ST. STEPHEN’S EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN CHURCH
Striving to speak God’s saving truth in love. Ephesians 4:15
St. Stephen’s Evangelical Lutheran Church and School | Beaver Dam, WI | 920.885.3309
1st Sunday in Lent
3/4/22 & 3/6/22
St. Stephen’s Lutheran Church—Beaver Dam, WI
Nobody gets me. The lament goes up as a person believes no one understands what they are going through. Work piles up, but no one understands all the work we put into something. Teenagers might be the most notorious for this thought. They believe no one understands them or gets them. All the stress from homework, a job, sports, friends, and whatever else it might be makes them feel alone. No one understands why I cheer for the Minnesota Vikings while living in Packer land. We just want someone to understand, to empathize, with us and our predicament. Once we find someone who understands how we are feeling, or has gone through similar circumstances, an instant connection is formed.
Jesus understands. We might not always remember that fact. We struggle with feelings of loneliness and despair. We think we need to fight off all things trying to push us away from God with our own power. We lament once more that no one understands or gets us.
The Old Testament high priest served a very important role. They were the go between. They went between God and the people and the people to God. The high priest would be in charge of all the sacrifices brought to the temple by the Israelites. The highlight for the priest would come once a year. They would enter into the Holy of Holies in the temple. They carried a bowl of blood. In the Holy of Holies, the priest would sprinkle the blood all over the Ark of the Covenant.
Every year this happened. It symbolized how blood was needed to cover over sins. Peace with God could only be accomplished through death and payment. Yet, the high priest could not pay for a single sin. They themselves were sinners as they entered into that holy room. Their actions pointed ahead to a greater high priest.
God’s Word lays bare our hearts. In the verses prior to our lesson the author says,
“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any double-edged sword. It penetrates even to the point of dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow, even being able to judge the ideas and thoughts of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from him, but everything is uncovered and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we will give an account” (Hebrews 4:12-13).
What does the Lord see as he peers into our hearts? Remember nothing can escape him. He sees it all. He sees the lies. Our heart reeks of lust and jealousy. Our hands tell the story of pain and hurt inflicted by us. Our actions show selfishness rather than thankfulness in how we live and use God’s blessings. We cannot escape all of these things. We sin. We need the one to atone for all our sins.
Our high priest enters into the picture. He differs from all the high priests who came before him. He does not enter into the Holy of Holies carrying a bowl of blood to sprinkle. He enters into heaven. He presents himself as the ultimate sacrifice for sins. This high priest is our Lord and Savior.
He comes with his own blood shed for us upon the cross. With that sacrifice he paid for all sins of all time. All those sins causing great offense have been wiped away. Our account now reads “Not Guilty”. Our great high priest understood our condition. He knew our guilt. He served as our great high priest sacrificing himself in our place.
This leads us to hold onto our confession. We do not have a high priest who simply goes through the motions only to do them time and time again. We do not have a high priest entering a manmade temple, but a substitute enters into the eternal dwelling of God. He comes not with his own sins before him, but his perfection counts towards our account.
We do not need to doubt a single thing our high priest says or does. Jesus understands. He understands our need for the great high priest to suffer and die for our sins. Since he has done all this, he will be with us in our times of weakness.
We live with temptations all around. At times we feel like everywhere we turn a temptation awaits us trying to pull us away from God and his love. Television commercials target our greed. They push all the material things our way saying we need all of them to be happy. Television shows and movies depict views of marriage and love that go contrary to God’s Word. News from around the world leaves us speechless wondering if God can even make sense of what is happening.
Temptations will also hit close to home. Satan tempts us to lie, cheat, speak hurtful words against others. When all of those temptations come our way, we might think no one understands. We also think God cannot understand what it is like. We picture God sitting in heaven. He does not get it. He does not understand what it is like being tempted.
Jesus understands. Our high priest knows exactly what it is like facing temptations. In our gospel lesson we heard Jesus face three temptations from Satan. Satan wanted him to turn stones into bread, jump from the highest point of the temple, and bow down and worship him. I am sure Satan tried many more times to tempt Jesus throughout his earthly life.
Where we fail in standing strong, Jesus prevailed. As each temptation came, Jesus fights it off with God’s Word. “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are, yet was without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). Jesus knows the struggles we face. According to his human nature he lived under all the very same commandments we do. According to his divine nature he kept all those commands perfectly for us.
Thank God he did keep those commands for us. Just imagine if Jesus did fall into temptation. Just imagine if Jesus turned those stones to bread just to satisfy his hunger. What would be the big deal of jumping from the temple? He wouldn’t get hurt. It would not justify the action just to prove Satan wrong. Jesus would sin. He would go against God’s commands.
If he did that, if Satan would win at convincing Jesus to fall into sin, everything would come crumbling down. Jesus would no longer be perfect. His life would count for nothing for us. Jesus needed to remain perfect. He could not sin, so that he could be the perfect sacrifice for our sins.
We might not always understand the importance of this one fact. We often stress Jesus died for me, and that is important. He did die for us so that we might be free from Satan’s rule. However, Jesus also lived for us. His entire life, his entire obedience to the commands of God, was done for us.
God demanded obedience to all his commands in order to get into heaven. We could not do that. Jesus understands. He lived a perfect life for us. His life counts for us. Since he was perfect, he could offer his life on the cross for the sacrifice of all sins. Jesus had to be without sin for us.
Jesus understands what it is like to go through temptation. Therefore, we come to come in our times of weakness. We know that we cannot battle the devil all by ourselves. We need help. If we face temptations relying on our own power we will be defeated. God has mercy for us. God’s grace will get us through.
“So let us approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). Where will we turn in our time of need when temptations come? We turn to God. We turn to his power. Jesus understands and knows what we need. In our weaknesses Christ will lift us up.
Jesus will be with us. He will grant us strength in our times of weakness. We turn to him, who also has been tempted in every way. We turn to him who faced the temptations of the devil just like us. However, he remained sinless. We turn to him who went to the cross to suffer and die for us, so Satan would be defeated. We will receive grace and mercy from him to overcome all our temptations.
Jesus understands exactly what we are going through. He lived it. He knows it. He went through heaven presenting himself as the all atoning sacrifice for sins in our place. He knows what we are going through. He will give us the strength to overcome all things. Jesus understands. Amen.