Another recipient of God’s mercy explained: “If anyone does commit a sin, we have a helper with the Father, Jesus Christ, a righteous one. And he is a propitiatory sacrifice for our sins, yet not for ours only but also for the whole world’s.”—1 John 2:1, 2.
Why is Jesus Christ called “a helper with the Father”? And how is Jesus “a propitiatory sacrifice” for sins?
Why a Helper Is Needed
Jesus came to the earth “to give his soul a ransom in exchange for many.” (Matthew 20:28) A ransom is the price paid to buy back, or to bring about the release of, someone or something. The verb form of the Hebrew word rendered “ransom” conveys the idea of covering, or atoning, for sins. (Psalm 78:38) The Greek word, such as that found at Matthew 20:28, was used particularly to refer to the price paid to ransom prisoners of war or to release slaves. To satisfy the demands of justice, one thing is given in exchange for another of corresponding value.
Mankind came into slavery because of the first man’s rebellion against God. As shown in Genesis chapter 3, that perfect man—Adam—chose to pursue a course of disobedience to Jehovah God. By doing so, he sold himself and his yet unborn descendants into slavery to sin and death. For himself and all his offspring, Adam thus forfeited the gift of perfect human life.—Romans 5:12, 18, 19; 7:14.
In ancient Israel, God arranged for animal sacrifices to atone for, or cover, the sins of the people. (Leviticus 1:4; 4:20, 35) In effect, the life of the sacrificial animal was given in place of that of the sinner. (Leviticus 17:11) Consequently, “the day of atonement” could also be spoken of as the “day of the ransoms.”—Leviticus 23:26-28.
Since animals are inferior to man, however, it was “not possible for the blood of bulls and of goats to take sins away [completely].” (Hebrews 10:1-4) For a sacrifice to have sufficient value to atone for, or remove, sins permanently, it would have to be equal in value to what Adam forfeited. The scales of justice required a perfect man (Jesus Christ) to counterbalance what another perfect man (Adam) had lost. Only a perfect human life could pay the ransom price to redeem Adam’s offspring from the enslavement into which their first father had sold them. A ‘soul for a soul’ would meet the demands of true justice.—Exodus 21:23-25.
When Adam sinned and was sentenced to death, his as yet unborn offspring were still in his loins and therefore died with him. The perfect man Jesus, “the last Adam,” willingly did not produce a family. (1 Corinthians 15:45) He had unborn offspring in his loins when he died as a perfect human sacrifice. Therefore, it might be said that the potential human race within his loins died with him. Jesus took Adam’s sinful, dying family as his own. He gave up the right to have a family of his own. By sacrificing his perfect human life, Jesus repurchased all mankind descended from Adam so that they could become His family, making Him their “Eternal Father.”—Isaiah 9:6, 7.
Jesus’ ransom sacrifice opened the way for obedient mankind to receive God’s mercy and obtain everlasting life. Consequently, the apostle Paul wrote: “The wages sin pays is death, but the gift God gives is everlasting life by Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23) We cannot help but praise Jehovah for the love and compassion associated with the ransom, provided at tremendous cost to himself and his dearly beloved Son. (John 3:16) And Jesus surely proved to be “a helper with the Father” when he was resurrected to heavenly life and presented the value of his ransom sacrifice to God in the heavens.* (Hebrews 9:11, 12, 24; 1 Peter 3:18) But how is Jesus Christ now proving to be our helper in heaven?
How Jesus Christ Can Help Us
WHAT Jesus Christ did to help people when he was on earth was marvelous. This was so true that after recounting numerous events of Jesus’ life, one eyewitness said: “There are, in fact, many other things also which Jesus did, which, if ever they were written in full detail, I suppose, the world itself could not contain the scrolls written.” (John 21:25) Since Jesus did so much on the earth, we might ask: ‘How can he be our helper in heaven? Can we benefit from Jesus’ tender compassion now?’
The answer is most heartwarming and reassuring. The Bible tells us that Christ entered “into heaven itself, now to appear before the person of God for us.” (Hebrews 9:24) What did he do for us? The apostle Paul explains: “[Christ] entered, no, not with the blood of goats and of young bulls, but with his own blood, once for all time into the holy place [“heaven itself”] and obtained an everlasting deliverance for us.”—Hebrews 9:12; 1 John 2:2.
What good news that is! Rather than ending Jesus’ wonderful work in behalf of people, his ascension to heaven enabled him to do even more for mankind. That is because God, in his great undeserved kindness, appointed Jesus to serve as “a public servant”—a high priest—“at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens.”—Hebrews 8:1, 2.
