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The Biblical Teaching on “Sympathy” (2)

“For in that he himself suffered, being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted” Heb. 2:18.

“For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities, but was in all parts tempted like as we are, yet without sin.”  Heb. 4:15

In our first article we learned that God is the fountain and standard of all sympathy in heaven and on earth.  He is such in His elective love for His people.  It is a very unique and particular compassion of bowels of merciful loving kindness!  It is higher than heaven and deeper than hell, as well as matchless and measureless.  Never can it be comprehended as a glorious virtue of God by us.  We believe with the heart.  We take God at His word!

We will in this installment attempt to learn that this great compassion of God to us is ours in our great high priest in heaven.  Is his NAME not JESUS?  Does this name not mean JEHOVAH saves His people from their sins?

It is a pivotal and basic confession of our faith that the Babe in Bethlehem, lying in a manger, was the eternal Son of God in human flesh!  Have you noticed carefully that in Ques. 29 of the Heidelberg Catechism it is asked, “Why is the Son of God called Jesus” and not why did Mary call her baby boy “Jesus”?  For the angel explained to the shepherds “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.”  This Jesus was more than “that man of Galilee,” the mere sentimentally sympathetic man.  Here we deal with “God manifested in flesh…preached in the world, taken up in glory” (I Tim. 3:16).  Of this there can be no doubt in the Church of God, which is the pillar and ground of the truth!

There is great instruction for us concerning the sympathy of Jesus, yea, of His ability to succor, to come to us to help in deepest empathy of love.  And this ability Jesus has not simply as an understanding individual among men, but He has this ability as our great High Priest in the temple behind the veil, where He even lived to pray, to intercede for us.

Jesus, our high priest “walked in our shoes.”  No, He did not walk in the experiences merely of all mankind, but He walked in the peculiar temptations which are the lot of God’s people upon whom the Spirit of God rests.  He walked in the theater where there is all the suffering of this present time.  We are assured that all this suffering is not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us (Rom. 8:18).

It was human suffering by a Divine person, by God Himself in our flesh.  This was suffering by the person of the Son in the days of His flesh.  In this suffering He was tempted.  When we inquire most minutely into this compassionate suffering of temptation by JESUS, we learn that in its deepest essence, this was the compassion (suffering with) that mercy which was manifested within the most holy place on the mercy-seat upon the Ark of the Testimony.  It was God meeting us in our sin, guilt and temptations and weaknesses.

There is great instruction for us in the text which we quoted from Heb. 2:18.  There we are told that Jesus, the great High Priest, the captain of our salvation is exceeding able to reach down to our level of temptations.  Our temptations are all connected with sin, with stumbling like that of Peter and David in their darkest hours (II Sam. 11:1ff, and Matt. 26:69-75).  O, awful hours of temptations of the best of the saints.  May we say that Jesus was tempted just as these saints were, and as we are, so that He is able to help us, succor, lift us from the miry morass of sinful lust and set us at liberty with a free and good conscience once again?  I believe that such is the implication and teaching of Heb. 2:17, 18.  Did not Jesus often show fathomless compassion for sinners of the deepest dye?  Did he not eat and drink with publicans and sinners right over the protests of Pharisees and Scribes of His day (Luke 15:1ff; Matt. 11:16-19)?

What a sensitive compassion and empathy is Jesus’ to be sure!

Is it not a fine touch in the KJV translation of Heb. 4:15 where they translate the Greek verb “sympatheesai” (to suffer with) with that matchless:  able to be touched with our infirmities.  Notice that “infirmities” is in the plural.  Many, many are the temptations of but one saint.  O, the manifold temptations of the numberless throng who have their raiment washed in the blood of the Lamb!

Here we have revealed the tender care of the Shepherd of Israel for each bleating sheep, far and near.  High as the heavens and wide as the ocean is the love of our Savior.  What Divine depths of sympathy – empathy.  Small wonder that the Spirit writes through Paul in Ephesians 3:14ff, “For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ…that he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God.”

In deepest reverence we take off the shoes from our feet and we worship and adore the great compassion of God in JESUS, our High Priest and apostle!

Notice; that this Jesus is made like unto us, his brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful high priest in the things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people.  Yes, in the terrible outcry “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me” there is the tempted Savior, tempted as not man, or angel in heaven or hell ever was or shall be!

Here we see the horrible blasphemy of a human “Passionspiel”!  What human mortal ever was thus tempted suffering the agonies of hell for His people?!

But now we take one hard look at who this JESUS is, do we not?  And we learn from the Bible that He is the priest according to the order of Melchizedek, who in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto Him Who was able to save Him from death…though He were a Son, learned He obedience by the things He suffered!  Heb. 5:6-10

He is the Jesus Who came to save His people from their sins, the sympathizing Shepherd of Israel, God and man in one Person.  He became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey Him!  We were saved that we should love as we are loved, and also be touched with the feeling of the infirmities of all the fellow saints in Christ Jesus.

God willing, we shall study that mystery of godliness in our next installment.