THE BOTTOM LINE
"For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need." (Heb. 4:15-16).
Siḿ•pa•the: (Sympathy) The relationship between two parties in which whatever affects one correspondingly affects the other. While a king may pity a poor beggar -- even show compassion to the point of showering riches upon him, he can never show sympathy. That takes a fellow beggar to do that -- a characteristic of Christ that is His alone as the God-man. Three crucial truths concerning Christ's sympathy as our high priest:
First, His sympathy is not optional. Christ must commiserate. We do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize -- a double negative. Bad English but good theology -- the strongest way in Greek to express an affirmation. John Brown said, "The assertion is not that it is possible that He may sympathize, but that it is impossible that He not sympathize." Incarnation is for the purpose of identification (Heb. 2:14), and identification is for supplication. Intercession is more than the passing of information from one party to another.
Second, His sympathy is not limited. "Tempted in all things as we are." The heresy of Catholicism's praying to Mary and the saints is based on the assumption that they are more sympathetic to our plight than Christ is. He was made perfect -- not because there were any imperfections, but a baby in a manger can't represent God's people. He must be purified with every breadth of temptation as well as depth. There is no temptation that we will ever face that Christ hasn't faced in full measure.
Lastly, His sympathy is not generic. He sympathizes with our weaknesses -- not the infirmities of the world in general. The high priest in the Old Testament wore in his garments the names of the tribes of Israel on precious stones -- signifying the personal nature of who he interceded for -- and wore them on the breastplate and on the shoulders -- signifying the affection of who he interceded for, their location being over the heart and on weight-bearing shoulders (Exo. 28:9-12, 29-30).
The efficacy of our high priest is measured in the mercy His people receive and the confidence they exude in approaching the throne of grace -- both predicated on His sympathy.
"Have we trials and temptations?
Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged
take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful,
who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness;
take it to the Lord in prayer."