The religious leaders of Jesus’ day (and ours) focus on the externals. They worried about rituals and special observances instead of what’s in the heart. Jesus would often confront them by pointing to the reality of their defiled hearts even though they observe the washing of hands and Sabbaths, etc., according to the Law of Moses. To religious leaders it is all about “behavior” alone and what it looks like from the outside. Jesus, God’s Word, cuts through all that into the core of our being beyond the bone, joints, marrow, and discerns the condition of our heart as verse 12 says. Then in verse 13, he reminds us that no one can hide their thoughts or the condition of their heart from Him. Here is what Jesus said in Matthew 15:19-20, “For from the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, sexual immoralities, thefts, false testimonies, blasphemies. These are the things that defile a man, but eating with unwashed hands does not defile a man.”

Repentance involves more than admitting that we’ve done something wrong. Repentance involves acknowledging the condition of our heart. It’s not just that we have sinned, it’s more of the fact that we are sinners by nature. Sinners cannot enter into the presence of God. The High Priest in Israel would enter into God’s presence, into the Holy of Holies, on behalf of sinners and offer a sacrifice that would make “atonement” for the sins of the people. In 70 AD the Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed and the Jews had no way to atone for their sins. This may have been one of the struggles with the audience of the Letter of Hebrews. But the writer wants them to know that it’s not a matter of “externals” anymore. And as mentioned earlier, Jesus is not only the perfect acceptable sacrifice, He is also the one who offers the sacrifice: the Priest. He’s not just any old priest; He’s the High Priest of us all. He didn’t enter into the presence of God in a physical, temporary Temple. Oh No! Hebrews 4:14 says, “Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.” He’s in the very presence of God in Heaven interceding on our behalf.

One commentator writes, “Our High Priest, Jesus, has ‘passed through the heavens,’ and is now enthroned at the Father’s right hand. His exalted position is the ground of Christian confidence. The earthly High Priest could enter the Holy of Holies but once a year. Our High Priest is now in Heaven where He is seated at the Father’s right hand.”[1] The religious leaders and religious people of today want to “hold fast” to religious obligations and external performances. We’re given “five ways” to get closer to God, for example, as if Jesus didn’t bring us close enough. We’re instructed on what we should do to become better Christians is if Jesus didn’t do enough. To religious people, it’s all about what we “do” instead of what Jesus “did.” According to Paul, the way a Christian matures has to do with the core of our being, our hearts, not with our behavior. It’s about our foundation, our roots! He prays that the Ephesians, instead of trying harder, would sink their roots down deep into God’s love. God’s ultimate demonstration of His Love for us was in His Son, Jesus, on the cross of Calvary. God’s love will send the nutrients into the core of your being through which you will grow and His love in us will produce the fruits of the Spirit; love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. We don’t “hold fast” to ceremonies or washing of hands! We hold fast to the Work of Jesus which cleanses us from all sin.

[1] Charles F. Pfeiffer, The Epistle to the Hebrews, Everyman’s Bible Commentary (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1962), 40.