Let us take our bibles this morning and turn to the epistle, the letter to the Hebrews chapter two. We are going to look at verse sixteen through eighteen. I titled my message, The Practical Sympathy of Christ, because I believe in this passage of scripture is setting up for us the purpose and the reason why Christ actually came to become a man.
So far, I have been speaking of the purpose of Jesus becoming a man in a particular of which he died. That is Jesus’ death had a particular purpose, in that, Hebrews 2:9, I says:
9… so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone.”
This passage is not saying that Jesus died for everyone. The word “taste” indicates that Jesus experienced death. Furthermore, He experienced death in its undiluted bitterness. He encountered everything we would have experienced had we paid our own penalty. This included His agonizing separation from the Father or when Jesus, in the Garden of Gethsemane, pleaded with the Father when he prayed, Father if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me, yet not as I will but as You will.
Our text in Hebrews is saying that Jesus did not merely sip the cup of death, but fully drained the cup; Undergoing all of death’s bitter dread. Jesus took the full extent of what could have been poured out on a person. More than anyone could have bore. We could have never bore what He bore. That is the point. He was the only one able to accomplish what He accomplished on the cross. Therefore, Jesus accomplished everything needed to complete and finish our salvation. That is a great blessing to me to even think about that.
I would like to take a few minutes to identify some interpretive issues in our passage and hopefully you will develop an appreciation for what it takes to wrestle down a meaning of a passage of scripture. Of course, that will be called hermeneutics, the science of interpreting. We have that problem in verse sixteen and I want to identify it for you. I want you to then ask How would I interpret it?
Hebrews was that the Messiah should be the Seed of Abraham. In other words, the scripture does not say seeds, plural, meaning many people. “But to your Seed” means one person, the person of Christ. Now the second half of Galatians 3:16 says:
16ÉHe saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ.
So here in scripture, here Christ is said to be the Seed of Abraham because in scripture it is so plainly affirmed to be so. However, it never says that Christ should be an angel or to take the nature of angels. Of course, the author has been spending a lot of time with that, but the bottom line is that the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, according to promise, took to Himself the nature of mankind. He did this while coming from the Seed of Abraham, but He did not take the nature of angels and there is no such thing said anywhere in scripture that He did so. That is the Classical interpretation.
The Modern interpretation is, as it says in scripture, they interpreted “took hold of” as help. It says:
16 For assuredly He does not give help to angels, but He gives help to the descendant of Abraham.
The Modern interpretation discards the Classical interpretation because of certain scholars several years ago in favor of the verb meaning “to assist” or “to come to the aid of”, as many of the more recent translations reflect. I am in favor of the Classical interpretation, because I believe it follows the flow of the context of the book of Hebrews and the text we are looking at.
The Classical interpretation also helps us to see that by mentioning angels again, the author of Hebrews was exposing the falsity of certain teaching of those who lie in the Qumran community; the Essenes, who held and taught that God would send two Messiahs, one priestly and one kingly and the archangel Michael would rule over both of them. They had this expectation that an angelic personage would be dominant in the mediation of deliverance and establishment of the awaited Messianic kingdom.
This kind of teaching would completely subvert the biblical portrait of Jesus as the Messiah. Instead, the Messianic Leader must be that of mankind. That means He must be a man and not of angels. For while He is in Himself superior to angels and we already saw in text, He humbled Himself to a position lower than the angels by an act of becoming flesh. He submitted Himself to being a man and dying on a cross.
Of course, that united Him to humanity and it made it possible for Him, by suffering and death to overthrow the Devil and to deliver us from bondage and by His resurrection and exultation to bring us to glory.
The book of Hebrews, then, is written to expose and turn upside down this teaching and instead, to teach that Christ is supreme over angels and all others. That means that anyone reading this must conclude that they must cease to focus their hope, in any sense, on the appearance of some angelic deliverer. The author is really going out of his way to do that.
I believe that the Classical interpretation keeps that intact and tells us that Christ has to become a man. So my first point in the first half of Hebrews 2:17 says:
In other words, He had to take to Himself a human nature. That is the first practical sympathy of Christ on behalf of His children. The stress is not on help, but the stress is on who He was in His nature because it is going to come up later in our text about how He is able to help those who are of humanity.
Let us look at the necessity of Christ becoming a man and having a human nature. In verse seventeen, it tells us that to identify Himself completely with mankind and not only included the assumption of flesh and blood but all human feelings and sensibilities that a human being can possibly have. Hebrews 2:17 says:
17Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, sÉ”
That means Jesus Christ did not take hold of any other nature but the human nature. He became fully man and was able to now, as a man, fully take on our nature. By doing this, He can enter into our condition and specifically the condition of suffering as a human being.
