Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, 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 sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
A high priest is one who has hands stretched out in two directions. He joins hands, as it were, with God, ministering God’s presence to God’s people. And he reaches out to people, drawing them to God.
How if that hand, stretched out to me and you, is prickly and hard, exuding condemnation, lacking any warmth and sympathy? Our own approach to God would be faltering as a result. Our sense would be that the high priest’s disdain is reflective of God’s attitude, too.
This is why there is such huge power in the word “sympathize.”Jesus knows our weaknesses and has sympathy towards us right in their midst. While a “prickly” high priest would back away from any taint of weakness, our High Priest has great compassion for us right at those very points.
Think of your weaknesses. Those places you most easily stumble and fall. The temptations that most readily trip you up, time and again. Those dark attitudes of heart that seem to rise up unbidden. The foul imaginings that play out in technicolour across the movie-screen of your mind. The hurtful words that slip out so effortlessly, almost before you have a chance to think.
Those are the very places that Jesus himself, the perfect Son of God, feels sympathy toward you. Receive that. Pause for a moment. Feel the reality deeply. Know the truth of it. Yes, the Son of God himself feels for you in those very weaknesses.
Indeed, further, beyond anything we could have ever expected, it turns out those areas of temptation are ones in which Jesus himself has walked, experiencing their attraction to the full, enduring all of their seductive raging. No wonder he sympathizes with our struggles – he’s been there.
“Yet was without sin.” This phrase caps the encouragement in this teaching. If our High Priest identified fully with our weaknesses and yet also fell into the very same, we’d all be in one pit together. Ultimately, not very helpful. But our High Priest, Jesus himself, has endured. He persevered, pressing through. He has come out, unstained on the other side. We have two powerful sightings of this endurance in the Gospels. The first comes while he is badgered in the wilderness by the Devil – Jesus stands firm, each time casting aside the Tempter’s suggestion to step outside the Father’s will. The second is in Gethsemane when the coming agony of crucifixion presses in with overwhelming intensity – yet he aligns himself again with the Father’s will, setting his sights on the cross.
This, then, is a High Priest from whom we can receive both sympathy and help. So, don’t hold back. The throne of grace is open before us. Step up, with full assurance and absolute confidence. We are welcomed to step right in – Jesus’ acceptance is sure. His help is there for us in our time of need. Any time. All the time.
Thank you Lord Jesus that you are my great High Priest. Thank you that you understand my struggles and weaknesses so fully, with such sympathy. Praise you that you always endured. Thank you that you welcome me to find mercy and grace in my time of need. I receive.
Reflect: In what area of weakness do you most need Jesus’ understanding and help right now? With the full confidence this passage provides, take it all straight into the throne room.