Jesus is able to “sympathize with our weakness” (Heb. 4:15). Think about that statement from the Scriptures. The supreme and omnipotent God of the universe is able to sympathize with our frailty and struggle. In various ways throughout His earthly ministry Christ experiences the challenges of humanity, the brokenness of our world, and the sorrow of our experiences. In particular, Christ knows about loss, betrayal, and abuse.
Death is the great enemy (1 Cor. 15:26). There are very few things in our experience that are as painful as losing someone you love. Jesus is no stranger to this loss and the Bible records one of the most famous examples in the story of Lazarus. It’s true that Lazarus is raised from the dead and yet even with the knowledge of what He will do and the power to do it, Jesus still weeps. He weeps over the loss of His friend. He feels the grief and sting of death despite having the power of resurrection in His being. There’s a sense, then, in which Jesus feels the sting of death more purely than even we do. For our grief is mixed with the fear of never seeing our loved ones again. It is mixed with the immediate sense of losing their relationship, their presence, their touch. But Jesus will bring Lazarus back from the dead. He knows that He will again experience all those joys with His dear friend. So, why then does Jesus weep over Lazarus death? Because He feels the pure sting of death’s wickedness. His is the purest grief, directed entirely at the reality of death and its impact on His friends. In fact, the text tells us that Jesus wanted to see where Lazarus was buried and upon seeing the site He wept (John 11:34-35). His weeping caused the Jews present to say, “see how he loved him” (v. 36). Jesus experienced sorrow like we do. He knew grief intimately and it makes Him a great comforter of those who also experience grief.
Jesus also experienced betrayal. In fact Jesus experiences a very intimate and personal betrayal. Judas had spent a great deal of time with Jesus. He had eaten with Him, walked with Him, and been called by Jesus as one of the Apostles. There was trust and affection. There were three years of personal investments made in this relationship. Yet, Judas sells Jesus out for some silver. Perhaps the most stinging aspect of Judas betrayal is the manner in which he identifies Jesus to those who will arrest Him. He doesn’t just point to Jesus, but kisses Him (Luke 22:47-48). It is an act of intimacy used in a malicious way. Betrayal always hurts, but when it is committed in this manner, committed by means of affection it is especially hurtful. Perhaps you can relate to this. Many of us experience betrayal by those we love. Some of us experience that betrayal in the form of misuse of affection. Sexual assault by someone we trust is one such example, but there are others that are no less hurtful. Consider the tactics of a manipulative abuser who pretends to be expressing concern while the cut their spouse down (“I know you’re not very smart when it comes to money, that’s why I manage all our finances. I am just trying to protect you”). Intimate betrayal is a deep wound; it is a deep wound that Jesus knows all about. We can trust Christ with our cries of hurt because He knows them well.
Jesus also experienced physical trauma at the hands of wicked people. The brutality of the crucifixion, the humiliation, the torture is well documented in Scripture and frequently discussed. Jesus is not merely killed, but He is tortured, mocked, stripped, and humiliated. He experiences the most painful forms of abuse imaginable. Crucifixion itself would have been bad enough, but Jesus’ experience has layers of depth to it that speak to the layers of abuse that so many victims encounter. If anyone knows the hurt, the grief, the fear of ongoing trauma it is Jesus. If anyone can relate to the terrorizing that victims experience in abusive relationships it is Jesus. If anyone can sympathize the weakness that arises in those who are tortured and suffer humiliation it is Jesus.
“We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses.” What an encouragement it is to know that Jesus sees, understands, and can relate to some of our biggest hurts and heartaches. What a comfort it is to know that when we cry out to Him, Jesus does not look on with curiosity, but He feels our pain too. This recognition does not, of course, make all our heart ache and pain disperse. But a burden shared is lightened and to know that that burden is shared with our Lord is a marvelous thing! Jesus specifically invites us to come to Him when we are “heavy laden” and He delights to give us rest (Matthew 11:28-30). So, come to our Great High Priest who can sympathize with our weaknesses. Come because He knows. Come because He cares. Come because He can sympathize.