Based on Hebrews 4:14-16; 5:1-9
Many are aware that Martin Luther (and other medieval scholars) had a number of questions regarding Hebrews, as well as James and Revelation. Nevertheless, Luther never removed them from his translations. They were and still are part of the canon of Holy Scripture. Thanks be to God for this wonderful book that is both sermon and exhortation.
For Hebrews speaks to us powerfully of Jesus being both sacrifice on the cross and High Priest making the sacrifice, in obedience to the will of the Father. The author of Hebrews aims to connect Jesus’ death on the cross with the required blood sacrifice practiced under the old covenant. Now, He who was without sin, took our sin upon Himself, an unblemished Lamb, a worthy sacrifice to atone for the sins of the world.
“Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard…Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him.”
Because Jesus, the High Priest and the worthy sacrifice was obedient to the Father and gave His life as a ransom for all, we may, with confidence, draw near to the throne of grace, finding mercy and grace to help in time of need. Before, we sinful people were not worthy to approach the all-wise, all-holy God. Now, by Jesus’ blood and righteousness, we are made holy and may with confidence, with confidence, draw near to God and find the help and mercy we so desperately need. Are you in need of divine help and mercy? Draw near to God confidently.
Prayer: We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you, for by your cross you have redeemed the world. Amen.
Holy Week response: Read the entire account of the Lord’s Supper and Passion, Luke 22-23.
This year’s devotional was prepared by the Rev. Dr. David Wendel, NALC assistant to the bishop for ministry and ecumenism. To learn more about A Lenten Walk Through the Word, visit thenalc.org/lent.
Scripture quotations are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
53:1 Who would have believed what we just heard?
When was the Lord’s power revealed through him?
2He sprouted up like a twig before God,
like a root out of parched soil;
he had no stately form or majesty that might catch our attention,
no special appearance that we should want to follow him.
3He was despised and rejected by people,
one who experienced pain and was acquainted with illness;
people hid their faces from him;
he was despised, and we considered him insignificant.
4But he lifted up our illnesses,
he carried our pain;
even though we thought he was being punished,
attacked by God, and afflicted for something he had done.
5He was wounded because of our rebellious deeds,
crushed because of our sins;
he endured punishment that made us well;
because of his wounds we have been healed.
6All of us had wandered off like sheep;
each of us had strayed off on his own path,
but the Lord caused the sin of all of us to attack him.
7He was treated harshly and afflicted,
but he did not even open his mouth.
Like a lamb led to the slaughtering block,
like a sheep silent before her shearers,
he did not even open his mouth.
8He was led away after an unjust trial—
but who even cared?
Indeed, he was cut off from the land of the living;
because of the rebellion of his own people he was wounded.
9They intended to bury him with criminals,
but he ended up in a rich man’s tomb
because he had committed no violent deeds,
nor had he spoken deceitfully.
10Though the Lord desired to crush him and make him ill,
once restitution is made,
he will see descendants and enjoy long life,
and the Lord’s purpose will be accomplished through him.
11Having suffered, he will reflect on his work,
he will be satisfied when he understands what he has done.
“My servant will acquit many,
for he carried their sins.
12So I will assign him a portion with the multitudes,
he will divide the spoils of victory with the powerful,
because he willingly submitted to death
and was numbered with the rebels,
when he lifted up the sin of many
and intervened on behalf of the rebels.”(NET Bible)
22:1 For the music director, according to the tune “Morning Doe”; a psalm of David.
My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?
I groan in prayer, but help seems far away.
2My God, I cry out during the day,
but you do not answer,
and during the night my prayers do not let up.
3You are holy;
you sit as king receiving the praises of Israel.
4In you our ancestors trusted;
they trusted in you and you rescued them.
5To you they cried out, and they were saved;
in you they trusted and they were not disappointed.
6But I am a worm, not a man;
people insult me and despise me.
7All who see me taunt me;
they mock me and shake their heads.
“Commit yourself to the Lord!
Let the Lord rescue him!
Let the Lord deliver him, for he delights in him.”
9Yes, you are the one who brought me out from the womb
and made me feel secure on my mother’s breasts.
10I have been dependent on you since birth;
from the time I came out of my mother’s womb you have been my God.
11Do not remain far away from me,
for trouble is near and I have no one to help me.
12Many bulls surround me;
powerful bulls of Bashan hem me in.
13They open their mouths to devour me
like a roaring lion that rips its prey.
14My strength drains away like water;
all my bones are dislocated.
My heart is like wax;
it melts away inside me.
