The Great Sympathizer

Hebrews 4:14-16 (NRSV)

Since, then, we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Just recently my online small group spent some time discussing the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness. We were struck by how easily we could relate to the temptations Satan put before our savior.

Yes, the magnitude of what it took to tempt one who is divine is astonishing. After 40 days of fasting, Jesus was tempted to turn stones into bread. He was tempted to fling himself from the pinnacle of the temple and demonstrate his ties to heaven, an act certain to inspire a following. And he was offered a world under his dominion, if only he would place himself below Satan in the grand scheme of the universe.

When we boil those temptations down, however, we see how they appeal to basic human desires for immediate gratification, recognition and control. Satan simply offers us less because he knows how easy it is to draw mere humans toward defeat and death.

The author of Hebrews reminds us that the priest who represents us in heaven, Jesus, is deeply sympathetic toward our plight. He has felt our desires. And while Jesus did not succumb to those desires, he certainly understands how fragile humans can easily do so, making our circumstances even worse.

Jesus went to the cross out of love for us, and even after the terrible pain from bearing the weight of every sin ever committed, he continues to love us. He stands there in the heavenly temple, ready to make us holy despite our sins.

We certainly respect what Jesus has done. Our hearts should be filled with gratitude, and there is no need for cringing fear when the time comes to approach Christ in heaven. He has lived among us and understands our circumstances.

Lord, we thank you for the sacrifice making our forgiveness and restoration to God possible. As you represent us in heaven, may we be so bold as to speak for you on earth. Amen.

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