Our Sympathetic High Priest


Our Sympathetic High Priest

July 19th, 1981 @ 8:15 AM

Hebrews 2:17-18

Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted.
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Dr. W. A. Criswell

Hebrews 2:17, 18

7-19-81    8:15 a.m.


Welcome, those who are listening to this hour on the radio.  This is the First Baptist Church in Dallas.  This is the pastor bringing the morning message entitled Our Sympathetic High Priest.  This is the last and the concluding sermon in the long doctrinal series on Christology, the doctrine of Christ.  Next Sunday morning we begin the series on pneumatology.  The Greek word for breath, for spirit is pneuma.  A pneumatic tire: the word comes from that; the Spirit, hagios pneuma.  We will begin the series on the Holy Spirit, and I pray it will be one of the most instructive and enlightening and meaningful of all the sections in the long study on the “Great Doctrines of the Bible.”

Now today the concluding message on Christology, the doctrine of Christ, our sympathetic High Priest; if you will turn in the Book of Hebrews to chapter 2 and to chapter 4 and leave the Book open there, you can follow the message easily this morning.  Hebrews chapter 2, the last two verses, verses 17 and 18:

Wherefore in all things it behooved Him to be made like unto His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people.

For in that He Himself hath suffered being tried, perizō, tried, He is able to succor them that are tried.

[Hebrews 2:17-18]

Now the last two verses of chapter 4:

For we have not a High Priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points—there’s that word again—tried like as we are, though He without sin.

Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.

[Hebrews 4:15-16]

The word need—“Come boldly…that we may…find grace to help in time of need” [Hebrews 4:16].

Our planet on which we ride, on which we live, and the earth, the world in which we dwell, is one of sin, and death, and fear, and estrangement, and guilt, and judgment!  All of us sense it.  The earth could never be more accurately described than as being one vast, illimitable cemetery.  And our lives and lot being cast on a planet like that and in a world like that, we have illimitable needs.  We need a Shepherd who can guide us from earth to heaven.  We are pilgrims and wanderers in this world.  This is not our home.

I sometimes stand there and look at the beautiful home the church bought for us thirty-seven years ago.  They paid fifteen thousand five hundred dollars for it, and it has been made beautiful.  It’s one of the loveliest homes in the city of Dallas.  And as I think of it, and how much effort and time has been poured into it, in my study there, a wing that the church built for me so I could have a place of quiet and retreat, and pray and study—I look at that beautiful home; just for a while, and that’s all.  We are strangers and pilgrims in the world [Hebrews 11:13], and we need a Shepherd to guide us and to show us the way from this world to the world that is to come.  Our need: we need a Comforter and an Encourager in our sorrows and disappointments [John 16:7-15].

A woman came to the church and asked an unusual question. “Is there anyone here with a broken heart who can talk to me?”  We need someone to meet us in the hospital ward.  We need someone to stand by us before a new freshly dug grave.  We need someone who can strengthen us in our hour of weakness and despair.  We need Someone who can bring God down to us, who can tell us and show us and interpret for us God.

The irrepressible soul-longing and hunger after God has built temples in every land, erected altars on every soil, and has consecrated priests in every race and tribe of mankind.  We need Someone who can show us God.  As long as there has been a human race on this planet, just that long has there been that ceaseless, irrepressible longing after God.  Whether it be along the rivers of antiquity, or in the primeval forests of the long ago, or in the vast deserts of nomadic tribes, the heart has reached upward.  Does Somebody know God?  And to tell us to study nature or the stars is not enough.  As they would say, to rise from nature up to nature’s God, but the ascent is too steep for our feeble climb.  We need Someone to come from God down to us.  We need an Ambassador from heaven, a Mediator between the Lord God and us [1 Timothy 2:5].

We need Someone to reconcile us to the Lord God [Romans 5:10], who can forgive our sins [1 John 1:7, 9].  The fact of sin is the harshest fact of human life.  The destruction of soul, and spirit, and homes, nations, the world, the tearing of us apart, the fact of sin is the darkest fact of human life.  Who can deal with it?  Who can forgive us? [Colossians 1:14]  Who can change us?  Who can make a way for us into heaven? [Hebrews 10:19-20]  Who can open the gates of glory? [John 14:6]. Who can wash the stain of sin out of our souls? [1 John 1:7].  Who can present us to God that we might live in His presence? [Jude 1:24].  Who can make reconciliation between us and a holy and righteous God? [2 Corinthians 5:19]. We need Somebody.

