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Jesus Christ, Our Compassionate High Priest, part 2.

Last time we Jesus' initiation into His earthly ministry and His Temptation.  While is it true He was to be the Lamb of God, it is also true that He was to be our Shepherd.  When we think of a priest we think of a man dressed in highly decorative clothing - perhaps braided with gold and precious stones.  When Jesus wanted to depict His priestly ministry, He used an entirely different picture - that of a shepherd.  Here are a few Messianic verses that point to this aspect of His Priestly ministry:

To the chief Musician upon Shoshannim-Eduth, A Psalm of Asaph.
Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, thou that leadest Joseph like a flock; thou that dwellest between the cherubims, shine forth.
[2] Before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh stir up thy strength, and come and save us. [3] Turn us again, O God, and cause thy face to shine; and we shall be saved.   Psalm 80:1-3, KJV

He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.   Isaiah 40:11. NIV.

" 'For this is what the Sovereign LORD says: I myself will search for my sheep and look after them. [12] As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on a day of clouds and darkness. [13] I will bring them out from the nations and gather them from the countries, and I will bring them into their own land. I will pasture them on the mountains of Israel, in the ravines and in all the settlements in the land. [14] I will tend them in a good pasture, and the mountain heights of Israel will be their grazing land. There they will lie down in good grazing land, and there they will feed in a rich pasture on the mountains of Israel. [15] I myself will tend my sheep and have them lie down, declares the Sovereign LORD. [16] I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak, but the sleek and the strong I will destroy. I will shepherd the flock with justice.   Ezekiel 34:11-16, NIV.

The Jews had distorted the Messiah's purpose for coming into that of being political emancipator.  John introduced Jesus as the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.  Jesus had yet another purpose:

"I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. [12] The hired hand is not the shepherd who owns the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. [13] The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. [14] "I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me--   John 10:11-14.

So, then, salvation is more than being saved from hell.  Salvation is our proper relationship with our Savior.  A very important picture He gives of His relationship with us is that of a shepherd.  This shepherding points to Jesus' Priestly ministry toward us as His sheep. 

He Restores us.

Please refer to Psalm 80:3: "...Turn us again, O God, and cause thy face to shine; and we shall be saved. ..."  The heart of the redemptive plan of God was that God viewed us as a redeemable people.  He looked down at us not as wild goats but as lost sheep.  This is the reason for Jesus' whole earthly presence - the reason for His incarnation - that He might be the Lamb, the Sacrifice that would atone for our sins - yes - but also that He might seek us out and restore us - turn us back. From a hell bound eternity and a hell-on-earth existence in the here and now.

jericho.gif (20986 bytes) And Jesus entered and passed through Jericho. [2] And, behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus, which was the chief among the publicans, and he was rich. [3] And he sought to see Jesus who he was; and could not for the press, because he was little of stature. [4] And he ran before, and climbed up into a sycomore tree to see him: for he was to pass that way. [5] And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up, and saw him, and said unto him, Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down; for to day I must abide at thy house. [6] And he made haste, and came down, and received him joyfully.   Luke 19:1-6 Zacchaeus was a tax collector.  The Jews considered tax collectors collaborators with the Romans.  During World War 2.   The French used this term for those who allied themselves with the Germans.   Collaborators were hated by the loyal French and sometimes treated very cruelly.   One of the punishments for female French collaborators was to have their hair removed from their heads - completely shaved off as a sign of being ostracized.   Zacchaeus was such a man.  The fact that he was rich confirmed that he participated in a common practice of the publicans - that of extortion.  Tax collectors were allowed to inflate whatever tax was being levied at the time for their own gain.

