Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Hebrews 5-8: Do you have any idea what it is like to be me?

From Garden to City reading:  Hebrews 5-8

I scanned FB this morning, and I came across a friend's post.  She asked, "Do you have any idea what it is like to be me?"  I thought about typing "no" and leaving it at that, but that seemed abrupt and a little sarcastic, so I came up with some wise statement about how we would all be more compassionate if we could see the world through someone else's eyes sometimes.  

The thing is, I don't know what it's like to be her.  I don't even know what she's talking about or why she posted this statement.  She could be responding to a misunderstanding she had with a friend.  Or her parents.  Or her work.  Or some bad news she got yesterday.  

I don't know what it's like to be her.  And she doesn't know what it's like to be me.    

When my oldest started using drugs seven years ago, I needed prayer, encouragement, and understanding.  The women most helpful to me were ones who had walked through similar situations.  They understood my pain and my disappointment.  They knew how to pray because they had prayed these prayers.  

I think I was most grateful for Teresa, my pastor's wife.  She didn't know what it was like to be me, but she made it "safe" to be me because she did know what it was like to watch a child walk away from God.  She didn't just me or make empty promises.  She could share what God given her--Scripture and pieces of wisdom.  And most important, she shared her own pain and disappointments.  

I had another dear friend whose children were all serving God.  As far as I know, none of her children have ever questioned their faith, and they've never even thought about drugs.  I didn't share much with her.  I just had the feeling she wouldn't understand.  She had no idea what it felt like to be me.  

So when we read that Jesus is a high priest who understands our temptations and weaknesses (4:15-16), we know that he is "able to deal gently" with us as he offers mercy and grace in our times of need. (4:16-5:2).  He knows what it's like to suffer because he has suffered.  He knows what it's like to be misunderstood and rejected because he has been misunderstood and rejected.  He knows what it's like to be tempted--he knows how hard it is.  He resisted temptation, but only by the power of God.  In fact, he dealt with all of this by the power of God, and he freely shares the comfort and the wisdom God has given him.   

We tend to think we don't need a priest.  That's because we hear the word priest, and we think of a guy dressed in black, with a white collar.  Or we think of him standing in robes, holding up the communion elements.  We attach pictures to words, and sometimes the pictures are cultural and don't really represent the intended meaning of the passage.  

For the Jews, only the priest could offer blood sacrifices and only the priest could approach God directly.  Essentially, the priest served as a bridge, connecting the people to God.  We think we don't need a bridge because of Christ's sacrifice on the cross.  

The thing is, Jesus is that bridge.  Jesus is the sacrifice. Without Jesus, there is no forgiveness of sins.  In ancient times, only the priest could enter the Holy of Holies,entering the "inner sanctuary behind the curtain" (6:19-20), and then only once a year. We can approach God directly because Jesus has gone before us and has entered on our behalf.  

Jesus is our priest.  
He knows what it's like to be me. 
And he knows what it's like to be you.  

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