Hebrews 4:14-16, 5:7-9 (NRSVCE)
Since, then, we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin. 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.
In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered; and having been made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him,
It’s Good Friday, the day when we remember the crucifixion of our Lord. The day when the Son was lifted up on the cross, and in obedience to the Father died for our sins. The true humanity of Christ is more evident in that event than anywhere else in Scripture. It’s fitting, then, that we have this reading from the letter to the Hebrews which focuses on the humanity of Christ, and the implications that has for our own salvation.
Jesus is the high priest, who stands before us showing the path to salvation. But he is not like the other high priests, who are raised so high above the common man so as to be completely disconnected from him. High priests are too far removed—they don’t understand the needs of the people. They would enter into the Holy of Holies once a year, behind the veil and into the presence of the Ark. Jesus is unique. He is just like us, in every way except sin. He shares in the struggles of man, he was tempted, he felt pain, he felt heartache, he felt strife. And more than that, Jesus did not pass behind the veil into the presence of the Ark, but rather he passed through the heavens into the very presence of the Father directly! There is no other high priest like him! Through his obedience to the Father, he was able to overcome that human weakness which he shares with us, and he was made perfect and thus dwells with the Father. Where Adam had failed, Jesus succeeds. Thus, he has become the eternal High Priest and “he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.”
The high priests can offer no true help to the common man. They are ignorant of the struggles of normal men. But Jesus is able to offer a helping hand. Jesus knows precisely what we need. The fact that he can sympathize with our condition and our situation means we can approach him in confidence. We can know that Jesus can help. We know that in Jesus we will receive the mercy and grace that we need. Not only is Jesus the model for human obedience to the divine will, the paradigm which we must imitate, but he is also the divine hand which reaches forth and carries us along. The dual natures of Christ are quite important here. He is living proof that man can be saved, man can be made perfect (that is, made complete by fully becoming what we were created to be, and dwelling with Christ in the presence of the Father), and he has opened up the path to salvation for all men. He is the Way.
That is why the cross is the center point of the entire Christian faith. It is on the cross that our salvation is made possible. And so today, on this Good Friday, we remember the day that Jesus died. We remember the day he said “It is finished.”