Also, our condition of feeling the power of temptation and often giving in to that temptation because of our weakness. He enters into our sorrows as a human being. He could not have done that if he took on any other nature than that of a man. This really answers the question, How is he able to sympathize with us? He is able to do so because He became one of us, that is why He is able to do it.
That brings us the the next part of verse seventeen because the question is what is the main purpose of our Lord having a human nature? There is a two-purposed clause spelled out for us in our text. The first is located in the second part of Hebrews 2:17:
By the incarnation he becomes a man, but in Him becoming a man, He meets the prequisite for becoming a high priest. Remember the priest is the mediator between man and God. There was only on high priest. There are many priests in the priesthood, but only one appointed high priest. He officiated on behalf of the people.
Looking at it, the first practical sympathy of Christ to take to Himself the human nature is : as a man to become a high priest. If he did not become a man, He could not be high priest. That means He could not be our Intercessor. That means we would have no one to go to on our behalf to bring us together with God. It had to be this way. These are things that had to happen.
Let us take a minute and consider some of the things that identifies the duties of a high priest. Look at Hebrews 5:4-6. A high priest is specifically called by God. They cannot be called by anyone else but God Himself. It says:
4And no one takes the honor to himself, but receives it when he is called by God, even as Aaron was.
Aaron was called by God to be a high priest.
5 So also Christ did not glorify Himself so as to become a high priest, but He who said to Him, “You are My Son, Today I have begotten You”;
6 just as He says also in another passage,
“You are a priest forever
According to the order of Melchizedek.”
In other words, Christ was called by the Father to be High Priest even before He came into the world. A second thing we see in Hebrews 5:1 and this affirms that he Had to be a man, it says:
1For every high priest taken from among men is appointed on behalf of men in things pertaining to God, in order to offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins;
A high priest had to be a man, because all high priests were men. If Jesus was going to be a high priest and a great high priest, He had to be a man. He could not have taken on any other nature but that. He had to do it so He can enter into everything possible for our salvation. In fact, in Hebrews chapter nine in verse seven it describes that there were two sections to the tabernacle.
There was the first place where the altar of incense, show bread and the lamp were the located. Then behind a curtain is the second place called the Holy of Holies. This is where the high priest entered once a year and he did it alone and could not take any one with him. He did it on the day of atonement. It details it in Hebrews 9:7:
7 but into the second, only the high priest enters once a year, not without taking blood, which he offers for himself and for the sins of the people committed in ignorance.
In other words, the high priests offered a sacrifice for his own sin because he was a sinful high priest and then a sacrifice for the people. He would then take the blood and bring it into the second place, the holy place and sprinkle it over the mercy seat. He did it once a year and it is the Day of Atonement. Yom Kippur, the day of covering. The day that the blood covers the people sins. That, of course, has direct reference to Christ.
In Hebrews, it talks about Christ fulfilling this picture. Fulfilling these types, shadows and messages given in the Old Testament. In Hebrews 5:3:
3 and because of it he is obligated to offer sacrifices for sins, as for the people, so also for himself.
The different thing about Christ in verse three is that He did not have to offer a sacrifice for Himself. His sacrifice was totally offered on behalf of the people. There is a reason for that. I will relay that reason at a later point.
In scripture, another duty of the high priest is that he interceded for the people. He came, again, and brought prayers before God on behalf of the people. In Hebrews chapter 7:25-28:
25 Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.
26 For it was fitting for us to have such a high priest, holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners and exalted above the heavens;
27 who does not need daily, like those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the sins of the people, because this He did once for all when He offered up Himself.
28 For the Law appoints men as high priests who are weak, but the word of the oath, which came after the Law, appoints a Son, made perfect forever.
The Son of Man, Jesus Christ, becomes the High Priest on behalf of His people. There are two things , in Hebrews, that is described about the High Priest. They make him quite different from all the other high priests throughout history. In Hebrews 2:17:
17Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.
Jesus is described, first, as a merciful High Priest. This is where we get the word sympathetic from because it can be translated both ways. Merciful, sympathetic, One who has compassion are all woven into this. Jesus is the One who lays all the miseries of His people to heart. So he can care for them and relieve them.
