At TGC21, Michael Horton explained how we, as sinners, can take our sin to a holy God without fear because of our sympathetic High Priest, Jesus.
Horton takes Friedrich Nietzsche’s writing on “the ugliest man,” who claimed to kill God because he couldn’t bear to have someone know his dirtiest corners, and parallels it with how we can bring our dirtiest sins to the Father through Jesus, without shame. Using Hebrews 4, Horton shows how Jesus is a glorious High Priest, a sympathetic High Priest, and a gracious High Priest.
In the person of Christ, we have an advocate who can actually sympathize with us because he became like us, yet without sin. This is the greatest news of all—we can take our dirtiness to the Father, knowing we’ll be met with grace because the Son fully understands what it is to be human.
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If you have your Bibles, please join me in reading Hebrews chapter four beginning at verse 11. Hebrews four beginning at verse 11. Let us therefore Strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and the spirit of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. No creature is hidden from His sight. But all are naked, and exposed to the eyes of Him, to whom we must give an account. 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 sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw nearer to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. In Friedrich Nietzsche was classic Thus Spake Zarathustra, Zarathustra, the really the Prophet Zorro, Aster Nietzsche was particularly interested in goes around talking to certain characters and one day he meets this person. Nietzsche calls the ugliest man he is completely destitute, he’s naked. He doesn’t want people’s sympathy. He doesn’t want their pity he hates it when people pity him. And he claimed to have killed God. Here’s what he told Zorro Aster. He had to die. He looked with eyes which beheld everything. he beheld men’s depths and drags, all his hidden ignominy and ugliness. His pity knew no modesty. He crept into my dirtiest corners. This most prying over intrusive, over pitiful one had to die, he ever beheld me. And on such a witness, I would have revenge or not live myself. The God who beheld everything, and also man, that God had to die. Man cannot endure it. That such a witness should live.
I’ve heard people who even grown up in the church say something like this when they walk out on the Christian faith, and they no longer believe in God. In their hearts. They think they’ve sort of killed God because it was either deal with a God who knows all of your dirtiest corners and has pity on you. Or close up. Not raise your eyes to heaven. But focus on yourself and what you can do perhaps to pull yourself up by your bootstraps. And then there are a lot of Christians who simply say nobody knows what it’s like, right now. For me. Nobody really knows what it’s like to suffer with. Fill in the blanks. And most of all, God. How can I take these problems to God when God is unchangeable? He is impossible. He is sovereign. He cannot tempt or be tempted. Of all people, how can I take my ugliness to the Father? What would you say to Nietzsche his ugliest man? Well, I think we have an answer here in this passage verses one through three have warned the hearers of the sermon, then it’s true. The Word of God cuts through us. Through every cell, through every part of our soul, it searches God does know, every dirty little corner in your heart. And on the last day, God’s judgment will expose everything. But then in verses 14 through 16, our passage, you have a turn from warning to comfort. In Christ, we have a better covenant founded on better promises with a better mediator. We have a great high priest. And it’s wonderful, as usual, that the biblical writers break down their sermons into three points, have you noticed? And so we have three points here. A glorious high priest, a sympathetic high priest, and a gracious high priests. First of all, he’s a glorious high priest, he’s passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, His glorious, enthroned in majesty. So why go back to the types of shadows of the law that that merely are puffs of smoke compared to the reality which is Jesus sitting on the throne in the true temple, the true sanctuary, sitting on the throne of judgment, prepared to judge the nations. On the last day we have a glorious high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God. We have a sympathetic high priest. We’re family. Brothers and sisters. It’s something he emphasized in chapter two. Since therefore, the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things. Jesus did not take his humanity from heaven. Jesus did not merely appear to be a human being he didn’t put it on like a spacesuit. Rather, he had the Virgin Marys DNA. He partook of our human nature. This changes the whole game of can I take my questions and my suffering and my pain and my sorrows? To God, we are united with the God man in a common humanity. And that means it’s not immodest pity. It’s sympathy that He has for us. For he knows exactly what it’s like to be tempted as we are. There
is that phrase two times the according to everything, according to everything except sin. Sometimes we think, well, he had to have assumed a sinful nature, right in order to fully assume humanity. But that’s not true. There’s nothing inherently naturally, essentially sinful about human nature. Human nature has been corrupted. But Jesus was what was born without that corruption, fully human. Not only that, it’s not that the minus just without sin, he was more human than we are. In the sense that he actually said, Here I am to the father while we were running in the garden, stitching together fig leaves to cover our nakedness. In fact, the holiest man the most beautiful man who ever lived, experience temptation more than you and I ever will. For someone who was holy, and I’m not talking just because he was divine, so wholly in his human nature, so carried out his task and his calling in that nature, to suffer real temptations like the ones we face every day. Real Temptations to sin must have been the most horrible experience up to Golgotha.
