The Sympathies of Christ
In the Epistle to the Hebrews, the Christian is viewed as passing through the world as a pilgrim to his heavenly home. To him, as to Israel of ancient time, this pilgrimage is a time of temptation or testing, in which his faith and his faithfulness are put to the proof. And here it is, in the time of his weakness and liability to fail under the pressure of his trials, or to be enticed by temptations from the scenes through which he passes, that the gracious ministry in sympathy and in succour of the living Lord meets him in his need, giving grace to sustain the trial, and imparting true sympathy while he endures it.
Of the priest of olden time it is said, that he was able to “bear gently” (R.V.) in his measure with those to whom he ministered, as he himself was “compassed with infirmity,” and, therefore, liable to err. But it is not so with our Great High Priest. For although He “was in all points tempted like as we are, apart from sin,” He ever was Himself, the Holy One of God, subject to no infirmity, compassed with no weakness, liable to yield to no enticement. In Him was Manhood in all perfection seen, without fracture or stain, ever presenting to God all that man was due to Him in devotion, obedience, and service.
But while He “knew no sin” (2 Cor. 5:21), and certainly experienced none of the effects of it in weakness or infirmity, He came sufficiently near to us, in our low estate, to “know our frame,” and to experience the hostilities of the world through which His people pass, and the testings to which they are subject, so as to be fitted for that place and that service to which He has been “called” (Heb. 5:4) by God, and in which He will ever abide while there is a tried and tempted saint of God in pilgrimage on earth. He can be “touched with the feeling of our infirmities,” and in all the perfect sympathy of His sinless manhood, He is able to succour as well as to sympathise, because He is “Jesus, the Son of God,” passed into the heavens and up to the eternal throne, as One alike perfect in His humanity to sympathise, as supreme in His Deity to save.
He is the “very same Jesus,” who had compassion on the widow who followed her only son to the grave at Nain, who wept at Lazarus’ tomb in sympathy with the bereaved sisters of Bethany, and whose tender “compassions fail not.” Although now far beyond personal suffering Himself, He is still the perfect Sympathiser with and the mighty Succourer of His people, in all their sorrows and amid all their tears. He ministers of His sympathy through the Word by the Spirit to the waiting soul, and He imparts of His strength to those who “come boldly” to that Throne of Grace upon which He sits, to “obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16). It is His peoples’ privilege to make use of Him in this unwearied service as Sympathiser and Succourer, “all the days” of their pilgrimage here. And while it is His delight ever to be used by His own, especially in every “dark distressing, hour,” in days of faith’s trials His sympathies are especially in exercise and in season.
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