That is the point, when we hear about the mercies, sympathies or the compassion of God. It is all over the Old Testament. The bible is talking about Yahweh, the covenant-heaping name for God. The Lord it is translated as, with big letters. He is the merciful One. It says in Exodus 34:6
6 Then the Lord passed by in front of him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in loving kindness and truth;
God is in scripture considered to be the One who is merciful and compassionate. Deuteronomy 4: 31 tells us:
31For the Lord your God is a compassionate GodÉ”
That becomes very important because one of the qualifications for a high priest was to be compassionate. The only problem was that it is really hard to be compassionate when all you deal with are the people’s sin. It just weighs them down. Jesus was able to deal with that part of it. In Hebrews 5:2, it says:
2 he can deal gently with the ignorant and misguided, since he himself also is beset with weakness;
When you are dealing with the ignorant and misguided all the time, it wears on you. The thought process is that ignorant person does not deserve forgiveness. “Get away from me!” Not able to deal to the extent that God dealt with us in compassion.
If it were up to me and we were judges, there will be a lot of people dead. We will all say “Get rid of them!” That may have included us, but that is why Jesus is described as compassionate. He can go to the extent of compassion that is needed to rescue the ignorant, misguided, unholy and the sinner.
An example of this come from one of our missionaries. He sent a letter about a gentleman in the service and they started to pray with him. This man thought that God would never want someone as dirty as him. The reason why is that early I his marriage, he and his wife decided to abort two children. This guilt laid heavy on his heart all these years. He thought “Why would God want such a dirty, guilty person like me?”
That is the great lie of Satan is it not. “You are too dirty and guilty and come to God”, but that is the point. Jesus is compassionate to reach out to the dirty and guilty and to the person unable to help them self and is thinking wrong about how God will deal with them. Instead of running away from the cross, run to the cross with all your sin and all your guilt with the two abortions for forgiveness.
That is why Jesus said “Come to me all who labor and are heavy laiden and I will give you rest” “Any man who comes to me, I will not deny him”. Why does He say that? Because He is compassionate. Will not compassion motivate somebody? Get someone’s attention. I speak a lot of the wrath of God, but it is the high priest that is to be the One that is compassionate.
In fact, if you take the same message and go to the New Testament, one characteristic that Jesus brings out about the covenant-keeping God is that He is compassionate. The compassion that Jesus had on the servant unable to pay a debt in Matthew 18:32, 33:
32 Then summoning him, his lord said to him, ‘You wicked slave, I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me.
33Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, in the same way that I had mercy on you?’
The point is that a human being cannot have that kind of mercy. Somewhere down the line, we give it up. We cannot hold to that. In Luke 15:20 compassion is shown to a son unable to live on his own. It says:
20 So he got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.
Here is a son who takes his inheritance and squanders it. He spends it all on riotous living. Here is the compassion of he father, seeing that his son comes to the end of his way. Eating the food that the pigs are eating, finally comes home and the father sees him. What does he do? Does he send the guard to keep the son out? No, he runs towards the son with compassion.
It says in the scripture that he felt compassion, why? Here is the son who came to the end of himself and was helpless. He needed compassion and that is what God is, that is what our high priest is, He is a compassionate High Priest.
In Matthew 9:36, it shows compassion on the wandering and the lost people trying to find their way. It says:
36Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd.
That is what a person with compassion sees. He sees that the person is downcast and that he is helpless. They are so under the stress of the life, world, home and the own sin that there is no way that they can untie them self, unchain them self or rescue them self. They need something much greater. Compassion much greater than that is found in our High Priest, Jesus Christ, who becomes our man and enters into humanity so He can understand exactly what we go through and beyond.
This really connects us with Jesus in a way that nothing else does. In fact, this same kind of mercy that God extends to us is the same kind of mercy that God wants us to extend to Him in service to others. In Romans 12:1, it says:
1 Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship
The scripture says that we offer ourselves by the mercies of God. The foundation of dedication is redemption because a person must be set free from the master of sin. They will be free to dedicate their bodies for service. Their life for service to Jesus Christ. Jesus purchased us with His blood. He loosed us from our former master, whatever sin was mastering us. We can now dedicate our lives to service.
The motivation for our dedication is the tender pities and compassion of God. The bottom line is “Why should I give myself to serve God?” Because God was super merciful to me. It is the only way to minister to people. It is to be merciful to them. In their great need they have and how sin really wrecked their lives and how much darkness and ignorance they have. That is how we approach and serve people with our gifts. We are motivated by the pities and compassion of God. That is a pity arising from the miserable state pf one in need and unable to help themselves. God’s mercy is never condemning in scripture. It is always overflowing with compassion.
The admonition in Romans 12 comes from God’s compassion which had pity on us in our sin, lostness and our inability. Then it brought us from our former pitiful state to our present high, blessed state in Christ Jesus. Christ presented Himself for our need. In the name of these compassions, we are to present ourselves as holy because of God’s goodness and compassions. “Lord I want to serve You because You have been compassionate to me and therefore I want to be compassionate to others like You are to me constantly”.