“A Public Servant”
In heaven, then, Jesus would be a public servant for mankind. He would do a work like that done by Israel’s high priest in behalf of God’s worshipers in ancient times. And what was that work? Paul explains: “Every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices; wherefore it was necessary for this one [the ascended Jesus Christ] also to have something to offer.”—Hebrews 8:3.
Jesus had something to offer that was far superior to what the ancient high priest offered. “If the blood of goats and of bulls” could bring a measure of spiritual cleanness to ancient Israel, “how much more [would] the blood of the Christ . . . cleanse our consciences from dead works that we may render sacred service to the living God?”—Hebrews 9:13, 14.
Jesus is an outstanding public servant, too, because he has been granted immortality. In ancient Israel “many had to become priests in succession because of being prevented by death from continuing as such.” But what about Jesus? Paul writes: “He . . . has his priesthood without any successors. Consequently he is able also to save completely those who are approaching God through him, because he is always alive to plead for them.” (Hebrews 7:23-25; Romans 6:9) Yes, we have at God’s right hand in heaven a public servant who ‘is always alive to plead for us.’ Just think what that means for us now!
When Jesus was on earth, people flocked to him for help, and they sometimes traveled great distances to avail themselves of his assistance. (Matthew 4:24, 25) In heaven, Jesus is readily accessible to people of all nations. From his heavenly vantage point, he is always available as a public servant.
What Sort of High Priest Is Jesus?
The picture of Jesus Christ painted in the Gospel accounts leaves us with no doubt about his helpfulness and tender compassion. How self-sacrificing he was! On more than one occasion, his privacy was interrupted when he and his disciples were trying to get much-needed rest. Rather than feeling cheated out of precious moments of peace and quiet, “he was moved with pity” for the people who sought his assistance. Even when Jesus was tired, hungry, and thirsty, “he received them kindly” and was willing to forgo food if he could help sincere sinners.—Mark 6:31-34; Luke 9:11-17; John 4:4-6, 31-34.
Moved with pity, Jesus took practical steps to fill people’s physical, emotional, and spiritual needs. (Matthew 9:35-38; Mark 6:35-44) Furthermore, he taught them to find lasting relief and comfort. (John 4:7-30, 39-42) How inviting, for example, is his personal invitation: “Come to me, all you who are toiling and loaded down, and I will refresh you. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am mild-tempered and lowly in heart, and you will find refreshment for your souls.”—Matthew 11:28, 29.
Jesus’ love for people was so great that he ultimately gave his life for sinful mankind. (Romans 5:6-8) In this regard the apostle Paul reasoned: “He [Jehovah God] who did not even spare his own Son but delivered him up for us all, why will he not also with him kindly give us all other things? . . . Christ Jesus is the one who died, yes, rather the one who was raised up from the dead, who is on the right hand of God, who also pleads for us.”—Romans 8:32-34.
A High Priest Who Can Sympathize
As a human, Jesus experienced hunger, thirst, tiredness, anguish, pain, and death. The stress and pressures that he endured equipped him in a very unique way to serve as High Priest for suffering mankind. Paul wrote: “[Jesus] was obliged to become like his ‘brothers’ in all respects, that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, in order to offer propitiatory sacrifice for the sins of the people. For in that he himself has suffered when being put to the test, he is able to come to the aid of those who are being put to the test.”—Hebrews 2:17, 18; 13:8.
Jesus demonstrated that he is qualified and willing to help people draw closer to God. Does this mean, however, that he has to persuade a harsh and unmerciful God who is reluctant to forgive? No indeed, for the Bible assures us that “Jehovah [is] good and ready to forgive.” It also says: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous so as to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (Psalm 86:5; 1 John 1:9) Actually, Jesus’ tender words and deeds reflect his Father’s own compassion, mercy, and love.—John 5:19; 8:28; 14:9, 10.
How does Jesus bring relief to repentant sinners? By helping them to find joy and satisfaction in their sincere efforts to please God. In writing to fellow anointed Christians, Paul summed up the situation by saying: “Seeing, therefore, that we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold onto our confessing of him. For 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.”—Hebrews 4:14-16.
“Help at the Right Time”
What can we do, though, when confronted with problems that we feel are greater than we can handle—serious illness, the crushing burden of guilt, overwhelming discouragement, and depression? We can make use of the very provision that Jesus himself regularly relied on—the precious privilege of prayer. For example, on the night before he gave his life for us, “he continued praying more earnestly; and his sweat became as drops of blood falling to the ground.” (Luke 22:44) Yes, Jesus knows how it feels to pray to God with great intensity. He “offered up supplications and also petitions to the One who was able to save him out of death, with strong outcries and tears, and he was favorably heard for his godly fear.”—Hebrews 5:7.
