human in every way! To start with, it means that when people saw him there was nothing that made him look any different from any other man. He wasn’t exceptionally handsome or unusually strong, nor did he radiate with an angelic aura that set him apart from any other person. He was made fully human like us in every way tells us that he was in every way a man— body soul and spirit. Being fully human, it means he exercised faith. He read the Scripture for daily guidance. He spent time in prayer communing with God and arriving at decisions. Like any of us he got hungry and thirsty and experienced the tiredness of a day’s work. At times he was happy and at times sad. He marveled at some things and was disappointed at others. There were times when he burned with anger and others with zeal. He loved passionately and felt in his heart every emotion that runs through our own veins. It means he laughed and cried. From his infancy to adolescence and unto maturity, Jesus was immersed in the fullness of the human experience. If there was ever any person who lived and understood our humanity “in every way”, it is the Lord Jesus, our Savior Christ!
So, the Son of God became fully human in every way. But why did he have to do that? Look at verse 17 again. So that he might become a merciful and faithful High Priest in the service of God, and that he might atone for the sins of his people. So, the Son of God became the Son of Man so that he might become a High Priest for us. Did humanity need such a high priest? Yes of course! Do we (you and I) need one? Absolutely! And, for many reasons too! We need one because there’s a huge gap between God and us. God is holy, and we are tarnished with sin. God is eternal and dwells in unapproachable light, and we are only mortals, who dwell in dust and ashes. We are also living in enmity with God as his enemies. No one can ever reach God nor ever hope to reconcile with him. Of course we needed a High Priest who could represent us to God and Mediate for us before him. Job prophesied when he said: “If only there were someone to arbitrate between us, to lay his hand upon us both.” (Job 9:33) And Job looked for the day when the Christ will do just that when he said: “I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth.” (Job 19:25) And God provided us with such High priest, a Perfect Mediator— the God-Man Jesus Christ.
The High Priest had to be both God and man at the same time. This way he is the Perfect Mediator between God and man, that is, between us and God— from whom we are cut off— and whom we have offended with our sins. And the High Priest God provided was really special. Look at verse 17 again. It tells us of Jesus, our High Priest whom he describes as both “merciful and faithful”. What does it mean that our High Priest is merciful and faithful? Actually it means the world to us. He shared in our humanity in every way. That’s why he is able to be merciful— Meaning that he is compassionate; and being sympathetic with us, he is always ready to support us and comfort us and delivery us. Jesus Christ our High Priest has walked in our shoes many times in our afflictions, in our hardship and especially in our many temptations. He knows our pains and sufferings. As he stands before our Father in heaven, though crowned with glory and honor, he has not forgotten neither his pains nor ours. Why are we so certain of that? Because there is forever a Human Heart that beats within him. He is our merciful High Priest. But he is also our “faithful” High Priest— Meaning that we can trust him completely to fulfill all that he has promised to do for us as our Mediator and Christ.
Look at verse 17 again. Jesus had to become our merciful and faithful High Priest so that he might atone for the sins of the people. What does it mean to atone for sins? The word atone is unique in the sense that it is used to pacify an offended person. That person is God and we have repeatedly offended him with our sins to the point that the Bible tells us that his wrath burns against us. We may be able to say about an angry parent: “oh, they’ll get over it” or to a friend: “Just get over it”. But we cannot say that of God! His anger is righteous, demands justice and can’t be pacified. That’s why Jesus had to take upon himself our humanity, and shed his own righteous blood, and offer it on our behalf as our High Priest. He did it to appease and pacify God’s righteous wrath against sinners. His blood atoned for our sins and pacified God’s anger for those whose sins are paid for by the blood of Jesus. Because of that our Lord was able to reconcile us to God. He bridged the awful gap that separated us from our God and Father.
[Jesus truly partook of our humanity in every way— he became like us, as we discussed earlier. This is not just theology. It is the beautiful story of our redeemer Jesus. You see, he couldn’t be our redeemer unless he became like one of us. He had to become one of us in every way, flesh and blood, suffer and die for us in order that we might become part of his family. He did that through his blood which made us holy, so that we are now his holy brothers and sisters. As his brothers and sisters, he redeemed us because only a Kinsman Redeemer can redeem a member of a family. We remember the laws governing the redemption of Ruth into Boaz’s family. (Lev. 25.25) Jesus made us his family and redeemed us so as to present us to God, holy, redeemed and reconciled. There can be no more beautiful story than this.]
Read verse 18. “Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.” And here now is the final reason why it was necessary for the Son of God to take upon himself our humanity. So that he might help those who are being tempted. This is a very interesting teaching we cannot ignore. We know that Jesus suffered the torture of the soldiers, and the pain of the cross. But to suffer from temptation is new to many of us. What does it mean that Jesus suffered when he was tempted? Actually Jesus described his whole ministry life in terms of suffering. (Luke 22.28) And indeed Jesus suffered a lot but especially from temptation. The Tempter Satan tempted him at the beginning of his ministry. After that he came to tempt him at other opportune times. His temptations to Jesus were harrowing temptations beyond our comprehension. But Jesus also suffered from daily temptations as a human being like us. Yet Jesus never surrendered to the temptations. And that’s why he suffered! He suffered from all his temptations because he never surrendered to them.