You can really serve God and people that way. Then their troubles and sins and burdens will not wear you down. Because the motivation for you serving is really not to rescue them from their plight, we cannot do that. The motivation is how God’s compassion has been on you and how much that person needs God’s compassion and you bring it to them b the gospel.
The second thing in Hebrews 2:17 that describes Jesus is He is faithful. It says:
“…so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to GodÉ”
Two aspects are important for Jesus to carry out His office of the High Priest. The first is that Jesus remain faithful to God despite temptation or suffering. He was faithful to the end without faltering like no other high priest was. Secondly, Jesus must remain faithful to His careful consideration for the concerns He has for His children as they suffer and are tempted after conversion. Not only as a man did He have to take on the human nature but as a man He offered Himself as a sacrifice.
That brings us to the second point. The second practical sympathy of Christ is to satisfy all that pertains to man’s relationship with God. In other words to satisfy God and everything that pertains to God. The second purposed clause is found in the latter portion of Hebrews 2:17, it says:
“… in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.”
The most fundamental function of a high priest was to make sacrifice of atonement for the people. That was his main job. If he did not do that all would be lost and his office would be insignificant. Here Jesus becoming this human high priest, what does He do? He, in things pertaining to God, takes care of it all on our behalf. How does He do that? He takes our greatest need away. What is that need? To satisfy and propitiate the anger of God.
Exercising His office the high priest offers up sacrifices, that is his function. However, Jesus is the sacrifice. He is the sacrificer and the sacrificed. Therefore, He necessarily becomes the One who offers Himself and then He is the propitiation for the sins of His people. Propitiation means something that is done in view of God. That an offering is made to God that satisfies the demands of Go’s law an justice.
When Christ gave Himself as a propitiatory sacrifice, He satisfies what God requires, because God requires the death penalty for sin. As justice demands, the life is poured out completely. This means that God’s wrath and justice towards man is satisfied for all those who put their faith in Jesus Christ, their High Priest. Christ did not satisfy the demands of God for Himself. He did not have to, but He took upon Himself our sin and guilt and that is what the gospel is all about.
He becomes the One who offers Himself as a sacrifice on behalf of His people to satisfy all the demands of god the Father. He does it all. Christ sacrifices and sets aside sin. It purifies the people that come to Christ. It delivers men and women from God’s judgment and it averts the wrath of god. What else is there to fear if that I taken care of. He is the High Priest. He takes care of everything that pertains to God. He gives us eternal help. He secures and satisfies all the demands of God so our soul is safe forever in Christ Jesus.
The third practical sympathy of Christ in Hebrews 2:18. It is that as a man He suffered, was tempted and passed the test. In other words, He came to help someone in need. He came to help. In the passage of Hebrews 2:18 it says:
18 For since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted.
Since Jesus sympathized with humanity, it means that He literally feels with us. He literally feels with us and He understands what we go through in our sorrows, sufferings and temptations. Hebrews is not just saying that Jesus suffered through His temptations, but rather His suffering was the source of temptation in that He has been tested to the Zenith. To the highest degree. A place that we could have never gone. We could have never suffered to the extent that Christ suffered. In other words, Jesus got the full blow of temptation. There was nothing held back from Him.
You and I fall before it gets too heavy. We give in as soon as it gets too rough for us. We give in to temptation. Yet Jesus bears it to the highest extent. He is tested to the zenith and remains faithful and therefore is perfectly qualified to help those who are tempted. As the phrase says “He is able”, it means that He is capable of all things that we bring to Him concerning our temptations that we deal with everyday of our life.
It is really hard for a person who is physically fit to understand a person who is physically weary or tires easily. They are going all the time. They would love to be like that but cannot because of who they are and they get tired quickly and get weary quickly. It is hard for a person on the go to have compassion or understand what they are going through.
It is hard for a pain-free person to understand someone who is never free of pain. When we get to a certain age we understand people’s pain because we experience them for ourselves. We begin to physically feel pains.
There is emotional pain, all types of pains but I now understand now what it means for someone to lose a parent than I did before. This is because I went through it. I experience the phases of going through the loss. It is weird and strange. It never happened to me before, so therefore I am more in tuned and focused in on someone who loses a parent and what they go through. Even someone who loses someone closer than a parent like a spouse. It is a roller coaster of emotions to be able to sympathize with someone who prior to that you could not sympathize.
