Friday, 5 October 2018
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. Hebrews 4:15
The verse now continues to explain the nature of Christ Jesus. In verse 4:11, the author implored his audience to be diligent to enter God’s rest “lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience.” This means they were to possess faith that God would lead them through. He then spoke of how God is able to know every failing of man because He can discern all things. Immediately, he then noted that Jesus is our High Priest, that He has “passed through the heavens,” and that we are to hold fast our confession in him.
Understanding this train of thought, he now explains why this is possible for the reader to accomplish. It is because (For) “we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses.”
The author is tying our weaknesses in with those who had fallen into the disobedience just mentioned in verse 11. They were weak, they failed to believe, and they failed to enter God’s rest. But we have something more than they had. They had a fallible high priest who also disbelieved. They had a priesthood and a system that could never make them perfect. The law, though good, could never achieve bringing the people to their promised rest. Through it, man could never enter God’s rest. That is, except for there being One who could fulfill that law, and who could then establish a New Covenant based on the fulfillment of the Old. In so establishing it, he would become its High Priest in the process. This is Jesus.
And not only is He the High Priest of this New Covenant, He is able to “sympathize with our weaknesses.” The word is sumpatheó, and it is only found here and in Hebrews 10:34. In it, one can see where the word “sympathize” is derived from. As Vincent’s Word Studies says, “This is more than knowledge of human infirmity. It is feeling it by reason of a common experience with (σύν) men.”
Christ experienced everything we experienced. He was under the same law as Israel, He saw the limitations of the Levites and priests, He knew the burden of meeting the numerous laws contained within the Law of Moses, etc. He further knew the trials associated with hunger, weariness, and so on. The physical limitations of a man tend to weaken his spiritual and moral resolve. Because He experienced these things, He is able to minister as a High Priest with a sense of perfect empathy to those on whose behalf He ministers.
The importance of this is evident. Those in the wilderness had a fallen priest ministering on their behalf, and that ministry was between them and God. They had no idea about God’s ability to empathize with them. They were bound by their physical limitations, He is not. It led to a feeling of being somewhat disconnected from Him. However, such cannot be said of Christ. He physically came and lived under that same law. The record of His life shows His sufferings, His physical limitations, the temptations He faced, and so on. Like Aaron, in Him is an example of the ability to empathize. But in Him is something greater. This is first because He “was in all points tempted as we are.” This thought takes us back to verse 2:18, which said –
“For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.”
There is no part of the human experience that we face that He did not face in some comparable measure. And so like Aaron, we have a high priest with this capacity. But between Aaron and God there was a disconnect. Aaron’s priestly duties were limited because of his fallen nature. Such is not the case with Christ. This is evidenced in the final words of the verse. He was tempted as we are, “yet without sin.”
This same idea is noted in 1 Peter 2:22, but even more, it was prophesied in the Old Testament, such as in Isaiah 53. The author will also note this about Christ again in Chapter 7 of Hebrews. Christ Jesus never sinned, and so in His work, He fulfilled the Law of Moses. Because of this, in His death, He brought the Law of Moses to its end for those who trust in Him. In Him, the law is annulled (7:18), obsolete (8:13), and taken away (10:9). Now, through His establishment of a New Covenant, we have a high priest that is not only like Aaron, He far exceeds Aaron.
Aaron could only go into the Most Holy Place once a year, and never without a blood sacrifice for his own sin. Christ Jesus went through the heavens and to the very throne of God with His own blood, not for atonement of His sins, but for atonement of the sins of His people. He was and is pure, undefiled, perfect, and fully able to sympathize with our own shortcomings. Because of this we can, in fact, be diligent to remain faithful to our God – not in our own strength, but in the strength of Christ. The blessing and benefit of this will be seen in our next verse.
Life application: When you face your own doubts about your ability to come to God, look to Christ Jesus. He has gone to His Father before you, and He carries you with Him when He goes. For those who trust in Christ, for those who are “in” Christ, there is no need to worry if God has accepted you. He has. We have an infinite source of grace and mercy available to us because of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Heavenly Father, if we were still under the Law of Moses, our mediator would be a fallen, fallible man who possessed only limited access to You. We could never be sure of whether You truly sympathized with us or not. But in Christ, we have a New Covenant, established on better promises, and which is mediated by the perfect and undefiled Son of God. We have full and complete access to You because of our perfect High Priest. Thank You for Christ Jesus our Lord who goes before us. Amen!