Jesus gets you. He understands you. He sympathizes with you.
In Hebrews 4:15, the author writes, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.”
The high priest we have is Jesus Christ, temporarily relocated from heaven to become the sacrifice and the mediator for his people. But here we learn that this remarkable role carries a most unusual quality—particularly for those of us who assume “high priest” means rigidly religious, hyper-judgmental, or dangerously disconnected from real life…
Thankfully, Jesus, our high priest, is able to sympathize with our weakness.
Don’t rush past that sentence. It invites us to pause and ponder, like a gentle, fragrant breeze gliding across the front porch on a West Virginia fall morning. It tells us something about ourselves—a reality that can be hard to see and difficult to admit. Jesus knows we are weak.
I Am Weak
Think about this. It addresses you, me, and every living being in possession of a soul. We are fragile sojourners in a fallen world, frail, and imperfect. All of us. The verse above isn’t addressing a unique subset of humans who have the misfortune of being slightly flawed. If you breathe, you are weak. I am weak.
Weakness represents those places in life where we’re reminded we’re not kingdom-ruling conquerors. Not even close. We are the fabulously fallen and frail who forget meeting times, wreck our cars, and mistakenly leave doors open to invite every manner of beast and insect to become squatters in our home. You know what I’m talking about. We are the sleepers-in, the bill-forgetters, the “Oh-Lord-what’s-that-smell” people. We are the kind of people Brennan Manning describes as, “The cheese is always falling off our cracker.”
We are weak.
And in case you’re wondering, I’m not just talking about sin. Sure, all sin reveals weakness, but not all weakness is sin.
Jesus is My Sympathizer
To Christians who know Christ by this label, Hebrews 4:15 offers a mind-blowing message…
Jesus gets us.
I’m not talking about a kind detachment where Jesus listens well but is actually disconnected from the real frustrations we encounter. Jesus is no Pharisee who rolls his eyes when we fail, outwardly tolerating us while inwardly hating us for our weakness. No, Jesus actually sympathizes with us where we are weak. As a loving high priest, he empathizes with the areas where we suffer deficiencies.
But that’s not all. Jesus does not sympathize as an outsider. He’s not the guy who read a book on weakness or googled it to become conversant. Instead, the Savior knows you on an experiential level. As our perfect high priest, Jesus is “one who in every respect has been tempted as we are.”
Pastor Mike’s message on Jesus this past Sunday got me thinking about that. Several of you have commented to me that his sermon did the same for you. May I ask you to stop and think about this rich truth one more time?
“In every respect, Jesus was tempted as we are.”
Has this been a bad week for you so far? Do you find yourself overcome with the suffering of close family and friends? Do you feel like you’re losing the battle of anxiety, depression, or lust? Jesus understands. He knows temptation. Are you struggling with resentful thoughts over some way you were mistreated, falsely accused, or not given the benefit of the doubt? Jesus gets it. He was royally shafted by people and wrestled through those very temptations. Are you sweating your finances? Feeling forgotten? Jesus knows them all. Tempted to throw in the towel, to give up on life? Jesus understands that too.
Jesus understands the battle because he’s been to war.
Concerning Jesus’ temptations, Raymond Brown said, “No one on earth, before or since, has ever been brought through such spiritual desolation and human anguish. For this reason, he can help us in our moments of temptation. He is aware of our needs because he has experienced to the full the pressures and testings of life in this godless world.”
Always remember: Jesus knows how a fallen world affects you, how temptations compete for your soul. Jesus gets the shame, the demoralizing feeling that accompanies the skirmish between what you feel and who you are called to be. Jesus understands, and he sympathizes.
My Weakness Sets Me Free
Here’s one final thought to encourage your soul: Because Christ is able to sympathize with our weakness, we don’t need to self-sympathize.
If you’re like me, any awareness of weakness becomes an immediate invitation to my pity party. “Come join Matt as he spends yet another day sympathizing with himself over not being God!”
But through this passage, God speaks another word. “Hey Matt,” he says, “let’s turn down the pity-dial a bit today. Remember, I’m the perfect high priest. Your sympathy is my job. I’ve got this whole sympathy thing covered. Why don’t you just think about how to love and enjoy me today?”
In every area of life, the gospel is the game-changer. With self-pity, the gospel breaks into my self-sympathizing tendencies and reminds me that because of Christ’s death and resurrection, I get far more sympathy than I deserve. The gospel proclaims a double-swap. At the cross, I not only avoid getting the just judgment my sins warranted, but in place of God’s wrath, I also receive his adoption, his loving affection, and his compassion for my weakness. Instead of the antipathy I earned, I get sympathy as a child of my heavenly Father.
So, are you feeling weak today? Smacked around, perhaps, by temptations? Have you just printed some invites to your own pity-party? The good news of the gospel includes a great high priest. A Savior with a love so vast that he drops into the mundane moments of our weakness and temptation and says, “I get you, and I understand.” Then, at just the right time, he supplies the way of escape (1 Corinthians 10:13).
My Savior gets me. He gets you. And from that perfect knowledge, dipping all the way down to our DNA, he issues this life-transforming invitation: “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).
*The thoughts above were inspired by recent sermons delivered by Pastors Mike Graham and Dave Harvey.
Matt Friend, a Charleston native and tenth generation West Virginian, graduated from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, has served in pastoral ministry since 2002 and at Bible Center Church since March 1, 2016 (as our sixth Lead Pastor). He and Sarah (his high school sweetheart and wife) are raising two teenage daughters, Katie and Riley, and one son, Kadyn. Together, they are advocates for adoption and all things Charleston. In his free time, he enjoys reading, running, kayaking, and spending time with his family and two dogs, Queso and Sabi.
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