Even someone who learns things quickly finds it difficult to understand someone who does not grasp things without great trouble. The hard to come along side someone whose mind does not work as fast as yours. It is very hard to be patient and compassionate with people like that. However, the Lord is compassionate.
A person who has never sorrowed can really never understand the pain of a person at the point of life’s grief. Scripture is saying to us that Jesus can have sympathy because He has gone through they same things that we have gone through even to great extent. He can help. He has met our sorrows and face our temptations. As a result, He knows exactly what help you need and can give it, but do we believe that?
That is the problem. With all the advances in medications, doctors and institutions, we can have pain relived in any way possible except for looking to God. We rely on all these other methods and do not really believe that the Lord can help me in my need and suffering right now and in my temptation right now if I go to Him.
It could be because of the lie that we have been believing. That somehow Christ does not understand “my situation.” “Mine is so different from anyone else’s who has ever lived that He could not possibly understand my situation and come to my aid and help me.”
Yet the scriptures say the complete opposite. Because He became a man and dealt with your greatest need and become a sacrifice for you on your behalf to satisfy the Father. He was tempted to the highest point of the zenith and can at any moment, at any time be a help to you when you ask.
In Hebrews 4:15 it says:
15For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.
Jesus never gave in. Others say that it was not real temptation. Nonsense. He never gave in, if He gave in, then He will be like us to the extent of failing. No, He never gave in. He resisted and won. What does He win? He wins over it all because Christ’s personal experience of temptation suggest that His help includes strength for us to stand firm in the face of our own trials and the face of our own temptations and difficulties. Especially the temptations that would tempt us to be disloyal to God and give up our Christian profession.
He is going to keep us.
That is really the direction that Hebrews is going in. There are Jewish Hebrews who are appalled that we have a dying, suffering savior. How can His suffering be our benefit? He went through all of it. Not just for eternal help to rescue our soul, but for daily help to give strength in our greatest time of needs. Why? He sympathizes with our weaknesses and provides the help where it is needed. When we ask as His children, that is what He does.
He becomes very personal to you and I. We are given the strength to persevere to the end. That is what the Lord does. In saying that, I would say that the bottom line would be that Jesus Christ take for Himself a human nature, satisfied all that pertains to man’s relationship with God and takes care of it. He comes to our aid in our daily life as a aid because of who He is as a great compassionate high Priest.
As a man he suffered, was tempted and passed the test. Who would not want to follow a Savior like that? Who would not want to live for the Lord Jesus Christ when we begin to grapple with these principles and truths found in the Word of God. It gives us the motivation to live for Him and to pray. To seek out God when we are really suffering and being tempted when no one else knows we are. We should go to Him and ask Him for the strength to overcome it and according to scripture He will do it. Let us grow in our faith to believe that and practice that.
We should have testimonies to tel people how the Lord delivers us from our sorrow, suffering and wrong thinking. How we went to Lord as our High Priest and He answered because He understands exactly what I was going through. He can prescribe the prescription that I need at that time. That is what He does. We serve a great Savior. I am so thankful that Hebrews lays it out like this.
Let us pray. Lord I thank You for the great mercy that You have displayed to us. Even found in scripture, we would not know these things about You unless we read the Word of god. I am so thankful that it is right here Lord. I have to ask you Lord, can You increase our faith? This way we are not puny, faithless believers but that we are strong in Christ. In the midst of severe persecution, temptation, suffering and the sorrows of life we will run to You as our High Priest.
Knowing Lord that You can sympathize with us because You became a man and suffered to the greatest extent so we can be relieved. Thank You Lord for taking care of our eternal needs and our daily needs. I pray that we practice it more often than we do. I pray that we bear more testimonies because we practice it more. Help everyone of us to do it more.
More praising You and less complaining. More praying and bringing our needs to You and less running to other places to somehow fulfill our needs when only You can help them. I pray that we cast those things off, the worldly solutions and the advice of those who do not know You. I pray that we come running to You with whatever is in our heart and come running to our aid. Thank you Lord for Your compassion.
I ask that our hearts be open and bare as we confess our sins. As we make things in repentance and faith. That we come to You rejoicing. In the blood that was shed to satisfy the wrath of God. Thank You that we are reminded constantly of things we so easily forget. Lord, help us to examine our hearts to bring these things before You. For someone that does not know You and have been putting it off for a Lord time, may today be the day when they come to confess You as their Lord and Savior.
For those who know You, I pray that we constantly grow deeper in our commitment and faith. Nothing will move us off the path from living for You and serving You because our motivation to serve You is Your mercy and compassion. Thank You for all You do in Christ’ name I pray, Amen.