Let me explain the concept of suffering from temptation to you. Most people usually don’t suffer much when they are tempted because they give in too quickly and too easily to their temptations. As Christians we are not much different either. If we are in the habit of rejecting all forms of sufferings in our lives, avoiding them at all costs, and instead we habitually look for ease and comfort, we too may know nothing about the suffering associated with resisting temptation. Those who haven’t struggled and suffered to resist temptation cannot mature in the Lord and end up not doing his will. Jesus in Gethsemane underwent one of his greatest sufferings when he fought the temptation to obey the will of God. “He suffered when he was tempted”. But the fruit of his suffering to resist temptation brought us life.
Jesus’ suffering when he was tempted brought us something else too. Look at verse 18 again. He is able to help those who are being tempted. In Hebrews 4:15 the author tells us the scope of Jesus’ temptations. There is no temptation known to man that the Savior had not experienced, though he did not fall into any sin. But Jesus had been there! And he understands our struggles with sin and the power of the temptation that invades our very person. And this word of God here (18) tells us that this High Priest is in heaven right now and is able to help us in our weakness, in our struggles, in our temptation, because he knows us personally and he loves us and he has every desire to help us; and most of all he is fully equipped and qualified to help us in our time of need (Hebrews 4:16). He can help us because he is God— because be can— because he wants to— because he promised to help us who are being tempted— if we would only ask him.
[The author has already spoken about Jesus’ superiority over angels. In this section he moves to describe to us Jesus’ superiority over Moses, the Jewish prophet. He needs to do so because in the minds of these Jewish Christians Moses was one of the greatest prophets who ever lived having been the mediator of the old covenant. He was in a way a prophet, priest and king God the people of God. It’s not hard to understand why the he’s him in such High honors. (John 9.28-29) But the truth is that Jesus Christ is far superior to Moses for many reasons. Christ is God himself. He is also the great high priest. While Moses delivered the people from slavery to Egypt, Christ delivered us from slavery to sin and death. Christ is by far superior to Moses for he’s the mediator of the new covenant. In this section he tells us exactly where Moses fits in God’s plan and where Jesus fits and shows us the clear difference between the two. And he admonishes us to fix our thoughts in Jesus.]
Chapter 3 is a warning against falling into unbelief. A history lesson from these people’s past not to make the same mistake their ancestors made by hardening their hearts and turning away from their faith in the Almighty and Living God— who was Christ with them in their journey in the wilderness. The chapter is a strong warning against closing their hearts to God, as their ancestors did and then lose the one thing that’s worth living for and— struggling for— and suffering for in this life— that is, the rest they were promised in Canaan and beyond. So we should pay attention to this chapter and what he tells them because in our lives as well we know how easy it is for us to become hardened, to shirk faith, and to turn our hearts from what’s important— that is, Christ and our final rest in the promised kingdom. It’s interesting how the author begins this section. After all that he’s already told us about Jesus, he now tells us to fix our thoughts on him.
Read verse 1. “Therefore, holy brothers, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, the apostle and high priest whom we confess.” It was very important for him to remind them of who they are as well as of their calling. They were the holy people of God. They were the brothers and sisters of the Lord whom the Lord himself had sanctified with his blood and had opened the way for them to enter heaven itself. Which brings us to their calling! He reminds them: “you are not only the holy people of God sanctified by the Lord, but you also share in the heavenly calling”. What exactly is he reminding them of? As a Christian, what is the nature of your calling? The Jews had an earthly calling with a vision for heaven as they awaited the Christ. But for us Christians, who belong to the Christ who has ascended to the heavens, our calling is heavenly! You are called to share in Christ Jesus and his heavenly glory. (14) You are called into the very presence of God and into fellowship with him. The letter to the Hebrews, puts aside all earthy things and focuses on heavenly things. We are called out of this world to share in heaven’s riches through the grace of our Lord Jesus. In times of suffering it’s easy to forget who we are and the heavenly calling and vision we share in the Lord. The author said: “You are the holy people of God and you share in Christ who is crowned in heaven where you too belong— fix your thoughts on that!”
Read verse 1 again. Therefore, “Fix your thoughts on Jesus”, he says. What he wants us to do is to consider carefully who Jesus is; to consider his divinity, and what honor and glory and worship are due him accordingly. Clearly he doesn’t want us to give it a passing thought or just a glance, but to let our hearts and minds be fully occupied with him. Especially, he tells us to let our hearts and minds be fully occupied with Jesus because of who he is! How then does he identify him? Jesus is the Apostle and High Priest. But he is the Apostle and High Priest of whom we confess! And this is very meaningful.