Jesus was making His final journey to Jerusalem.  Time was running out for He was about to become the Sacrifice for the sins of the word.  In one final evangelizing trip, He headed south, passing through Perea where He healed many including lepers - a ceremonially unclean act - no matter,  for Jesus was touching the lives of many in His final journey to the cross.  As He entered Jericho., a tax collector named Zacchaeus had a yearning - whether out of mere curiosity or a heart-desire to meet the Master - he wanted to see Jesus.  A crowd was surrounding Jesus making it impossible for Zacchaeus to see Him.  So he climbed a tree for a better vantage point.  There may have been another reason for Zacchaeus' climbing the tree - he was well known and hated by the townspeople.  This offered not only a better way to view the Master but also isolated him from the hateful crowd.  As Jesus was passing by, He stopped, looking up the tree, He spoke to Zacchaeus:  "Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down; for to day I must abide at thy house..."  Could it be that the Rabbi - the Master of fame, Jesus, wanted to associate with him - Zacchaeus?  He could hardly believe his ears but with split second action, he climbed down the tree and welcomed Jesus joyfully into his house for dinner and a night of rest.

" 'For this is what the Sovereign LORD says: I myself will search for my sheep and look after them.

What a tremendous lesson for us - Jesus, the Shepherd is seeking His sheep - may we never pre-define who those sheep are.  They can come from all walks of life - Jesus infers that His sheep can even come from the prison - this is the nature of our sinful condition - yet Jesus seeks companionship with us all.  Zacchaeus met the Master that day and his life was dramatically changed forever.  The fact is that Jesus still seeks His sheep - from all walks of life - our wonderful privilege is that we have a part in this seeking by sharing the Gospel with everybody - even those whom we deem unworthy to receive the message of hope.

When Jesus' visit with Zacchaeus was drawing to a close, he evidenced his conversion by a changed life - no more extortion and complete restitution of his ill-gained riches to those whom he victimized - Again - Jesus changes the lives whom He meets. Another lesson comes to view by referring to our passage in Ezekiel.  Note that the Sovereignty of the LORD comes into view as He seeks His lost sheep.  Many times we incorrectly say that if we do not evangelize a certain area, then many who would otherwise be saved might lost.  That just isn't true.  What is true is that if we, through timidity or a proud attitude, neglect to evangelize a person or an area - then God will raise up another to accomplish His sovereignty - the person whom He is seeking for is saved despite our negligence - we miss out on the wonderful blessing of soul-winning and will have to answer to Him at the Judgement seat of Christ for our careless attitude.  "I myself will search for my sheep..." Remember that - and be ready to share the Gospel with everyone.

He Leads us.

The Hebrews in the wilderness is a wonderful example of the leading of the LORD.   The English word "to lead"  has a much weaker picture of this action.   To lead as the LORD leads we must view His Sovereignty. Note the deliberateness of the Lord when He called Zacchaeus down from his tree of isolation "...Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down; for to day I must abide at thy house."   No room for debate - Zacchaeus was one of Jesus' lost sheep - He would have not accepted a "NO" from Zacchaeus.  To be led by the LORD leaves no option.  He will lead us in blessing or discipline.  Getting back to the Hebrews - many times the Hebrews wanted to return back to Egypt - they certainly did not want to stay in the desert.  But the Sovereignty of the LORD led them there and that was where they would be.  The picture of the Shepherd depicts a tenderness and concern for us  "...I myself will tend my sheep and have them lie down, declares the Sovereign LORD. [16] I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak,..."  There are times when we wonder about His leading.   There are times when we doubt His tenderness and compassion.  The Word of God paints a very different picture of Jesus, our High Priest than popular opinion would paint.

Jesus looks for us where we are at the moment of our need and circumstances.  When a sheep got lost in the semi-arid land of Judah, he had all kinds of possibilities of danger.  If he wasn't entangled in some sort of vegetation, he could be stalked by a wild animal - could have lost his footing and fallen down a cliff.  When Jesus, in His Priestly role looks for us - no place is out-of-bounds for Him.

because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. [15] For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, "Abba, Father." [16] The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children.   Romans 8:14-16, NIV.

