The Sympathy of Christ
Hebrews 4:15
For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are…

The word "tempted" here includes, of course, all trials of soul and body, such as sorrow, pain, anguish, as well as what we commonly call temptation; but it is to this last that we will now confine ourselves. We can readily understand how our Lord's perfect humanity should sympathise with ours, because both are of one nature; but how He who is sinless should sympathise with us sinners — this is the difficulty. How, it may be asked, can He sympathise in repentance, deserved shame, and guilt of conscience? It may be said, that this difficulty carries its own answer; for His sympathy with penitents is perfect, because He is sinless; its perfection is the consequence of His perfect holiness. And for these reasons:

1. First, because we find, even among men, that sympathy is more or less perfect, as the holiness of the person is more or less so. The living compassion, with which the holiest men have ever dealt with the sinful, is a proof that in proportion as sin loses its power over them, their sympathy with those that are afflicted by its oppressive yoke becomes more perfect.

2. And from this our thoughts ascend to Him who is all-perfect; who being from everlasting very God, was for our sakes made very Man, that He might unite us wholly to Himself. Above and beyond all sympathy is that of our High Priest. None hate sin but those who are holy, and that in the measure of their holiness; and therefore in the Person of our blessed Lord there must exist the two great conditions of perfect sympathy: first, He has suffered all the sorrows which are consequent upon sin and distinct from it; next, He has, because of His perfect holiness, a perfect hatred of evil. And these properties of His human nature unite themselves to the pity, omniscience, and love, which are the perfections of His Divine. Now we may see in what it is that our Lord, by the experience of humiliation in our flesh, has learned to sympathise with us: Not in any motion of evil in the affections or thoughts of the heart; not in any inclination of the will: not, if we dare so much as utter it, in any taint or soil upon the soul. Upon all such as are destroying themselves in wilful commerce with evil, He looks down with a Divine pity; but they have withdrawn themselves from the range of His sympathy. This can only be with those who are in sorrow under sin; that is, with penitents. It is in the suffering of those that would be cleansed and made holy that He partakes.

I. WE MAY PLEAD WITH HIM ON HIS OWN EXPERIENCE OF THE WEAKNESS OF OUR HUMANITY. None knows it better than He, not only as our Maker, who" knoweth our frame, and remembereth that we are but dust," but as Man, who made full trial of our nature "in the days of His flesh." He knows its fearful susceptibility of temptation — how, in its most perfect state, as in His own person, it may be solicited by the allurements of the evil one. And if in Him it could be tempted to sin, how much more in us! When we confess our sins before Him, we may lay open all. Things we hardly dare to speak to any man, to any imperfect being, we do not shrink from confessing before Him — things which men would not believe, inward struggles, distinctions in intention, extenuating causes, errors of belief — all the manifold working of the inward life which goes before a fall. With all His awful holiness, there is something that draws us to Him. Though His eyes be "as a flame of fire," and the act of laying ourselves open to Him is terrible, yet He is "meek and lowly of heart," knowing all our case, "touched with the feeling of our infirmities."

II. WE MAY APPEAL TO HIS EXPERIENCE OF THE SORROW AND SHAME WHICH COME BY SIN UPON MANKIND. He suffered both as keenly and as fully as it was possible for one that was without sin (see Psalm 22:1, 2, 6-8, 14, 15; Isaiah 53:3, 4; Psalm 69:1-3, 7, 10-12, 20, 21; Psalm 88:1, 2, 5-9, 14-16; Lamentations 1:12, 13). All that sin could inflict on the guiltless He endured; and to that experience of shame and sorrow we guilty may appeal. Though we suffer indeed justly, yet can He feel with us though He did nothing amiss. Though in the bitterness of soul which flows from consciousness of guilt He has no part, yet when we take revenge upon ourselves in humiliation, and offer ourselves to suffer all He wills for our abasement, He pities us while He permits the chastisement to break us down at His feet. "When our heart is smitten down within us, and withered like grass, so that we forget to eat our bread," it is a thought full of consolation, "that we have not an High Priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities." Therefore let us ask for consolation from no other. Let us not go, I will not say to the world, and its fair words, smooth persuasions, shallow comforts, for to these no man whose repentance has any depth or reality in it can bear to go; they are miserable, falsifying stimulants, which beat and bewilder the heart, and leave it open to terrible recoils of sorrow; but let us not go to hooks or to employment; no, nor even to the consolation and tender love of friend, brother, wife, husband, spiritual guide; no, nor to the most perfect saint and nearest to Himself; but to Him for whose sake all these must be forsaken, in whom are all the fresh springs of solace which distil in scanty drops through the tenderest and fondest hearts. Let us go at once to Him. There is nothing can separate us from His sympathy but our own wilful sins. Let us fear and hate these, as for all other reasons, so above all for this, that they cut off the streams of His pure and pitiful consolation, and leave our souls to wither up in their own drought and darkness. So long as we are fully in His sympathy, let our sorrows, shame, trials, temptations, be what they may, we are safe. He is purifying us by them; teaching us to die to the world and to ourselves, that He only may live in us, and that our life may be "hid with Christ in God." And again, that we may so shelter ourselves in Him, let us make to Him a confession, detailed, particular, and unsparing, of all our sins. And lastly, let us so live as not to forfeit His sympathy. It is ours only so long as we strive and pray to be made like Him. If we turn again to evil, or to the world, we sever ourselves from Him.

(Archdeacon Manning.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.

WEB: For we don't have a high priest who can't be touched with the feeling of our infirmities, but one who has been in all points tempted like we are, yet without sin.

The Sympathy of Christ
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