The author of this Book of Hebrews is writing to us that that Somebody we need is none other than our living Lord, Jesus the Christ [Hebrews 4:15-16].  He answers all of our human need.  He interprets for us God.  He is God who came down from heaven to show us what God is like [John 14:9].  Would you like to see God?  Look at Jesus.  Would you like to know what God is like?  Look at Jesus.  Would you like to sit at the feet of God?  Sit at the feet of Jesus.  Would you like to learn about God?  Learn about Jesus [Matthew 11:29].  Would you like to love God?  Love Jesus.  Follow God?  Follow Jesus.  “He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father” [John 14:9], so He said.

All that God is, and all that I can ever learn about God, I learn in Jesus Christ.  I may not be able to pierce the mystery of the divinity, the deity of the God-Man.  I may not be able to probe into the unfathomable mystery of the incarnation, but I can receive the cup brimming over with unmerited, undeserved love and grace in Jesus Christ.  He answers all of our need.  He is the great Mediator between us and God [1 Timothy 2:5], the great Reconciler between our souls and the righteous Lord in heaven [Hebrews 7:25].  He is the One who is able to forgive our sins [Colossians 1:14].  He can.

It’s a remarkable thing how no one is able to save us but God.  An angel, a spirit, even the noblest and most heroic of men cannot save us.  We’re not saved by the grandeur or the heroics of a noble life.  Someone must assume the enormous weight of guilt of our humanity and bear it in sacrifice and expiation in the presence of the holiness of God.  And that Somebody is Jesus alone, no one else [Isaiah 53:5].

You can name the greatest among men; Alexander the Great, Caesar the Great, Charles the Great, Napoleon the Great.  They are as much in need of reconciliation and forgiveness as we are.  There’s no one that can bear that weight and burden of guilt to forgive us but just One, and that’s the Lord our Christ, and how marvelously, and beautifully, and preciously, and willingly did He do it [Hebrews 10:9].  The entire debt of our sins was borne by Him.  He paid it for us [2 Corinthians 5:21].  Surely One so mighty and so great is far removed from us.  He surely is not one like us.  God the great Redeemer, the Ambassador from heaven, who could touch Him?

My brother, that is the most precious and beautiful of all of the facets of the gospel message of Christ.  He is our Joseph, the Ruler of the land, the Ruler of all creation, but still our Brother [Romans 8:29].  Under the kingly vestments beats a heart of love and sympathy for us.  It’s too good to be true.  He is like us.  He learned about us in the school of suffering.  In all points that we are tried, He was tried [Hebrews 4:15].  He knows all about us and yet loves us.

We sometimes are halfway persuaded that just for a moment, just for a brief period of time, our Lord Jesus was a Man, then the Man perished, and He returned to pure spirit deity.  Not so.  There is not anything concerning which Scripture takes greater pains than to emphasize to us that the recognitions of our Lord are still human.  He said, “Handle Me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, such as you see Me have” [Luke 24:39].  He took honeycomb and broiled fish and ate before them [Luke 24:41-42].  He showed them the scars in His hands, and in His side, and in His feet [Luke 24:40].

The Man who stood in Pilate’s judgment hall [Luke 23:1], and the Man who lay dead in Joseph’s new tomb [John 19:38-42] has not changed in His glorious coronation [1 Timothy 6:15].  The Man Christ Jesus is the same Man who sits on the throne of heaven’s glory [Colossians 3:1].  The King and the Lord and the God of this world is a man.  He’s our Brother, made like unto us [Hebrews 2:17].

May I speak now of the effectiveness of His mediatorial ministry, our great High Priest and Representative who is in heaven?  He is in the Holy of Holies [Hebrews 9:12].  In the eighth chapter and the fourth verse of this Book of Hebrews, it says if He were on earth, He is no priest [Hebrews 8:4].

Isn’t that true?  When our Lord visited the temple, He did not visit the temple as a Levite.  He was of the tribe of Judah.  He did not visit as a member of the family of Aaron.  He was a member of the family of David.  When He visited the temple, He did not preside over the sacrifices, nor did He burn incense.  In this world, He was not a priest.  The sphere of the priesthood of our Lord is in the true sanctuary.  It’s in heaven [Romans 8:34].  He is a priest not after the Aaronic order, but after the order of Melchizedek that abides forever [Hebrews 5:8-10].  And He is there, our Brother, our great High Priest, He is there to be our Encourager, and our Sympathizer, and our Comforter, and our Forgiver.

He represents us in the most abounding and wonderful way.  Moved by sympathy and lovingkindness, He intercedes for us, not as a bone thrown to a dog, but with an abounding, overflowing, loving remembrance and tender kindness.  That’s our Lord in heaven today.