15The roof of my mouth is as dry as a piece of pottery;
my tongue sticks to my gums.
You set me in the dust of death.
16Yes, wild dogs surround me—
a gang of evil men crowd around me;
like a lion they pin my hands and feet.
17I can count all my bones;
my enemies are gloating over me in triumph.
18They are dividing up my clothes among themselves;
they are rolling dice for my garments.
19But you, O Lord, do not remain far away.
You are my source of strength. Hurry and help me!
20Deliver me from the sword.
Save my life from the claws of the wild dogs.
21Rescue me from the mouth of the lion
and from the horns of the wild oxen.
You have answered me.
22I will declare your name to my countrymen.
In the middle of the assembly I will praise you.
23You loyal followers of the Lord, praise him.
All you descendants of Jacob, honor him.
All you descendants of Israel, stand in awe of him.
24For he did not despise or detest the suffering of the oppressed.
He did not ignore him;
when he cried out to him, he responded.
25You are the reason I offer praise in the great assembly;
I will fulfill my promises before the Lord’s loyal followers.
26Let the oppressed eat and be filled.
Let those who seek his help praise the Lord.
May you live forever!
27Let all the people of the earth acknowledge the Lord and turn to him.
Let all the nations worship you.
28For the Lord is king
and rules over the nations.
29All the thriving people of the earth will join the celebration and worship;
all those who are descending into the grave will bow before him,
including those who cannot preserve their lives.
30A whole generation will serve him;
they will tell the next generation about the Lord.
31They will come and tell about his saving deeds;
they will tell a future generation what he has accomplished.(NET Bible)
Heb. 4:14–16, 5:7–9
4:14 Therefore since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. 15For we do not have a high priest incapable of sympathizing with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in every way just as we are, yet without sin. 16Therefore let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and find grace whenever we need help.5but to repeat the text cited earlier: “They will never enter my rest!”
7:1 Now this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the most high God, met Abraham as he was returning from defeating the kings and blessed him. 2To him also Abraham apportioned a tithe of everything. His name first means king of righteousness, then king of Salem, that is, king of peace. 3Without father, without mother, without genealogy, he has neither beginning of days nor end of life but is like the son of God, and he remains a priest for all time. 4But see how great he must be, if Abraham the patriarch gave him a tithe of his plunder. 5And those of the sons of Levi who receive the priestly office have authorization according to the law to collect a tithe from the people, that is, from their fellow countrymen, although they, too, are descendants of Abraham. 6But Melchizedek who does not share their ancestry collected a tithe from Abraham and blessed the one who possessed the promise. 7Now without dispute the inferior is blessed by the superior, 8and in one case tithes are received by mortal men, while in the other by him who is affirmed to be alive. 9And it could be said that Levi himself, who receives tithes, paid a tithe through Abraham. 10For he was still in his ancestor Abraham’s loins when Melchizedek met him.
11So if perfection had in fact been possible through the Levitical priesthood—for on that basis the people received the law—what further need would there have been for another priest to arise, said to be in the order of Melchizedek and not in Aaron’s order? 12For when the priesthood changes, a change in the law must come as well. 13Yet the one these things are spoken about belongs to a different tribe, and no one from that tribe has ever officiated at the altar. 14For it is clear that our Lord is descended from Judah, yet Moses said nothing about priests in connection with that tribe. 15And this is even clearer if another priest arises in the likeness of Melchizedek, 16who has become a priest not by a legal regulation about physical descent but by the power of an indestructible life. 17For here is the testimony about him: “You are a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek.” 18On the one hand a former command is set aside because it is weak and useless, 19for the law made nothing perfect. On the other hand a better hope is introduced, through which we draw near to God. 20And since this was not done without a sworn affirmation—for the others have become priests without a sworn affirmation, 21but Jesus did so with a sworn affirmation by the one who said to him, “The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind, ‘You are a priest forever’”— 22accordingly Jesus has become the guarantee of a better covenant. 23And the others who became priests were numerous because death prevented them from continuing in office, 24but he holds his priesthood permanently since he lives forever. 25So he is able to save completely those who come to God through him because he always lives to intercede for them. 26For it is indeed fitting for us to have such a high priest: holy, innocent, undefiled, separate from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. 27He has no need to do every day what those priests do, to offer sacrifices first for their own sins and then for the sins of the people, since he did this in offering himself once for all. 28For the law appoints as high priests men subject to weakness, but the word of solemn affirmation that came after the law appoints a son made perfect forever.
