First Presbyterian Church of Blackwood
21 E. Church Street
Blackwood, NJ 08012
Sermon Notes (Sunday, February 26, 2023)
Rev. Dr. Mouris A. Yousef, Pastor
“Mercy and Grace in Time of Need!”
Psalm 73:21-28; Hebrews 4:14-16
My first car was a small used 1980 FIAT called FIAT 131. It had some issues including coolant leak, no AC, constant puffing out black smoke. It wasn’t the best car, but it worked. It got me from point A to point B. But if you would have offered me a Corvette or a Tesla X Plaid, the highest rated car ever in consumer reports, I would have taken it.
The Old Testament priests, like my FIAT, got the job done, but now we’ve got Jesus, a more superior High Priest. Why would you go back to your FIAT when you can have a Corvette or a Tesla X Plaid? There is something far superior. To the original audience of Hebrews this was very meaningful! Why do you go back to the Old Testament system of priests and rituals if you’ve a superior High Priest?
As we continue our reflections in the letter to the Hebrews, we get this morning to this wonderful passage in Hebrews 4:14-16. I think it’s a great topic for this First Sunday in Lent. So far, we have seen Jesus greater than the prophets, superior to Moses, and the giver of a better rest. Today we get to see Jesus as a greater, more understanding, more helpful, better intercessor, greater advocate, and more compassionate high priest. Hebrews chapters 4-7 highlight the supremacy of Christ’s priesthood over the Old Testament priesthood.
We might have difficulty today relating to the concept of a high priest, but to the Jews, it was an important office. Moses’ brother, Aaron, was the first high priest. He was the mediator between the people and God. He and his fellow priests offered the sacrifices on behalf of the people. They had to follow a detailed procedure spelled out by God. Any variance or innovation meant instant death, as Aaron’s two sons, Nadab and Abihu discovered when they offered “strange fire” on the altar in Leviticus 10:1-3.
Once a year, on the Day of Atonement, the high priest alone would go into the Holy of Holies to make atonement for all the sins of the nation. If he entered there improperly or at any other time, he would die according to Leviticus 16. He would sprinkle the blood on the mercy seat in the very presence of God. When he came out alive, the people heaved a sigh of relief, because it meant that God had accepted the sacrifice for their sins for another year.
Jesus is not just another high priest in the line of Aaron. Rather than entering the Holy of Holies in the temple, He has passed through the heavens – in His ascension – into the very presence of God. The point here is that Jesus, our great high priest, is unlike any merely human high priest. He has entered the very presence of God. Not only that but He also sits at the right hand of God. No earthly priest would dare to sit in the Holy of Holies! They always stood. But Jesus sits at the right hand of God’s throne because once for all He made atonement for our sins. The job is done. Mission is completed. What you and I today need to do is twofold. The author says these words in Hebrews 4:16, “Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
Because our great High Priest watches over us, prays for us, holds us fast, bears us on His loving heart, therefore, we come boldly to the throne of grace. It is only in the person of Jesus Christ that we draw near to God the Father. As we approach the throne of grace with boldness, the author says, we first, receive mercy, and second, find grace.
First: We Receive Mercy
The word “mercy” stresses our weakness. Because Jesus, our High Priest, was tempted yet never surrendered to sin, He is filled with compassion, and He is always ready to empathize and treat us with mercy. Because He knows us intimately, we can therefore come to Him expecting full, tender, deep sympathy and compassion. He is every ready to comfort, forgive and give us His divine strength. He comes in mercy to restore to us fellowship with God. Thank God He does not give us what we deserve because we each deserve eternal condemnation. Yet, as Paul wrote in 1 Timothy 1:16, “I found mercy.”
Second: We Find Grace
Like the apostle Paul, Jesus says to us in 2 Corinthians 12:9, “My grace is sufficient for you.” Our journey with the Lord is a journey marked by grace. Grace brings us to the saving knowledge of our Lord; it carries us through all the ups and downs of life; and that same grace will bring us home safe to be with the Lord forever.
In his wonderful hymn, Amazing Grace, Isaac Newton, the English clergyman and poet wrote in 1772, “Through many dangers, toils, and snares … I have already come. This grace that brought me safe thus far … And grace will lead me home.” From beginning to end, we are in need of God’s saving and sustaining grace. There is grace available to us today to help us in times of need. Someone said, "Saved by grace" will be our theme throughout eternity.
Friends, there is hope for us today because we have full access to the throne of grace and full assurance and confidence that we are always accepted before God in the person of our Great High Priest who is His Son. Therefore, the writer of Hebrews admonishes us to constantly come to the throne of grace. Let it become a habit to come to Him. Let it become a habit pouring out our hearts before Him. His mercy endures forever, and His grace is all-sufficient and is ever available. To Him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever! Amen!
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