Advent: Seeing Jesus as Priest

Matthew 9

Last week we looked at Jesus the prophet… today we look at Jesus as Priest.  This is harder to find in the Gospels.  The crowds tried to crown Jesus as their King!  The crowds after witnessing a miracle would cry out:  “He is a prophet… mighty in word and deed.”  But the term “priest” is not there.

The Theological Ground Work for the concept is actually found within the NT book of Hebrews.  Hebrews 4:14 reads:  14 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens,[e] Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess.”    That is well and good, but this series I’m preaching is using the Gospels for texts… so I searched the Gospels to find a place where Jesus was acting very “priestly” and I settled on Matthew chapter 9.  It is there that Jesus tells a paralytic:  “Your sins are forgiven!”

This had to stun that paraplegic.  Imagine you are this individual.  You have little control over your life.  You are immobile… unable to care for yourself.  You might not have even wanted to go see Jesus.  Your friends may have carried you there as you angrily protested along the journey.   But finally your mat is laid before this faith healer… a living legend in Capernaum, a town that had become like a second home to Jesus, a town in which Jesus had performed miracle after miracle.

So you are going to be like healing #258… but instead of Jesus saying something like:  “Be healed.” Or “Stand up and try out your new legs.”  He says:  “Your sins are forgiven.”

Talk about the old bait and switch.  You’re there to be healed of an ailment not absolved of a sin.  And yet this Galilean who spoke with such authority over illness, now speaks with that same power over your iniquity.  Why does Jesus make this curious pronouncement?  Many commentators sight a connection between the man’s sin and his sickness.  Sin and sickness are not always, but can be linked.  Guilt over sin can turn your hair grey, overwork your heart, cloud your mind with depression and completely obliterate your immune system.

But I believe Jesus is doing something else here.  Gazing at this man, He doesn’t see the sickness as being the worse thing to befall him.  The guilt of this man’s soul is far worse than the paralysis of the man’s limbs.  He needs a priest… not a healer.  So Jesus intercedes and forgives the man’s sin.

Jesus says to his critics that day:  5 Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’?  Which is easier?  On the surface (and his critics probably believed) that “Your sins are forgiven” was easier.  Because there was less evidence one could present of its taking place.  If he said:  Get up and walk… and the man continued to languish.  Jesus would be proven a fraud.

Who could know the condition of a man’s soul?  Who would know if a man’s sin had actually been forgiven?  But Jesus is saying:  “Get up and walk” is child’s play compared to “Your sins are forgiven.”

Jesus was able to speak the words:  You’re forgiven… because he was already committed to paying the price to back those words up.  He knew the cost of that forgiveness.

He would be beaten.  He would be stripped bare.  He would hang in agony and pain between two thieves.  Nails in his hands.  Thorns on his head.  Even in Bethlehem… the shadow of a cross fell across his cradle.  Even in this story… so early in his ministry.  The shadow of a cross falls across His path.

“Your sins are forgiven.”  Not so easy to say.  But the words of a perfect High Priest:  Hebrews 7:26-27:  Such a high priest meets our need—one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens.  Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself.

We all need a priest!  Jesus is our High Priest.

Thanksgiving or Thanksreceiving?

Philippians 1:3 – I thank my God every time I remember you.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!  Wanted to share a little thanksgiving humor today from another blog titled “Turning Thankgiving into Thanksreceiving” by Paul Johnson.  It is a tongue-in-cheek (I hope) look at people that do their best to impress at the Thanksgiving feast.  He suggests hosting the meal because “Thanksgiving is the perfect opportunity for you to leave subtle clues around your house about being an impressive person.”

He suggests:  “Making your medicine cabinet as impressive as possible.”  “…removing the embarrassing products, why not replace them with all your trophies, college transcripts showing your outstanding GPA, and a solved Sunday New York Times crossword puzzle?”

He also suggests leaving “complex scientific notes lying around.”

He also says to :  “Hide tools around the house so people will think of you as handy and masculine.” “Why not leave a drill under a couch cushion?  When a guest sits down he’ll immediately jump back up to pull the drill out from under him.  “I was wondering where I left that drill,” I nonchalantly tell him.  “I totally forgot it was under the cushion when I finished building the couch.”

He also suggests leaving an open datebook in the bathroom that looks like this: 

Check out the entire hilarious blog:  http://thegoodgreatsby.com/2011/11/23/turning-thanksgiving-into-thanksreceiving/?blogsub=confirmed#blog_subscription-5

As I read this I can think of some gifts we can give the guests at our feasts today:  the benefit of the doubt, their point, their moment in the spotlight, our forgiveness, our attention… our love.

Be a Thanksgiver today!

Ain’t Nobody Help Nobody in This City

James 2:14-18

Stuart Brisco tells the story of the extraordinary kindness of a stranger toward him and his wife when he first      moved to America from Great Britain:  “I was speaking in Chicago at one of the big hotels in the Loop. Jill and I had never driven to Chicago before. It was pouring rain. I knew my gas was getting a little low, but I knew there would be lots of filling stations in Chicago. I was wrong. I ran out of gas in a thunderstorm—in the fast lane—in rush hour.

We were totally new to this country, and I had no idea what to do. I got out, and immediately my suit was drenched. To their credit, the people of Chicago did not ignore me. Everyone wound down their window and told me exactly what they thought about me, even though they didn’t know who I was. A beat-up old car came along, and the window went down. I didn’t bother listening anymore, so I had no idea what the man said. I stood there quite a long time hoping something would happen. Nothing happened except for the verbal abuse. Then, to my amazement, I saw this same beat-up old car coming around again. Without a word the driver pulled in behind me, jumped out, lifted the trunk, and got out a gallon can of gas. He went to my gas tank, poured it in, and still didn’t say a word. He put the cap back on, and turned to walk away. I said, “Hold it! What’s going on?”

“No speak English! No speak English,” was his answer.

I found he did speak a little English, and I discovered what had happened. He had seen my plight and gone off the freeway to a filling station, where he bought a gallon of gas. He got back on the freeway going the other way, got off, got on again, and worked his way around to us. He didn’t even want me to pay for the gas. I discovered he had just arrived from Puerto Rico. He had been in Chicago a week, and this is what he said: “Ain’t nobody helps nobody in this city.” (Stuart Briscoe from His Sermon “What about Shaky Marriages?”)

As Christians we would never shower a person in need with expletives!  James says we are more likely to shower them in “Christian Speak.”   We say to someone without clothes and daily food:  “Go, I wish you well: keep warm and well fed.”   Our words might be more pleasant on the ear, but the net result of both approaches is nothing.   James says faith without works is nothing.  “Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do.”

Want to demonstrate your faith to an unbelieving world?   Then be prepared to help a few stranded motorists on the highway of life.   As Matthew Henry once said:  “Wherever the Providence of God casts us, we should desire and endeavor to be useful; and, when we cannot do the good we would, we must be ready to do the good we can.”