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.Hebrews 4:14-16
This passage from the Letter to the Hebrews is one of the assigned readings for this Sunday, but I am not planning on preaching on it this year. So, I thought I would share a reflection on it here. Like last week’s passage from Hebrews, this one offers us wonderful words filled with grace and comfort.
It still amazes me, when I stop and think about it, that we worship a God who can sympathize with us. It is such a simple yet profound thought, isn’t it? How many of the world’s “gods” are able to do that? In Jesus, God is able to sympathize with us. Why would God do that? The answer can only be love. How does God do that? By becoming one of us. God’s Son chose to empty himself of his divinity, and to live a mortal life, just like us, in order to be able to sympathize with us.
What a tremendous sacrifice it was for Jesus to empty himself of his divinity! This human life can offer its moments of joy, to be sure. But this life also showers upon us much “toil and trouble” (Psalm 90:10). Think of all the hardship that Jesus dealt with, simply because he gave up his divinity for us. He undoubtedly suffered minor human hardships like colds and toothaches, but also more serious human woes like heartache and grief. Jesus became one of us, so that he could sympathize with us and better understand the challenges that accompany us through this life on earth. He lived a mortal life, as one of us. The Son of God. It is pretty amazing, when you stop and think about that.
But perhaps the “mortal” part of that is the most profound of all: that Jesus, like us, lived under the shadow of death. Not simply his death, but those around him. Jesus grew up having to say goodbye to people he loved, just as we do.
Our own impending death is something that we usually try to ignore, and sometimes succeed at doing so. But we cannot ignore the death of those whom we love. If we live long enough, we will have to say goodbye to most of the people we love, and we know it. As human beings, we have the unique sorrow of what Wendell Berry calls the “forethought of grief.” We cannot avoid living in its shadow, and it can darken the brightest day.
God’s Son did not have to acquaint himself with this grief, with having to say goodbye to people he loved. But he chose to, because of his great love for us. There was no other way for him to truly sympathize with us. He had to suffer with us (the literal meaning of sympathize), and he could only do this by giving up his divinity and grieving as we do.
One day, of course, we will know endless life, with no shadow of grief. We will be transfigured, changed, and we will find ourselves in the presence of such love that there will no longer be any room for sorrow. God’s Son died to offer us this gift, and his resurrection assures us of it. Jesus became one of us so that we would one day become one with him – so that we would share in his divinity, not as a god, but as one who no longer must grieve. Death will be no more, and grief and sorrow will be no more.
What a day of rejoicing that will be! But in the meantime, we are invited to “approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” We are invited to turn to the One who truly sympathizes with us – who understands what we are going through, in a way that is beyond imagination.
We are so very blessed to believe in a God who not only created us, and loves us, but who also is able to sympathize with us. This is why we can approach this throne of grace with boldness. Because we know that he will understand what we are going through. And because we know this, we can approach his throne not only with boldness, but also with profound gratitude. For how can we help but be filled with gratitude when we consider that the Son of God became one of us so that we could become one with him?
Lord Christ, you came into the world as one of us, and suffered as we do. As we go through the trials of life, help us to realize that you are with us at all times and in all things; that we have no secrets from you; and that your loving grace enfolds us for eternity. In the security of your embrace we pray. Amen.Enriching Our Worship 2