8:1 Now the main point of what we are saying is this: We have such a high priest, one who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, 2a minister in the sanctuary and the true tabernacle that the Lord, not man, set up. 3For every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices. So this one, too, had to have something to offer. 4Now if he were on earth, he would not be a priest, since there are already priests who offer the gifts prescribed by the law. 5The place where they serve is a sketch and shadow of the heavenly sanctuary, just as Moses was warned by God as he was about to complete the tabernacle. For he says, “See that you make everything according to the design shown to you on the mountain.” 6But now Jesus has obtained a superior ministry, since the covenant that he mediates is also better and is enacted on better promises.
7For if that first covenant had been faultless, no one would have looked for a second one. 8But showing its fault, God says to them,
“Look, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will complete a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah.
9It will not be like the covenant that I made with their fathers, on the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they did not continue in my covenant and I had no regard for them, says the Lord.
10For this is the covenant that I will establish with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord. I will put my laws in their minds, and I will inscribe them on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they will be my people.
11And there will be no need at all for each one to teach his countryman or each one to teach his brother saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ since they will all know me, from the least to the greatest.
12For I will be merciful toward their evil deeds, and their sins I will remember no longer.”
13When he speaks of a new covenant, he makes the first obsolete. Now what is growing obsolete and aging is about to disappear.
9:1 Now the first covenant, in fact, had regulations for worship and its earthly sanctuary. 2For a tent was prepared, the outer one, which contained the lampstand, the table, and the presentation of the loaves; this is called the Holy Place. 3And after the second curtain there was a tent called the holy of holies. 4It contained the golden altar of incense and the ark of the covenant covered entirely with gold. In this ark were the golden urn containing the manna, Aaron’s rod that budded, and the stone tablets of the covenant. 5And above the ark were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat. Now is not the time to speak of these things in detail. 6So with these things prepared like this, the priests enter continually into the outer tent as they perform their duties. 7But only the high priest enters once a year into the inner tent, and not without blood that he offers for himself and for the sins of the people committed in ignorance. 8The Holy Spirit is making clear that the way into the Holy Place had not yet appeared as long as the old tabernacle was standing. 9This was a symbol for the time then present, when gifts and sacrifices were offered that could not perfect the conscience of the worshiper. 10They served only for matters of food and drink and various ritual washings; they are external regulations imposed until the new order came.
11But now Christ has come as the high priest of the good things to come. He passed through the greater and more perfect tent not made with hands, that is, not of this creation, 12and he entered once for all into the Most Holy Place not by the blood of goats and calves but by his own blood, and so he himself secured eternal redemption. 13For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a young cow sprinkled on those who are defiled consecrated them and provided ritual purity, 14how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our consciences from dead works to worship the living God.
15And so he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the eternal inheritance he has promised, since he died to set them free from the violations committed under the first covenant. 16For where there is a will, the death of the one who made it must be proven. 17For a will takes effect only at death, since it carries no force while the one who made it is alive. 18So even the first covenant was inaugurated with blood. 19For when Moses had spoken every command to all the people according to the law, he took the blood of calves and goats with water and scarlet wool and hyssop and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, 20and said, “This is the blood of the covenant that God has commanded you to keep.” 21And both the tabernacle and all the utensils of worship he likewise sprinkled with blood. 22Indeed according to the law almost everything was purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. 23So it was necessary for the sketches of the things in heaven to be purified with these sacrifices, but the heavenly things themselves required better sacrifices than these. 24For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made with hands—the representation of the true sanctuary—but into heaven itself, and he appears now in God’s presence for us. 25And he did not enter to offer himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the sanctuary year after year with blood that is not his own, 26for then he would have had to suffer again and again since the foundation of the world. But now he has appeared once for all at the consummation of the ages to put away sin by his sacrifice. 27And just as people are appointed to die once, and then to face judgment, 28so also, after Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many, to those who eagerly await him he will appear a second time, not to bear sin but to bring salvation.(NET Bible)
18:1 When he had said these things, Jesus went out with his disciples across the Kidron Valley. There was an orchard there, and he and his disciples went into it. 2(Now Judas, the one who betrayed him, knew the place too, because Jesus had met there many times with his disciples.) 3So Judas obtained a squad of soldiers and some officers of the chief priests and Pharisees. They came to the orchard with lanterns and torches and weapons.
