I was overwhelmed when I recently read these words from Hebrews.

As Christmas approaches, here are some great reasons to rejoice in the incarnation of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.

Let me remind you of the human sympathy of the Lord Jesus. I was overwhelmed when I recently read these words from Hebrews about the significance of Jesus’ humanity.

Please read the following slowly, and out loud.

Jesus’ humanity:

  • Enabled him to die [2:9]: he understands death, for he died a human death.
  • Meant that he suffered in order to be made perfect [i.e., achieve atonement. 2:10]: he understands human suffering.
  • Means that he is willing to be our brother, and own us as his brothers and sisters [2:11,12]: he becomes one of us, and owns us as his brothers and sisters.
  • Enabled him to break the power of the devil, who had the power of death [2:14]: he has broken death’s power.
  • Enabled him to free us from our slavery to the fear of death [2:15]: he has freed us from fearing death.
  • Enables him to become a merciful and faithful high priest, to make atonement for us [2:17]: he has made atonement for us.
  • Enables him to help those who are being tempted, because he suffered when he was tempted [2:18]: he can help us in our trials and temptations, because he suffered them too.
  • Enables him to sympathize with our weakness, for he was tempted in every way, just as we are, that we might approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need [4:15,16]: he sympathises with our weakness.
  • Meant that he prayed with loud cries and tears [5:7]: he understands the agony of submitting to God’s will.
  • Enabled him to learn obedience from what he suffered [5:8]: like us, he suffered in learning obedience.
  • Enabled him to be our forerunner into the presence of God [6:20]: he has made the way for us into God’s presence.
  • Enables him to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them [7:23-25]: he continues to pray for us.
  • Enables us to have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, and because we have a great priest over the house of God, we can draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water [10:19-23]: we can enter God’s presence with confidence and full assurance.

How I wish that Evangelical Christians would fully experience and communicate the human sympathy of Jesus.

What amazing richness! We have all learnt the meaning of Jesus’s humanity in terms of the atonement: ‘Only God could do it, only man should do it’.  But see also Jesus’ deep and willing human experience: weakness, suffering, learning obedience, trials and temptations, loud cries and tears, and death.

Liberals and Evangelicals

Here is a rash generalisation. “Liberal Christians focus on Jesus’s human sympathy, and Evangelical Christians focus on the atonement.”

How I wish that Liberal Christians would learn and preach the atonement!

And how I wish that Evangelical Christians would fully experience the human sympathy of Jesus, and would fully communicate the human sympathy of Jesus:

  • In their family as well as in their ministry
  • in their ministry and evangelism,
  • in their preaching and their personal interactions,
  • in their leadership and their management,
  • in their personal lives and their busy ministries,
  • in their personal style and their public persona!

The man who converted me to Christ, and discipled me, Harrie Scott Simmons, had the most extraordinary combination of high standards for those he discipled, and also deep human sympathy when we stumbled! He was always ready to point us to the cleansing blood of Christ, and the personal sympathy of Christ with our weakness. A remarkable and wonderful combination!

Do share the joy.

A prayer:

Dear Lord Jesus, our merciful high priest, we thank you that you became one of us, that in your life on earth you experienced weakness, suffering, learning obedience, trials and temptations, loud cries and tears, and death. We thank you for your deep sympathy with us, and your willingness to own us as your brothers and sisters. Help us to know your compassion, kindness and sympathy in our own lives and ministries, and to treat all people with that same compassion, kindness and sympathy. For your glory, Amen.