I sometimes think of the tenderness of Jesus, the sympathy of Jesus. “For we have not an High Priest that cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tried as we are, though He without sin.  Wherefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that you might find help in time of need” [Hebrews 4:15-16].  I have often thought that the tenderness of a physician is half of the cure.  I’ve often remembered the hands of my mother, tender and soft, when I was sick as a boy.  The very sympathy and understanding of our great High Priest is in itself an infinite and illimitable encouragement.

Not only that, but He lives that we might live.  Did you ever think through the meaning of that verse in Romans 5:10?  “For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.”  What does that mean, we shall be saved by His life?  Having been reconciled, having been forgiven, having been regenerated, now we shall be saved by His life?  That refers to the life of our Lord in heaven.  It is not just in an isolated historical incident that we had contact with our Savior when we were saved, and then after that we are forgotten, passed by, neglected, cast off.   Our Lord is not a pulseless, lifeless Savior.  He is a living Lord, and He continues to save us.  He continues to wash us.  He continues to cleanse us [1 John 1:7,9].  Our Lord lives in heaven in order that we might live [John 14:19].

Too many of us, far too many of us, have a stained-glass window picture of our Christ, our Lord, and He never steps out of that frame, and He is there to be looked at on a Sunday and then forgotten in the days of the week.  Oh, dear brother and sister, He is alive and every day He lives for us!  He is our living Lord.  He talks to us.  He walks with us.  He strengthens us.  Because He lives, we live also [John 14:19].

And in His life in heaven, He intercedes for us.  “Wherefore,” Hebrews 7:25, “He is able to save to the uttermost them who come to God by Him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for us.”  As He said to Simon Peter, “Simon, Simon, I have prayed for thee” [Luke 22:31-32].  Thus our Lord prays for and intercedes for us.  How is it that we’ll not yet, maybe, fall into hell?  I’m no equal to Satan.  We are not equal to Satan.  “Even Michael the archangel, when disputing with Satan, durst not bring against him a railing accusation, but saith, The Lord rebuke thee” [Jude 9].

How is that we will not yet fall into hell and into damnation?  Because our Lord intercedes for us; He prays for us [Hebrews 7:25].  He sends His angels to defend us and His chariots of fire are around us.  It’s because of Him.  Not because of us.  It’s because of Him that we’re saved, and are going to be saved, and are forever saved [John 10:28-29].  You know, that’s a marvelous preaching, good news announcement, in itself.  It is He who saves us [Hebrews 7:25].  The Christian faith is not a system or an organization.  It’s a Man, the Man Christ Jesus.  It’s not a plan.  It’s not a program.  It is Jesus!  [John 14:6].

Could I expatiate further?  Christianity is not a doctrine of forgiveness; it’s a Man who forgives.  Christianity is not a plan of salvation; it’s a Man, it’s a Somebody who saves.  Christianity is not a doctrine and a preachment of substitution; it is concerning Someone who loved me, and gave Himself for me [Galatians 2:20].  The Christian faith is not a system of ethics or a code of morality; it is Somebody who leads us into a way of righteousness and holiness.  The Christian faith is not a doctrine of hope for immortality in heaven; it is Somebody with whom we have died and been raised again in the likeness of His resurrection, to live with Him forever and ever [Romans 6:3-5].  He lives and He intercedes to save us, to keep us saved, to present us someday in the presence of the great Glory [Jude 24].

Do you ever think—“Wherefore He is able to save to the uttermost them who come unto God by Him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for us” [Hebrew 7:25]—how far is that uttermost?  Uttermost: it is beyond time.  It is beyond the farthest star.  It is beyond creation itself where space fails.  It is beyond extremity.  It is beyond despair.  It is beyond sin.  It is beyond life, “able to save to the uttermost.”

A man said to an old saint who was dying, “What if God now forsakes you?”  And he replied, “Then He would have more to lose than I.  I’d lost my soul, but He would lose His sacred honor and the faithfulness of His promise”; saving us to the uttermost [Hebrews 7:25].  And in our pilgrimage, our great Helper; “We have not a High Priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points perizō, tried like as we are.  Therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” [Hebrews 4:15-16].

That God should stoop down to look upon us and to hear our cries—but He was like that in the days of His flesh.  Thronged on every side by a great mob, pressed on every side [Luke 8:45], He stopped and said, “Who touched Me?” and Simon Peter said, “Lord, they throng Thee and press Thee on every side, and You ask, Who touched Me?”  But the Lord insisted, “But somebody touched Me” [Luke 8:45-46]; and a poor woman with an issue of blood, who had said, “If I could but touch the hem of His garment, I’ll be healed.  I’ll be saved” [Matthew 9:20-21]; sensitive.  It was so with [Bartimeus] when he called to the Lord, and they said, “Hush, the Lord is a great Prophet not to be bothered by blind castaways.”  The Lord stopped and said, “Bring him to Me” [Mark 10:46-50].  Or the thief on the cross who said he deserved to die, and did [Luke 23:40-41],  “Lord, remember me,” and the Lord listened: “Today you will be with Me in Paradise” [Luke 23:43].

