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Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!

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Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Learning Obedience - March 22, 2015 - Fifth Sunday in Lent - Text: Hebrews 5:1-10


The word “obey” is not necessarily a popular word in our world today. To some it gives a negative connotation of being inferior or under someone else, or to be in someone else’s control. Even my dictionary says that part of being obedient is to submit to another’s control. Here in America we have come to believe that we are self-made people, that we make our own decisions and that we are under no one’s control. This lack of control, lack of obedience is one reason for chaos and anarchy in our society today. The problem is that we have come to misunderstand that we are not free from control, it is just the controller, so to speak, who has changed. Paul would describe it this way, we are no longer under the control of our loving Lord, rather we are under the control of sin. We are obedient, whether we want to be or not, it is just where does our obedience lay? In our Epistle lesson we read of Jesus’ obedience and where that lead.
 
The writer to the Hebrews first lays out the Office of the High Priest. We begin at verse one, “1For every high priest chosen from among men is appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. 2He can deal gently with the ignorant and wayward, since he himself is beset with weakness. 3Because of this he is obligated to offer sacrifice for his own sins just as he does for those of the people. 4And no one takes this honor for himself, but only when called by God, just as Aaron was. 5So also Christ did not exalt himself to be made a high priest, but was appointed by him who said to him, ‘You are my Son, today I have begotten you’; 6as he says also in another place, ‘You are a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek’” (v. 1-6).
 
The high priest who would offer sacrifices was the one who was elected from his brethren. He did not elect or appoint himself.  Every year on the day of atonement the chosen Priest would enter the most Holy place to offer sacrifices, first for his own sins and then for the sins of the people.
 
Not only was this high priest elected from his brethren, he was also called and appointed by God. Thus, we see two parts to the election to the office of the high priest, that is that one is elected from his people and one is chosen by God. This election reflects the calling processes of our church body in calling a man to be a pastor in any given congregation, that is that a man does not elect himself or call himself to be a pastor, but he is chosen by a congregation and this choosing is as directed by God. To put it more succinctly, God calls the man through the congregation to be the pastor in that congregation.
 
The writer to the Hebrews now moves to speaking about our Great High Priest, even Jesus Himself. Our text continues with verse seven, “7In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence” (v. 7). The first image that comes to mind is the image of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. As we read through each of the four gospels we continually find Jesus in prayer, but the most vivid image of Jesus in prayer is when He was in the Garden praying, even pleading, that there might be some other way to save the world. Jesus was a human being. He had the human emotion of humiliation and of not wanting to be crucified. But while praying in the Garden, as He always did, He prayed for the will of the Father. Jesus did not try to get out of doing the Father’s will, rather He prayed so the He might be sure of the Father’s will and being sure of His Fathers will He proceeded with confidence to lay down His life for the world.
 
God the Father answered Jesus’ prayer, not by taking the crucifixion from Him, but by giving Him the strength to go through His suffering and death and ultimately by raising Him from the dead. God the Father answered Jesus’ prayer in that through Jesus’ suffering, death and resurrection He saved all people from their sins. He saved us, you and me from our sins.
 
Moving on and picking up at verse eight we read about true obedience, “8Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. 9And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him, 10being designated by God a high priest after the order of Melchizedek” (v. 8-10). Jesus was obedient. He was a perfect child.  He was a perfect teenager. He was a perfect adult. He was perfect and obedient in all things. He did what Adam and Eve were unable to do. He did what the nation of Israel was unable to do. He did what we are unable to do. He was perfectly obedient and ultimately He was perfectly obedient in our place, for us, to the point of death.
 
His perfect obedience became the source of our eternal salvation. By faith in Jesus, His perfect obedience has become our perfect obedience. By faith in Jesus, His death has become our death and ultimately His resurrection will become our resurrection. Even in our Gospel Lesson Jesus refers to His obedience unto death, meaning that this was the fulfillment of the Father’s plan for the salvation of the world and through it He would be glorified.
 
The words of our text offer to us Jesus as an example of a high priest and specifically Jesus is called our High Priest. One of the jobs of a high priest was to pray for the people. Jesus as High Priest prayed for the people. Again, going back to the four gospels we have account after account showing Jesus in prayer, praying for the people.
 
As our high priest Jesus prays for us. Jesus stands before God the Father, our eternal judge, and prays for us. As we pray to the Father in Jesus’ name, Jesus confesses us before the Father and pleads for us along with our plea.
 
