Friday, October 9, 2009

Grace that Empathizes

"Hands" by Shiner 

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. (Hebrews 4:15 NIV)

In His time on Earth, Jesus of course endured lots of temptations.  Hebrews tells us that He was tempted in all points, just as we are.  People rubbed Him the wrong way…no doubt even worse than they do to us, because His holy nature would be far more repulsed by sin than ours is.  There were days in his youth when the drudgery of the carpenter's shop must have been hard to bear, with all the wide world calling to Him.  As a man He doubtless saw the local prostitutes skulking in alleys, and heard their darkly alluring invitations.  Holy nature or not, He still wore human flesh, with all its weaknesses. 

He did not give in to it.  But He knows the pull, the yearnings, the hungers, the pain of unfulfilled desires that we all feel.

Is that the full extent of His sympathy?  Does He understand merely because He was tempted too?  Or is there even more to it than that?

Jesus bore our sins (1 Pet 2:24).  Was that just a legal transaction?  Or did He also bear the sufferings that our sins cause?

You know, I have been tempted to doubt Heb 4:15 on one point.  How could Jesus know my temptation to feel discouraged and quit because of personal failure?  He never failed.

But what if His understanding goes far beyond His personal life experiences?  What if part of the hell of Calvary for Him was the experience of every soul agony you and I ever felt?  Even the discouragement, the failure, the guilt?

Surely he has borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows (Isa 53:4).

Not just His own sorrows, as similar as they may have been to our own.  He bore our sorrows.


Why not?  If the Lord could lay our iniquities on Him, could He not also lay our griefs and sorrows on Him? 

God's Word says He did.  Do you believe Him?

He says that believers are His body.  Is that just a metaphor, or is there some miraculous sense in which He has encompassed all who believe, and has made us a part of Himself? 

How closely has He identified Himself with us?

When you picture Him dying for you, do you see it as a transaction carried out from a distance?  Is it as if He were a philanthropist who heard that a stranger was wearing the chains of slavery, and sent money to have her freed?

Or do you see Him as one who loved so much that He came and married the slave, giving her His Name and completely identifying with her…even, shall we say, becoming one flesh with her, so that she became a part of His body? 

Did Jesus really leave His Father and come down to do that for me?  For you?

Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. (Eph 5:31-32)

Do you see Him as a husband who wraps Himself protectively around His wife as the whips lash at her, so that the blows fall on Him too?  Do you see Him wrapping us up in Himself in an embrace so firm that death itself could not break it?  Do you see Him bringing us with Him back out of the grave, resurrected with Him to a new life as part of His own body?

Is that really what it means to be "in Christ?"

For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. (Col 3:3)

If He has identified Himself that closely with us who believe, then isn't it true that our sufferings become His, just as His became ours?

But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. (Isa 53:5)

Listen to these holy words from the Apostle Paul:

Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church. (Col 1:24)

How could anything be lacking in Christ's sufferings?  Surely His sufferings were sufficient, weren't they?

Well of course they were.  Christ has done all of the paying for sin, and all of His part of the experiencing of our sorrows.  All that is lacking is our part of the experience.  And why do we have to suffer at all, if He suffered already?  So that we can experience the sweet fellowship with Him that only comes through suffering (Php 3:10), and so that we can comfort others (2 Co 1:3-5).

We may not be able to understand it all, but if we truly see how much He shares our afflictions and bears our burdens, and how much love accompanies all of the suffering that He allows into our lives, surely it will make our hurts more bearable, and our loving Father more precious in our sight.

He asks nothing of us that He has not already borne for us.  Go to Him, heavy-burdened one, and let Him give you rest.

1 comment:

Sherri Ward said...

This is more than merely thought-provoking! Thanks for the encouragement.

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