Isn’t that a wonderful thing?  Moved not only by the heroics of the great martyrs, but no less moved by the cries of the weak, and the feeble, and the sick, and the despairing, and the destitute, and the poor, and the lowly.  Can you believe it, that the great God who rules over this universe should stoop to listen because somebody is crying, somebody is praying, somebody is calling on the name of the Lord? [Romans 10:9-10].  And “Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” [Romans 10:13].

I went over there to Dr. Hansen as you saw me at the beginning of this service.  And I said, “Dr. Hansen, just out of your heart, can you play that song ‘Kum Ba Yah’?”  The plaintive melody of that song moved my heart first time I ever heard it, but the words were so strange.  “Kum ba yah, dear Lord, Kum ba yah.”  That was so strange to me.  Kum ba yah.  Over there in Africa, when I was preaching through East Africa, I happened to ask a missionary about it.  And he said, “Well, pastor, Kum ba yah was the best way that this African tribe could say the English word, ‘Come by me,’ Kum ba yah.  It was the best way they could pronounce it, so they pronounced it like that.”  It goes like this:

Someone’s praying, Lord, Kum ba yah.

Someone’s praying, Lord, Kum ba yah.

Someone’s praying, Lord, Kum ba yah.

O Lord, Kum ba yah.

Someone’s crying, Lord, Kum ba yah—

Come by me.

Someone’s crying, Lord, Kum ba yah—

Come by me.

Someone’s crying, Lord, Kum ba yah.

O Lord, Kum ba yah.

Someone’s singing, Lord—

sing it with me—

Someone’s singing, Lord, Kum ba yah.

Someone’s singing, Lord, Kum ba yah.

Someone’s singing, Lord, Kum ba yah.

O Lord, Kum ba yah.

That’s Jesus; came down from heaven to show us God, and to open for us the gates of glory, and to be to us a strength and a comfort and a Savior.  Bless His name forever.  Now may we stand?

Our Lord, we could not praise Thee too much.

What a friend we have in Jesus,

All our sins and griefs to bear!

What a privilege to carry

Everything to Him in prayer!

[“What a Friend We Have in Jesus,” Joseph Scriven]

And in this moment when we stand before our great God and Savior, the Man Christ Jesus, to give your heart to Him [Romans 10:9-10], to put your life with us in this family that belongs to Him, make the decision in your heart, and in this moment that we pray and wait and sing, come.  A family, a couple, or just you: “Pastor, we’ve decided today, this moment, and here we come.”  Down that stairwell, and welcome; down one of these aisles, and welcome; do it now.  Make it now.  And thank Thee, Lord, for the precious harvest.  In Thy saving name, amen, while we sing.


Dr. W.
A. Criswell

2:17-18, 4:14-16


I.          Our need(Hebrews

A.  A shepherd for our
souls to show us the way

B.  A comforter for our

C.  Someone who can
interpret God for us, being God to us

1.  The
irrepressible longing of the soul for God

2.  The
study of creation, nature, not enough

D.  Someone who can make
reconciliation, atonement between us and God

II.         Christ is the answer for our need

A.  He is God come down
to us(John 14:9, Matthew 1:23-25)

B.  He
can forgive our sins, make reconciliation(Mark
2:5, 7, 10, Romans 3:23, 6:23, Matthew 11:4-5, 1 Peter 1:18-19)

C.  He
is our brother (Hebrews 2:17, Luke 24:39-43,
Matthew 27:11-26, 57-60, Revelation 20:11)

III.        Christ’s effective ministry in heaven
saves us now and forever

A.  He is our High
Priest(Hebrews 5:6, 10, 6:20, 8:4, Psalm 110:4)

      1.  Moved by our
infirmities(Hebrews 4:15, Isaiah 40:11)

B.  We are saved by His
life(Romans 5:10)

He intercedes to keep us saved (Romans 8:34, 1
John 2:1-2, Hebrews 7:24-25, Jude 9)

1.  Our assurance (Romans 5:10, Revelation 1:18)

The heart of the Christian faith is the Man Christ Jesus(Galatians 2:20, Romans 6:3-5)

D.  He
is a helper for those who are tried(Hebrews 2:18)

1.  In
the days of His flesh (Luke 8:45-47, 23:42-43,
Mark 10:46-52)

That way still(Hebrews 4:15)

3.  He
stops to listen to the pleas and cries of the least of His saints (Romans 10:13)

a. African song,