For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.
Most of us have likely had the experience of a person who, for whatever reason, was not able to sympathize with our problems. Maybe it’s a friend who can’t seem to understand a trial we’re going through, and we feel personally hurt and misunderstood. But a good and faithful friend is someone who does their best to empathize with us in our weakness and pain. Even if they haven’t personally experienced what we’re going through, they put themselves in our shoes and do their best to show compassion to us.
As amazing as some of our close friends are when it comes to sympathizing with our weaknesses and temptations, they will never hold a candle to how deeply and perfectly Jesus is able to understand. What separated Jesus from the Israelite high priests is that he walked in the same shoes as the people He ministered to, but as the sinless Son of God.
Think of the implications of this. Jesus, the spotless lamb who came to atone for the sins of the world, “gets you.” One of the things we look for in a friend is someone who “gets us.” They know us for who we are so there’s no need for any posturing. We can be vulnerable because we have a friend in our corner who suspends judgment and just listens. We don’t have to feel shame because we have someone who sees us and accepts us at our absolute best and worst. Of course, there’s limitations to this because none of our friends can sympathize with us without sin.
So imagine, for a moment, someone like Jesus knowing exactly what you went through because He went through it too, but didn’t cave into the temptation like you and I did and do. Because He never gave into the temptation it means He has a particular, one-of-a-kind heart for you that is untainted from the sin and temptation that your human friends are susceptible to. It means His love for you is untainted. It means His compassion for you is full. It means His joy for you is boundless. It means His forgiveness for you is all encompassing. As much as anyone can sympathize with your weaknesses, they can’t offer what Jesus our High Priest can offer. This is the kind of high priestly friendship you need.
As the new year beckons, maybe you find yourself at a deficit when it comes to people who are able to sympathize with you. You feel unheard and unknown as January 1 looms on the icy horizon. Consider the sympathetic and empathetic heart of Jesus. In every respect He has gone through what you have gone through. In all the ways you have failed when it comes to temptation, He has been faithful, and His faithfulness is the very thing that covers your failures.
Take a moment or two and ponder some of your failings of the past year. Do you have sin you need to repent of? Has self-pity become how you identify yourself? Then take some time to thank Jesus for how He is able to understand what you went through, while offering an undiluted kind of patience, compassion, and understanding.