Volume 19, Issue 30 (July 23, 2017)
“One Who Can Sympathize with Our Weaknesses”
By Kyle Pope
Hebrews chapter four verse fifteen declares, “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin” (NKJV). To many of us this concept is a bit difficult to grasp. We know that this “High Priest,” of whom the text is speaking is Jesus (see vs. 14), yet, how is it possible that Jesus, of whom the Bible declares, “In Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily” (Colossians 2:9), can sympathize with our weaknesses? Would not such a Being who has the power to “understand my thought afar off” (Psalm 139:2), and who has “searched me and known me” (Psalm 139:1) to whom “there is not a word on my tongue” that He does not “know it altogether” (Psalm 139:4), would He not grow bitter and cynical watching us continually stumble and grope in ignorance, double-mindedness, and weakness?
One night many years ago at about 3:00 AM in the morning something happened that helped me understand this a little bit better. Like all new parents, in those days we had our share of late night awakenings. While we were very fortunate to have children that slept well through the night as babies, there was the occasional sleepless night with a crying child that took some getting used to. On this particular night, however, something occurred to me about my own relationship with my young daughter. As I arose from my bed to comfort that small little creature crying in the darkness I realized that such an awakening was no longer difficult for me. That’s not to say that I enjoyed being awakened, or that my rest was not interrupted, but it occurred to me that my love for her as her father brought me to the point that being awakened was a minor thing to me. What was more important to me than my own sleep was calming the fears of that little girl frightened by a nightmare, uncomfortable from a diaper needing to be changed, or simply alarmed by the darkness and her own frailty.
The Bible tells us that God loves us as a Father. All men are “His offspring” (Acts 17:28) and those who are Christians are “begotten of Him” (1 John 5:1). This unselfish love is demonstrated in God’s willingness to rise up in the night (so to speak) to send His Son to those crying out in the darkness of sin. He holds out his arms (in essence) to comfort us through the message of the gospel—“the power of God unto salvation” (Romans 1:17). As he holds us in His arms (to extend the metaphor) He offers us forgiveness, should we stumble again, if only we will appeal to Him through Jesus (1 John 2:1-2).
While certainly my love for my children pales in comparison to God’s love for us, this does suggest to us something about God’s nature. Jesus said, “If you then, being evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him” (Matthew 7:11). If we as parents can “sympathize” with our children’s weaknesses, then surely our Father in heaven and His Son (through whom He offers us intercession) can sympathize with our weaknesses.
The last part of Hebrews 4:15 tells us the full extent of this sympathy; that Jesus was “in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.” Beyond simply a rational understanding of temptation, Jesus endured what we endure. The same type of temptations we battle—“the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life” (1 John 2:16), He battled and won (see Matthew 4:1-11). Even Jesus cried out in the darkness (as we do) as He suffered the sorrow of loss (John 11:35-36) and the anguish of death (Luke 22:41-45). He understands us, because He endured these things Himself.
The next time we as Christians cry out in the night in fear, frustration, and weakness let’s remember, “we have a High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God” (Hebrews 4:14). In remembering, let us learn from His example and cling to His mercy. While He is never tolerant of sin, He does offer help in times of testing. “For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted” (Hebrews 2:18).