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. Hebrews 4, verse 15.
One of the qualities I love most about my Savior is that He’s like me. He has been tempted in every way and yet He overcame those temptations. I haven’t; I’ve fallen; I’ve been tempted and I have given in over and over and over again. Yet I’m like Him and He’s like me. He had real flesh, real skin, real blood, real pain, real joy. Jesus spent most of His life working as a carpenter’s son (or some kind of tradesman) in Nazareth. Do you think He ever whacked His thumb with a hammer? I’m betting He did and I’m betting it hurt just as much as when you or I do it. It isn’t a sin to yell “ow!” when something hurts you. When Jesus saw a pretty woman, I’m betting He said to Himself “she’s beautiful” and He meant it. When Jesus was sad, say when Joseph died or something bad happened to someone He knew, He was genuinely sad. Sure, He knew that person’s fate and He understood the real differences between the temporal pleasure of life here and the eternal peace of living forever in heaven. Yet He also really, truly grieved when people endured things like suffering, death and sorrow. And have you ever considered that Jesus probably laughed at jokes, too?
These are all things with which you and I can identify. They mean Jesus is like us in every way as a human being. How amazing is it that He put off His God qualities to experience life the same way we do. He creates life, then comes to live one just like ours in every way save one: He never sinned. The small and big things we think, say and do that trip us up in front of His Spirit and His Father: Jesus never once did them. Over and over throughout history He had commanded humanity to “be perfect.” Have you ever considered how this actually means we could be? Yes, that perfection eludes us because of sin and our sinful nature, yet Jesus Himself commanded us to be perfect. He commanded us to do something He knows we can do…yet we don’t. We don’t because we choose not to. We choose sin, even when it doesn’t seem very fair. And yet He still put off that eternal God quality of His and chose to come here to live as one of us anyway. I like to think that there’s a mountaintop someplace where I could sit and comprehend that very idea for the rest of my life here.
Yet all that navel-gazing can’t walk away from a very simple, stark fact that (literally) makes all of the difference in the world. Part of that “He’s like me” quality is what is mentioned in 2 Corinthians. In being fully man and fully tempted, God Almighty took all those sins that Jesus resisted and put them on Him anyway. Think about it: the man spent His entire life resisting even the smallest temptation and yet God stuck Him with the sins anyway. Jesus didn’t deserve it. He kept the Divine command perfectly and yet the Divine punished Him anyway. Why? You know why: because it had to happen if humanity would have any hope, any eternal promise, of standing blameless in front of its Creator.
Much of the book of Hebrews – including today’s verse – is also spent describing Jesus as a great high priest. The priests of antiquity weren’t any better than the priests or pastors of today. They’re flawed sinful men just like anyone else, yet they’re chosen to minister to God’s people. It must be hard to be a pastor; I am friends with many priests and pastors and I admire their tenacity in trying so hard to live more moral lives than average guys like me. They do it to uphold the highest standard of representing God. Yet they’re still just men. They fail and fall like anyone else. Pastors and priests need a savior too.
And they have one: the truest high priest of all. Jesus came to not just lead His church but to actively minister to it. To care for it, to build it up, to rebuke it when necessary and to spread His love through it to people who desperately search for real love and real meaning. That truest priest of all was fully God and fully man all at the same time in a mystery we can only slightly comprehend. Yet, way back when, He was down in the dirt with people who couldn’t pull themselves out of it. Majestic, holy and Lord of all today, He still is. Our Savior high priest is still right here with us, in the toughest of struggles and the highest of highs.
For more reading: Hebrews 2:17-18, 2 Corinthians 5:21.
Lord Jesus, all praise be to You for being our Savior, for being man and God, and for all the love You spread in Your ministry here and from eternity.