Have you ever come to someone to share a weakness or a failure, to get some help, only to have them be hardhearted or even condemn you? A story from my life . . .. Notice in our Scripture today how Jesus is not like this.
15For 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. 16Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
We all have weaknesses. We are human. And as Jesus said of us, “the flesh is weak” (Mark 14:38). This phrase, “the flesh is weak” refers to the frailty and weakness of being human; our fears and our desires which so often control us.
And so when we go through times of trial and suffering we are tempted to give in to our fears and our desires and to take the easy way out so that we fail, so that we sin – instead of doing God’s will. As James says, “we all stumble in many ways” (James 3:2). This is what the writer is talking about when he speaks of “our weaknesses” – our frailty and our failures.
Well, Jesus was fully human. As Hebrews 2:17 says, “he had to be made like his brothers and sisters in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God.” As a human, he knows all about human weakness and frailty.
And he went through trials and suffering as well, which tempted him in all the kinds of ways that we are tempted. As the author puts it in v. 15, “in every respect (Jesus) has been tempted as we are.”
- Remember, just before he began his ministry – the devil tempted him in the wilderness three times.
- Jesus himself characterized his whole time of ministry as a series of trials in Luke 22:28.
- And at the end of his ministry, in the garden of Gethsemane, facing death, he was tempted not to go to the cross. The writer of Hebrews refers to this in chapter 5:7. “In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death.”
Jesus knows all about human frailty and weakness.
And this is precisely why he can sympathize with us in our weakness. Hebrews 2:18 says, “For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.”
The word “sympathy” includes in its meaning the ideas of empathy and compassion. He can relate to our situation. And the word also can carry with it the sense of giving help (Hebrews 10:34). He is not waiting to condemn us. Rather he understands our struggle and wants to help all who desire to overcome.
You might say, “Well, yes Pastor, but Jesus was sinless. That makes him different than us.” This is true. But the difference doesn’t disqualify him from helping us, it is exactly what qualifies him to help us. It shows that he knows how to overcome in the midst of weakness and temptation – and so he can help us overcome as well.
Because all this is so, v. 16 exhorts us to act. “Let us then, with confidence draw near to the throne of grace . . ..” We can come with confidence – or courage or boldness, and draw near, that is, into the very presence of God, because we know that through what Jesus has done, we can find grace with God (Hebrews 10:19-22).
Indeed, God’s throne is called here “a throne of grace.” It is often associated with judgment, but because of Jesus it is a throne of grace for us.
16 tells us that we are to draw near to God so “that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Mercy is mentioned first, and this certainly includes forgiveness for our failures.
But we also receive aid. It says, “that we may receive . . . grace to help in time of need.” Jesus gives us the mercy of his forgiveness, but he also wants to strengthen us in our weakness and to cause us to overcome in our times of testing and suffering, just as he did. This is an empowering grace; this is the strength that the Spirit gives. For thought the flesh is weak, the Spirit is willing (Mark 14:38), that is, willing to empower us to do God’s will even when it seems impossible.
Are you weak this morning? Are you struggling? Are you going through trials and temptations? Are you in a “time of need”? Have you failed? Come to Jesus in prayer; draw near with confidence “that you may find mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”