4Then Jesus, because he knew everything that was going to happen to him, came and asked them, “Who are you looking for?” 5They replied, “Jesus the Nazarene.” He told them, “I am he.” (Now Judas, the one who betrayed him, was standing there with them.) 6So when Jesus said to them, “I am he,” they retreated and fell to the ground. 7Then Jesus asked them again, “Who are you looking for?” And they said, “Jesus the Nazarene.” 8Jesus replied, “I told you that I am he. If you are looking for me, let these men go.” 9He said this to fulfill the word he had spoken, “I have not lost a single one of those whom you gave me.”
10Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, pulled it out and struck the high priest’s slave, cutting off his right ear. (Now the slave’s name was Malchus.) 11But Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword back into its sheath! Am I not to drink the cup that the Father has given me?”
12Then the squad of soldiers with their commanding officer and the officers of the Jewish leaders arrested Jesus and tied him up. 13They brought him first to Annas, for he was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, who was high priest that year. 14(Now it was Caiaphas who had advised the Jewish leaders that it was to their advantage that one man die for the people.)
15Simon Peter and another disciple followed them as they brought Jesus to Annas. (Now the other disciple was acquainted with the high priest, and he went with Jesus into the high priest’s courtyard.) 16But Peter was left standing outside by the door. So the other disciple who was acquainted with the high priest came out and spoke to the slave girl who watched the door, and brought Peter inside. 17The girl who was the doorkeeper said to Peter, “You’re not one of this man’s disciples too, are you?” He replied, “I am not.” 18(Now the slaves and the guards were standing around a charcoal fire they had made, warming themselves because it was cold. Peter also was standing with them, warming himself.)
19While this was happening, the high priest questioned Jesus about his disciples and about his teaching. 20Jesus replied, “I have spoken publicly to the world. I always taught in the synagogues and in the temple courts, where all the Jewish people assemble together. I have said nothing in secret. 21Why do you ask me? Ask those who heard what I said. They know what I said.” 22When Jesus had said this, one of the high priest’s officers who stood nearby struck him on the face and said, “Is that the way you answer the high priest?” 23Jesus replied, “If I have said something wrong, confirm what is wrong. But if I spoke correctly, why strike me?” 24Then Annas sent him, still tied up, to Caiaphas the high priest.
25Meanwhile Simon Peter was standing in the courtyard warming himself. They said to him, “You aren’t one of his disciples too, are you?” Peter denied it: “I am not!” 26One of the high priest’s slaves, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, said, “Did I not see you in the orchard with him?” 27Then Peter denied it again, and immediately a rooster crowed.
28Then they brought Jesus from Caiaphas to the Roman governor’s residence. (Now it was very early morning.) They did not go into the governor’s residence so they would not be ceremonially defiled, but could eat the Passover meal. 29So Pilate came outside to them and said, “What accusation do you bring against this man?” 30They replied, “If this man were not a criminal, we would not have handed him over to you.”
31Pilate told them, “Take him yourselves and pass judgment on him according to your own law!” The Jewish leaders replied, “We cannot legally put anyone to death.” 32(This happened to fulfill the word Jesus had spoken when he indicated what kind of death he was going to die.)
33So Pilate went back into the governor’s residence, summoned Jesus, and asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?” 34Jesus replied, “Are you saying this on your own initiative, or have others told you about me?” 35Pilate answered, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own people and your chief priests handed you over to me. What have you done?”
36Jesus replied, “My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my servants would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jewish authorities. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.” 37Then Pilate said, “So you are a king!” Jesus replied, “You say that I am a king. For this reason I was born, and for this reason I came into the world—to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.” 38Pilate asked, “What is truth?”
When he had said this he went back outside to the Jewish leaders and announced, “I find no basis for an accusation against him. 39But it is your custom that I release one prisoner for you at the Passover. So do you want me to release for you the king of the Jews?” 40Then they shouted back, “Not this man, but Barabbas!” (Now Barabbas was a revolutionary.)
19:1 Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged severely. 2The soldiers braided a crown of thorns and put it on his head, and they clothed him in a purple robe. 3They came up to him again and again and said, “Hail, king of the Jews!” And they struck him repeatedly in the face.
4Again Pilate went out and said to the Jewish leaders, “Look, I am bringing him out to you, so that you may know that I find no reason for an accusation against him.” 5So Jesus came outside, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, “Look, here is the man!” 6When the chief priests and their officers saw him, they shouted out, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” Pilate said, “You take him and crucify him! Certainly I find no reason for an accusation against him!” 7The Jewish leaders replied, “We have a law, and according to our law he ought to die because he claimed to be the Son of God!”