Jesus is our Apostle. In fact he is our Great Apostle, the greatest Apostle who ever was, is and will ever be. We Christians think of Peter and Paul as great apostles. The Jews think of Moses as God’s great apostle. But Jesus is God’s Greatest Apostle. What is an apostle anyway? He is a messenger come from God with a message to us. He represents God to us. Who then can fill the place of an apostle greater than Jesus? No one! He is God’s foremost Apostle. He is the Messenger and the Message. He is the Living Word of God who came to teach us about God. He was with God and he came to make God known to us in a way no one else could. It is this Jesus we confess as our Apostle, as One who represents God to us. Our confession is in him. In his Humanity, the One who came in the flesh and suffered and died to become for us a second confession as well. What is it?
Jesus is also our Great High Priest. In fact he is the Greatest High Priest this world had ever known. The book of Hebrews devotes extensive sections to talk about this High Priest’s greatness. But as much as he is our Apostle— God’s representative to us— he is also our High Priest— our representative to God. He represents us to God. He appears before God on our behalf. He advocated for us. He helps us in our struggles with temptations. He defends our case in heaven before the judgment seat of God. We are covered eternally in his grace because we have a Man in glory there who knows each of us and stands besides each of us to uphold us in heaven. This is the High Priest we confess. You and I have this sure confession that he is there and that I am his and he is mine. “Fix your thoughts on Jesus”, the author says. Your heart and mind must be fixed on Jesus. Think on who you are holy people. Think on who he is our Apostle and High Priest. And think on your heavenly calling which keeps your heart from being contaminated with earthly things.
Read verse 2. “He was faithful to the one who appointed him, just as Moses was faithful in all God’s house.” Very delicately now the author begins to establish Jesus’ superiority over Moses’ because the Jews were sensitive about Moses. He begins by telling us of the faithfulness of the two men. Jesus was absolutely faithful to the trust God gave him. Ever since his youth, the Lord’s life had been a faithful life to God his Father. As a boy he said: “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49). In the middle of his ministry he said: “[I] must do the work of him who sent me.” (John 9:4). At the end he said: “Yet not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:39). Similarly, Moses has been faithful in all God’s house. Moses served God’s house, meaning God’s people— the house of Israel— with the devotion and faithfulness of a dedicated servant. He received and wrote the first five books of the Bible. He served God’s house like a doting shepherd. He loved them and prayed for them. But he also made mistakes in his life— huge mistakes if you consider the enormity of his responsibility. But the one thing that God remembers of his life was not his mistakes but his faithfulness. It is a virtue to be given a responsibility in God’s house and to be found faithful to it. There are many professing Christians who care more about how much money they make and how they look than about God’s house. They may be faithful to themselves but they aren’t found faithful in God’s house over the things God entrusted them with. The sweetest sound a Christian will ever hear on the day of resurrection is the sound of the Lord’s voice saying: “Well done, good and faithful servant!” (Matthew 25:21) Don’t you want to hear that? Please be faithful to the things God entrusts you with.
Read verses 3-4. “Jesus has been found worthy of greater honor than Moses, just as the builder of a house has greater honor than the house itself. For every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything.” Here he tells us why Jesus is worthy of greater honor than Moses. He uses common sense. The builder of a house has greater honor than the house he builds. And who is the builder of the house of God? Is it not Jesus, who is God the Son? He is the Builder of the house and he therefore deserves much greater honor than Moses who is only one of God’s creations. But the author doesn’t stop there.
Read verses 5-6. “Moses was faithful as a servant in all God’s house, testifying to what would be said in the future. But Christ is faithful as a son over God’s house. And we are his house, if we hold on to our courage and the hope of which we boast.” Look at how he compares the two. Moses was faithful as a servant, but Christ Jesus was faithful as the Son over God’s house. Moses was a servant who acted like a servant and never acted as a Lord nor owner. But Jesus was the Son over God’s house. He himself built the house with his own blood and he owns it. Look at verse 5 again. And this was not a new teaching to them at all. They were just not listening carefully to the words of God in the Bible. Moses even bore witness to what would be said or spoken by God in the future— meaning that Moses bore witness to the Christ who will come bearing the gospel of God’s grace. (Luke 16:31; Acts 3:22; John 5:39; Luke 24:27) These words were very important to these Jewish Christians who were suffering persecution and considering returning to their Jewish faith under the Mosaic Law. Jesus our Apostle and High Priest is also the Son over God’s house, whose faithfulness purchased our redemption. He is by far superior to Moses who spoke of the Christ to come and exalted him in all things.
Look at verse 6 again. And we are his house if we hold on to our courage and the hope we profess. The word if here is not a condition— It’s our reality. The Bible tells us that since we are God’s house— that is, God’s people— we ought to hold firmly to our courage and our hope. Our courage or our confidence is in Christ himself. He is our Great Apostle and High Priest! And our hope is also in him our merciful and faithful High Priest who has redeemed us to God and has called us heavenward. Some day he will return for us. This is the faith by which we stand. So we should take heart and give glory to the One who has made us to be his house, his people and has been faithful to us from beginning to end. Amen.