Jesus knows how much it means to humans to be “favorably heard” and strengthened. (Luke 22:43) Furthermore, he promised: “If you ask the Father for anything he will give it to you in my name. . . . Ask and you will receive, that your joy may be made full.” (John 16:23, 24) Hence, we can petition God with confidence that he will allow his Son to apply his authority and the value of his ransom sacrifice in our behalf.—Matthew 28:18.
We can be sure that in his heavenly capacity, Jesus will provide the right kind of help at the proper time. For example, if we have committed a sin that we sincerely regret, we can draw comfort from the assurance that “we have a helper with the Father, Jesus Christ, a righteous one.” (1 John 2:1, 2) Our Helper and Comforter in heaven will plead for us so that our prayers in his name and in harmony with the Scriptures will be answered.—John 14:13, 14; 1 John 5:14, 15.
Showing Appreciation for Christ’s Help
More is involved than petitioning God through his Son. With the value of his ransom sacrifice, “Christ by purchase” became, as it were, “the owner that bought” the human race. (Galatians 3:13; 4:5; 2 Peter 2:1) We can show our gratitude for all that Christ does for us by acknowledging his ownership of us and gladly responding to his invitation: “If anyone wants to come after me, let him disown himself and pick up his torture stake day after day and follow me continually.” (Luke 9:23) ‘Disowning oneself’ is not simply a verbal claim of change of ownership. After all, Christ “died for all that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died for them.” (2 Corinthians 5:14, 15) Therefore, appreciation for the ransom will have a profound effect on our outlook, goals, and life-style. Our eternal indebtedness to “Christ Jesus, who gave himself for us,” should motivate us to learn more about him and his loving Father, Jehovah God. We should also want to grow in faith, to live by God’s beneficial standards, and to be “zealous for fine works.”—Titus 2:13, 14; John 17:3.
The Christian congregation is the means whereby we receive timely spiritual food, encouragement, and guidance. (Matthew 24:45-47; Hebrews 10:21-25) For instance, if any are spiritually sick, they can “call the older men [appointed elders] of the congregation.” James adds the assurance: “And the prayer of faith will make the indisposed one well, and Jehovah will raise him up. Also, if he has committed sins, it will be forgiven him.”—James 5:13-15.
To illustrate: A man serving a prison sentence in South Africa wrote to a congregation elder expressing appreciation for “all of Jehovah’s Witnesses who are carrying out the good work started by Jesus Christ in helping people strive toward God’s Kingdom.” Then he wrote: “I was overjoyed at having received your letter. Your concern for my spiritual redemption has touched me deeply. All the more reason for me to start heeding Jehovah God’s call for repentance. For 27 years I’ve been stumbling and losing my way in the darkness of sin, deceit, illicit affairs, immoral practices, and dubious religions. After my introduction to Jehovah’s Witnesses, I feel that I have at last found the way—the right way! All I have to do is follow it.”
More Help in the Near Future
Deteriorating world conditions are clear evidence that we are living in the crucial time period that was to precede the outbreak of “the great tribulation.” Right now, a great crowd out of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues are ‘washing their robes and making them white in the blood of the Lamb.’ (Revelation 7:9, 13, 14; 2 Timothy 3:1-5) By exercising faith in Jesus’ ransom sacrifice, they are receiving forgiveness of their sins and are being helped to come into a close relationship with God—in fact, becoming his friends.—James 2:23.
The Lamb, Jesus Christ, “will shepherd [survivors of the great tribulation] and will guide them to fountains of waters of life. And God will wipe out every tear from their eyes.” (Revelation 7:17) Christ will then carry his duties as High Priest to completion. He will help all of God’s friends to benefit fully from the “fountains of waters of life”—spiritually, physically, mentally, and emotionally. What Jesus started in 33 C.E. and what he has continued from heaven ever since will then be carried out to perfection.
Never give up, therefore, in showing deep appreciation for all that God and Christ have done—and are doing—for us. The apostle Paul urged: “Always rejoice in the Lord. . . . Do not be anxious over anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication along with thanksgiving let your petitions be made known to God; and the peace of God that excels all thought will guard your hearts and your mental powers by means of Christ Jesus.”—Philippians 4:4, 6, 7.
There is a significant way to show your appreciation for Jesus Christ, our Helper in heaven. After sundown on Wednesday, April 19, 2000, Jehovah’s Witnesses around the world will gather to observe the Memorial of Christ’s death. (Luke 22:19) This will be an opportunity to deepen your appreciation for Christ’s ransom sacrifice. You are most warmly invited to attend and hear how God’s marvelous arrangement for salvation through Christ can benefit you eternally. Please check with Jehovah’s Witnesses locally for the exact time and place of this special meeting.