8When Pilate heard what they said, he was more afraid than ever, 9and he went back into the governor’s residence and said to Jesus, “Where do you come from?” But Jesus gave him no answer. 10So Pilate said, “Do you refuse to speak to me? Don’t you know I have the authority to release you and to crucify you?” 11Jesus replied, “You would have no authority over me at all, unless it was given to you from above. Therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of greater sin.”
12From this point on, Pilate tried to release him. But the Jewish leaders shouted out, “If you release this man, you are no friend of Caesar! Everyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar!” 13When Pilate heard these words he brought Jesus outside and sat down on the judgment seat in the place called “The Stone Pavement” (Gabbatha in Aramaic). 14(Now it was the day of preparation for the Passover, about noon.) Pilate said to the Jewish leaders, “Look, here is your king!”
15Then they shouted out, “Away with him! Away with him! Crucify him!” Pilate asked, “Shall I crucify your king?” The high priests replied, “We have no king except Caesar!” 16Then Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified.
So they took Jesus, 17and carrying his own cross he went out to the place called “The Place of the Skull” (called in Aramaic Golgotha). 18There they crucified him along with two others, one on each side, with Jesus in the middle. 19Pilate also had a notice written and fastened to the cross, which read: “Jesus the Nazarene, the king of the Jews.” 20Thus many of the Jewish residents of Jerusalem read this notice because the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and the notice was written in Aramaic, Latin, and Greek. 21Then the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The king of the Jews,’ but rather, ‘This man said, I am king of the Jews.’” 22Pilate answered, “What I have written, I have written.”
23Now when the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes and made four shares, one for each soldier, and the tunic remained. (Now the tunic was seamless, woven from top to bottom as a single piece.) 24So the soldiers said to one another, “Let’s not tear it, but throw dice to see who will get it.” This took place to fulfill the scripture that says, “They divided my garments among them, and for my clothing they threw dice.” So the soldiers did these things.
25Now standing beside Jesus’ cross were his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26So when Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing there, he said to his mother, “Woman, look, here is your son!” 27He then said to his disciple, “Look, here is your mother!” From that very time the disciple took her into his own home.
28After this Jesus, realizing that by this time everything was completed, said (in order to fulfill the scripture), “I am thirsty!” 29A jar full of sour wine was there, so they put a sponge soaked in sour wine on a branch of hyssop and lifted it to his mouth. 30When he had received the sour wine, Jesus said, “It is completed!” Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
31Then because it was the day of preparation, so that the bodies should not stay on the crosses on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was an especially important one), the Jewish leaders asked Pilate to have the victims’ legs broken and the bodies taken down. 32So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the two men who had been crucified with Jesus, first the one and then the other. 33But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. 34But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and blood and water flowed out immediately. 35And the person who saw it has testified (and his testimony is true, and he knows that he is telling the truth), so that you also may believe. 36For these things happened so that the scripture would be fulfilled, “Not a bone of his will be broken.” 37And again another scripture says, “They will look on the one whom they have pierced.”
38After this, Joseph of Arimathea, a disciple of Jesus (but secretly because he feared the Jewish leaders), asked Pilate if he could remove the body of Jesus. Pilate gave him permission, so he went and took the body away. 39Nicodemus, the man who had previously come to Jesus at night, accompanied Joseph, carrying a mixture of myrrh and aloes weighing about 75 pounds. 40Then they took Jesus’ body and wrapped it, with the aromatic spices, in strips of linen cloth according to Jewish burial customs. 41Now at the place where Jesus was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden was a new tomb where no one had yet been buried. 42And so, because it was the Jewish day of preparation and the tomb was nearby, they placed Jesus’ body there.(NET Bible)
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016.
On Good Friday, March 29 of the same year, Luther had completed his well-deserved coarse answer to Emser. Here he called the Holy Ghost the most lucid writer and speaker whose writings do not need the help of church and tradition in order to be under-stood correctly if they are only taken in their literal sense. (18–19)
–Johann Michael Reu, Luther on the Scriptures
This daily Bible reading guide, Reading the Word of God, was conceived and prepared as a result of the ongoing discussions between representatives of three church bodies: Lutheran Church—Canada (LCC), The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) and the North American Lutheran Church (NALC). The following individuals have represented their church bodies and approved this introduction and the reading guide: LCC: President Robert Bugbee; NALC: Bishop John Bradosky, Revs. Mark Chavez, James Nestingen, and David Wendel; LCMS: Revs. Albert Collver, Joel Lehenbauer, John Pless, and Larry Vogel.