Questions From Readers
How do the benefits of Christ Jesus’ high-priestly services, mentioned at Hebrews 4:15, 16, apply to the “other sheep” now?
Though Jesus’ role as High Priest has primary significance for those who will be with him in heaven, Christians with earthly hopes benefit even now from Jesus’ priestly services.
Since Adam, humans have been burdened with sin. We suffer from inherited imperfection, as did the Israelites. They turned to a long line of high priests and associate priests, who offered sacrifices for their own sins as well as for those of the people. In time, Jesus was anointed as a priest “according to the manner of Melchizedek.” After being resurrected, Jesus appeared before Jehovah to present the value of his perfect human sacrifice.—Psalm 110:1, 4.
What does this mean for us today? In his letter to the Hebrews, Paul discussed Jesus’ service as High Priest. At Hebrews 5:1, we read: “Every high priest taken from among men is appointed in behalf of men over the things pertaining to God, that he may offer gifts and sacrifices for sins.” Then, in Heb 5 verses 5 and 6, Paul showed that Jesus became a high priest, which can lead to benefits for us.
How so? Paul wrote: “Although he was a Son, he learned obedience from the things he suffered; and after he had been made perfect he became responsible for everlasting salvation to all those obeying him.” (Hebrews 5:8, 9) At first, that verse might make us think of how we will be able to benefit in the new world, when those loyal to God and Jesus will have their sinful state removed and will gain everlasting life. That is a valid prospect, based on the redemptive value of Jesus’ sacrifice and his service as High Priest.
Actually, though, we may benefit right now from his role or service as High Priest. Take note of Hebrews 4:15, 16: “We have as high priest, not one who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tested in all respects like ourselves, but without sin. Let us, therefore, approach with freeness of speech to the throne of undeserved kindness, that we may obtain mercy and find undeserved kindness for help at the right time.” When would “the right time” be? It is when we need mercy and undeserved kindness. All of us, because of our imperfection, should feel this need now.
Hebrews 4:15, 16 makes the point that Jesus—now a priest in heaven—has also been a human, so he can be empathetic. Toward whom? Toward us. When? Now. When he was a human, Jesus experienced stresses and pressures common to humans. On occasion, Jesus was hungry and thirsty. And despite being perfect, he got tired. That should reassure us. Why? Because Jesus experienced natural weariness, he is aware of how we often feel. Recall, too, that Jesus had to contend with jealous bickering among his apostles. (Mark 9:33-37; Luke 22:24) Yes, he had disappointments. Should that not give us confidence that he understands when we get disappointed, discouraged? Certainly.
When you are discouraged, what can you do? Did Paul say that you just have to wait until, in the new world, your High Priest, Jesus, helps you become perfect in mind and body? No. Paul said: “We may obtain mercy and find undeserved kindness for help at the right time,” and that includes the present. Furthermore, when Jesus was a human, he experienced suffering and hardships, being “tested in all respects like ourselves.” So when we face such things, he is ready to help us, based on his understanding of what we are experiencing. Does that not draw you to him?
Now note Heb 4 verse 16. Paul says that we—and this includes both the anointed and those of the other sheep—can approach God with freeness of speech. (John 10:16) The apostle did not mean that we in prayer can say just anything we want, even angry, irreverent things. Rather, on the basis of Jesus’ sacrifice and his role as High Priest, we can approach God despite our being sinners.
Another way that we can benefit even now from the services of our High Priest, Jesus Christ, involves our sins, or errors. Certainly we do not expect that in the present system Jesus would apply to us the full merit of his sacrifice. Even if he did, we would still not have everlasting life. Remember the case recorded at Luke 5:18-26, involving the paralyzed man whose bed was let down through an opening in the roof? Jesus told him: “Man, your sins are forgiven you.” That did not mean some specific sins that caused the paralysis. It must have meant the man’s sins in general, and to some degree it could have involved his inherited imperfection, which causes afflictions.
Based on the sacrifice that he would offer, Jesus could carry away the man’s sins, as the goat for Azazel carried away the sins of Israel on the Day of Atonement. (Leviticus 16:7-10) Yet, the paralyzed man was still a human. He would sin again, and in time he died, as sinners must. (Romans 5:12; 6:23) What Jesus said did not mean that the man got eternal life on the spot. But the man was blessed with a degree of forgiveness at that time.
Now consider our situation. Being imperfect, we err daily. (James 3:2) What can we do about that? Well, in heaven we have a merciful High Priest through whom we can approach Jehovah in prayer. Yes, as Paul wrote, all of us can “approach with freeness of speech to [God’s] throne of undeserved kindness, that we may obtain mercy and find undeserved kindness for help at the right time.” Consequently, all today who are of the other sheep are certainly gaining wonderful benefits, including a clear conscience, from Christ’s high-priestly services.
All Christians with the earthly hope can look forward to grander benefits in the approaching new world. Then our heavenly High Priest will fully apply the merit of his sacrifice, leading to complete forgiveness of sin. He will also extend greater benefits by caring for the physical and spiritual health of the people. And Jesus will greatly expand the education of God’s people on earth, since teaching the Law was a major responsibility of the priests in Israel. (Leviticus 10:8-11; Deuteronomy 24:8; 33:8, 10) Hence, while we benefit from Jesus’ priestly services now, much more awaits us!