Another job of the high priest was to offer sacrifices for the people. The people would bring a spotless lamb which the priest would sacrifice for the sins of the people. The problem with this sacrifice was that it had to be repeated over and over again, because the people continued to sin. The reason for these sacrifices was to show that blood had to be shed. The price for sin is death. The blood of an innocent lamb was shed for the forgiveness of sins of the guilty person. Being that people are sinful and do not stop sinning, sacrifices had to continually be made.
 
But, Jesus was a different High Priest. As our High Priest Jesus offered Himself, a sinless person, as a sacrifice for us. His sacrifice was the perfect sacrifice. His sacrifice accomplished for all people of all time and all places what the other sacrifices only pointed to, this ultimate sacrifice. Jesus’ sacrifice of Himself on the cross made all other sacrifices obsolete. No longer do we or anyone else need to make any kind of sacrifice to remind us of the price of sin. Jesus’ obedient suffering, death, and resurrection accomplished the forgiveness of all people of all time and all places, once and for all. Thanks be to God.
 
What does this mean? First, we must remember that in these historic accounts from the Bible as we learn about Jesus there is no moral to the story. I get quite concerned when I hear people talking about the moral of the story, especially when the reference is a Biblical parable or narrative account. The moral of the story is good for fables and the like, but with God’s Word there is no moral to the story, there is only law and gospel. So, first we must remember that the main message from God’s Words always is what God has done for us, and in today’s lesson, specifically, what God has done for us in and through Christ Jesus. Remembering what God has done for us then we move to seeing Jesus’ life as an example of how we are to live our lives. Right from the start then we will realize that Jesus was perfect and we are not, so any attempt to live as Jesus is really an attempt at futility on our part. But thanks be to God that He has sent us His Holy Spirit, so that with the Holy Spirit working in and through us we can accomplish great things. With the Holy Spirit working in and through us we can live our lives following Jesus’ example, but of course it is not we who are doing these great things, but God working through us, thus we say as always, to God alone be the glory.
 
Because of Jesus’ suffering, death and resurrection, because we see Him in prayer, we learn that we too need to pray and that we can go to Him in prayer because He has experienced all the problems we are dealing with and even more. We can pray to Him because He understands all our trials and tribulations because He has already experienced the same ones and has overcome. We know that, because He has overcome, He will help us to overcome and win out in the end.
 
From Jesus we learn persistence in prayer, again with the help of the Holy Spirit. We know that God always answers prayer, even though sometimes His answer is no. We pray in all sincerity, with strength of belief and in persistence but we remember that these are not the reasons God answers our prayers. God answers our prayers for Jesus’ sake. That is why we always end our prayers in Jesus’ name, remembering that He too is pleading our case before our Father in heaven.
 
From Jesus we learn what true submission and obedience really is.  True submission and true obedience is to know that God answers prayer according to our need and according to His good and gracious will, according to what He knows we need. Perhaps that is reason enough that we should end our prayers, not only praying that God’s will be done, but also that we be able to accept whatever is God’s will.
 
From Jesus we learn obedience, but we realize that it is not our obedience that saves us, rather it is Jesus’ obedience that saved us. With the help of the Holy Spirit we too can be obedient as a response to what Jesus has done for us.
 
No matter how hard we try we can never be free from some kind of control. There is something or someone to which we will always be obedient. We can either remain in our sin and remain under that control, being obedient to sin, or we can, with the help of the Holy Spirit become obedient to our Lord. Obedience to the Lord entails remaining faithful, that is living our lives to His glory, despite what negatives that may have for our lives, including our own obedience to death. Jesus said it this way, “The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” Love for our own life goes back to the garden of Eden and the desire to be our own gods. Hating our own life goes back to Jesus and His death on the cross because of our sins; we hate what our lives of sin have done for Jesus. Because of His great love for us, Jesus was obedient, for us, in our place, obedient even to the point of death. Now, remembering that in pointing to Jesus we are reminded that we love only because He first loves us, and we are obedient only as He has first been completely obedient giving His life for ours, knowing that we are saved by God’s grace, not by our works, yet saved to the good works which God has initiated beforehand, my prayer is that you will not resist the working of the Holy Spirit so that He might have control of your life and work such obedience in you. God grant it for Jesus’ sake. And to Him be the glory. Amen.

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