He is not naive. He’s not a stoic who presumably lives above all passions. It’s just that he spent his whole life turning away from temptation to turn to his Father in passionate love and service. United in common temptation, pride and power, wealth and glory. That’s what was promised in the temptation. When the devil tried to get Jesus to seize his throne of glory instead of embrace his throne of the cross. or fear, even just before he’s about to raise Lazarus. Jesus weeps. He’s horrified as he looks death in the face or guests 70 Lord, Father, if it is possible, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours be done. Abuse and shame. The Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head. I thirst, mockery, crown of thorns, loneliness, My God, My God, why have you forsaken me? And yet without sin. yet without sin, the most beautiful man didn’t just pity the ugliest man. He sympathizes with him, Jesus gets it. He is without sin for two reasons, first of all, as a priest and sacrifice a lamb without blemish, but also in his act of obedience, not only without sin, but perfectly obedient, as the writer says, later, made perfect by his obedience. And that was for us. And so to pride and power, he answered, servanthood to God and to us. To glory, He said, No, I’ll take the cross. To fear. He said, No, I will trust to poverty and sickness and the discouragement that that brings, he restored life and hope to others. And as for loneliness, he created a new community, with himself as the vine, and his brothers and sisters as the branches. In response to abuse and shame, he responded with sympathy, mercy, and justice. That’s why we have confidence, confidence to come to the throne of grace. Other religions don’t have this you remember jump say if only I had an advocate. A go between? Well, you don’t have that in Islam. One writer who converted from Roman Catholicism to Islam says, I was always terrified by the apparent danger of seeing God in human form. In Islam, there’s a problem which is the opposite of this. Because a person is alone before God. There is nothing they can hold on to and experiencing this solitude before the absolute can sometimes be difficult. You cannot hold on to Muhammad because supplicating to him, or asking for anything from him is prohibited. Muslims think that Allah’s divinity is so great that even though the prophet is a lofty person, he is far from being as divine as all people can never pray to the Prophet, or ask anything from him or anyone else. In true Islam. There is no mediator between Allah and the servants.
It is Christ’s stature, not his nature that has changed. He has now been exalted to the right hand of the Father, this one who suffered and was tempted just like us is the one who will judge the world on the last day.
And that leads to the third and final point, very briefly, a gracious High Priest notes how verse 14 begins, and again in verse 15. Since the then we have it’s an it’s an emphatic phrase, since then we have since then we have, we have Jesus because the son became flesh. God became habitable for you and for me. We can have God incarnate. We have a gracious high priest, therefore, he says, Hold fast, are confession and drawn nearer to the throne of grace with confidence. He doesn’t say well, you Don’t come anyway, God’s pretty nice. You’ll probably be okay with it doesn’t say, Well, you know, there’s a room over here you can go to and kind of work things, work things out for a while, and I think you’ll he’ll take notice of that noise. How do you come to God? How does the ugliest man possibly come to God, the only way he can come to God is with his sins. And he comes not to a throne of glory which it will be one day he comes to the throne of grace, to receive help, in time of need.
John Calvin said, the ground of this assurance is that the throne of God is not arrayed in naked majesty and glory to confound us, but is adorned with a new name, even that of grace, which are ever to be remembered whenever we shun the presence of God, for the glory of God, the glory of God, when we contemplate it, by itself can produce nothing other than fear and despair. So awful is that through. So he eludes us by draping grace, like a banner across his throat. That’s what I want to tell the ugliest man that I am, and that you are and that everyone in the world is and praise God that Jesus became for us. Let’s pray. Our gracious Father, we are amazed by your glory and even more by Your grace and mercy. We thank you for draping that banner of grace and mercy across the throne that we feared help all of us. Participants in atom sharing in that life of the ugliest man, help us to trust you to turn from fear. To come with confidence laying hold of the one we are able to lay hold of and have it’s in his name that we pray. Amen.
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