December 25, 2017 • Life for Leaders
Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
When I was in high school, I was on the track team. I did a variety of events, including the high hurdles and the shot put. Though I was not very good at distance running, every now and then I’d join the cross-country team in their workouts. Since we lived in a hilly area, many of these workouts were gut-wrenching. One particularly steep, long hill was called “Puke Hill.” I’ll let you figure out why.
Our workouts were assigned by our track coach, John Barnes. It would have been easy to resent Coach Barnes, who sent us on workouts that tested our bodies and tried our souls, except for one thing. Mr. Barnes always ran with the team. When we were hurting, he was hurting. When we could barely catch our breath, he could barely catch his breath. Now, though he was in his 40s, Mr. Barnes was an exceptional runner. In college, he was on the U.S. Olympic team that went to the 1952 games in Helsinki. Nevertheless, when we ran the hills, Coach’s face showed the pain he felt.
When we were running up the steep hills above Glendale, California, when our lungs were burning and our stomachs churning, it made a big difference that Mr. Barnes understood our struggle. We felt more connected to him than if he had remained safely back at school. We were ready to accept the agony of distance running because we knew Mr. Barnes got it.
It’s that way with Jesus, according to Hebrews 4:14-16. This passage begins by revealing that he is “a great high priest who has ascended to heaven” (4:14). Yet, before his ascension, Jesus was a human being, God in truly and fully human flesh. Therefore, according to Hebrews, “we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin” (4:15). Yes, Jesus did not know the agony of sinning, though he experienced the full weight of sin on the cross. But in other ways, Jesus is able “to empathize with our weaknesses,” even what it feels like when we are tempted. Jesus understands. He gets it. He gets us.
So, when we’re hurting physically, or when our hearts are heavy, or when we feel abandoned, or when people disappoint us, or when those we love reject us, or when we experience the reality of being human in a fallen world, Jesus knows how we feel.
And, as we’ll see tomorrow, he invites us to share it all with him. But, for today, let me encourage you to reflect upon the humanity of Jesus and the fact that he understands your struggles. The following questions might help.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
When you think of Jesus, do you remember that he is able to empathize with your weaknesses? If so, what helps you to do this? If not, why not?
If you really took seriously the empathy of Jesus, how might this make a difference in your prayers? In the way you work? In the way you live?
Gracious God, thank you for the good news of this passage. Thank you for Jesus, the Son of God who is our great high priest. Thank you that he understands, that he empathizes with our weaknesses, that he gets it when we struggle.
Help us, Lord, to remember that you understand. When we feel weak, may we be encouraged by the fact that you get it and that you are with us.
All praise be to you, O God, for coming to us in Jesus, for being one of us and one with us. Amen.
Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online commentary:
Best of Daily Reflections: A Man of Sorrows
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.