It is the ministry of the Holy Spirit to lead the child of God.  Jesus' priestly ministry is a very personal one.  Even in our darkest moment of temptation, He is there to gently lead us - in the conviction, first, by the Holy Spirit that we should stand firm - if we fall, He is there to pick up as the shepherd would his wayward sheep - He will not abandon us in our waywardness or despair.  In the Gospel of John Jesus compares Himself as the Shepherd with that of a hireling.  A hireling is the equivalent of today's "temporary" employee.  They used to stand around in town in designated places awaiting employment - if a shepherd was needed then that was his job for the day.  However, if a sheep would wander, especially into a dangerous place - the hireling would not make the effort of the rescue.  Jesus is our loving Shepherd / Priest.  No child of God is too "worthless."  Everyone is important to Him.  He will lead us in our lives despite our selfish waywardness.  The best thing for us to do, however is to head the injunction of Proverbs:

Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. [6] In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.   Proverbs 3:5-6

He Comforts us.

He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.   Isaiah 40:11. NIV.

This is the picture of a very personally concerned High Priest.  Think of it - last week we discovered that Jesus subjected Himself to every temptation - even to the point of death - so that He could be our comforting High Priest - this is why I have drawn heavily on the picture of the Shepherd.  I want to be sure that we understand that it is not up to us to mask our shortcomings even to ourselves - that is not the purpose of our relationship with Him as His sheep - No.  we are to admit, first to ourselves that we need Him for restoration - that we need Him for direction in our lives - that we need Him when we are suffering - no matter what the circumstances.   In sickness, in self-doubt, in disgust because we are weighed down by a re-occurring sin.  I think teens have an especially difficult time with this concept - that during the growing up process there are impulses of youth that they just do not want to admit to - so they as young believers suppress these youthful impulses - rather than coming to Him in their need - they try to "tuck them under the rug" as it were - hoping that they will go away or not be noticed by the Savior - or anyone else, for that matter.   This is not the comfort of Christ.  I think the most important lesson that we need to learn, especially our teens is that Jesus is not ashamed to call us His "little brothers."[1]   Jesus gently comforts us when we come to Him in our needs - young and old - He desires us to come to Him.  No difficulty is too hard - no impulse is too disgusting.  This is the heart and soul of Jesus priestly ministry.  Jesus is, in modern terms, our "Big Brother."  Big brothers stand by their buddies - their little brothers.  Note this relationship,again, in Hebrews:

For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. [18] Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.    Hebrews 2:17-18, NIV.

"...in every way..."?  That's what the writer of Hebrews says.  This was the force of last week's lesson.  We'll never know the intensity of the suffering that Jesus endured so that He could be our Shepherd / High Priest.  But the picture is clear - we need to come to Him - not only in our spiritual smugness when we are "doing just fine."  We need to come to Him when things are not fine - I often wonder how many marriages between believers that are fracturing toward divorce would be saved if both would come to Him as their Shepherd / High Priest and confess their need of Him?  This is the message of the Shepherd - not necessarily a tranquil one - sometimes it is a picture of desperation - of dire need - but He is there nonetheless.  The purpose for His suffering in His Temptation is clear - Jesus' role for us as High Priest is that of rescuing us in our need.  The original for "help" refers to a military maneuver where a soldier is rescued from a completely desperate situation.  During the Vietnam war, many a soldier remembers the beautiful sound of the "chopper" as it hovered over him - but the picture doesn't stop there.  A "buddy" - a fellow soldier in the chopper had to risk his life and be lowered through the heavy jungle cover to put the harness around his wounded buddy.  This exposure encompasses Jesus' vulnerability during His temptation and His rescuing of His "buddies." in our time of need.   The picture indicates a Marine who quickly - without thought to himself lowers himself into the jungle in order that he might rescue his buddy.  Such is the High Priestly ministry of our LORD, Jesus.

1.  I'm taking a little liberty using the term "little brother:" But do not apologize for doing so:  "Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers. [12] He says,"I will declare your name to my brothers; in the presence of the congregation I will sing your praises." Hebrews 2:11-12, NIV