Feeling Our Infirmities

I was reading the book of Hebrews the other day, and the Lord began to comfort me with a couple passages from the book of Hebrews.  It is easy to get frustrated with certain factors in our lives: we’re human.  We are flesh and blood, and we have limitations and temptations that often beset us.  We are human.

But the comforting thing is, Jesus is human too.  If there is a forgotten revelation (or at least a forgotten emphasis) of the Oneness doctrine, it is the fact that Jesus Christ was a complete human.  In response to pluralism, we often emphasize the complete deity of Jesus—at the expense of his real humanity.  But Jesus really was a man!  He experienced our life, our hurts, our frustrations; and these experiences allow him to comfort us in our own times of weakness.

Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.  For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham.

Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people.  For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succor them that are tempted.           (Hebrews 2:14-18)

I love the language of this chapter: Jesus became a “part-taker”—he “took a part”—of human nature.  This reminds me of 2 Peter 1:4 which says that we get to “be partakers of the divine nature” through the power of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Jesus took on flesh and blood so that we could take on his Spirit.  He became what we are so that we could become what he is.  He “took part” in the limitations and the frustrations of our world so that we could become limitless and free from all sin.  By tasting death for us, he made it so that we would never have to die—and in so doing, he delivered us from death and the slavery of the devil.

Jesus could have easily taken on the form of angels “that excellent in strength” (Ps. 103:20), and not taken part in our human weakness.  But he didn’t.  He became a human being, and took on the nature of a man.  In every way possible except for sinning, Jesus became like us: so much so that we are even called his brothers!  I have complete confidence that Jesus will be merciful to me when I fail, because he knows what it feels like to suffer human temptations.  Now he can reconcile me to God, knowing and feeling what I suffer!

Since he was tempted, “he is able to succor them which are tempted.”  Succor is an interesting word, because it implies not just helping but also comforting and relieving pain.  Jesus is not only able to help us resist the temptation, but he is able to make the temptation hurt less.  Our English word succor comes from a Latin word that means “to run to the aid of” someone.  When we are tempted, Jesus wants to run to our side and comfort us and help us; even though he never sinned, he knows what it feels like to be tempted and he knows the pain and struggle that comes with it, and he wants to help us overcome.  Christ’s suffering with temptation in the past allows him to be “an ever present help in trouble.”

Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession.  For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.  Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.          (Hebrews 4:14-16)

Jesus is able to be touched by our feelings.  He knows what it is like to be tested with sin, and he is sympathetic to the struggles.  I love the image that the scriptures use here: unlike the Old Testament priesthood, Jesus can be touched with our infirmity.  The word infirmity means a sickness or an ailment.  Under the Old Testament law, a priest would not be touched by the sick because of laws about ritual uncleanness.  But not Jesus; even though he is a priest, he is willing to be touched by the sickness and the suffering of his people.

And since we have a high priest like that, since Jesus stands in heaven to intercede and knows what we suffer, we must hold firmly on the life with Jesus that we profess to have.  The Greek word for profession in this verse is ὁμολογία (homologia), which refers to something that we claim or confess with our mouth (1 Timothy 6:12-13).  It comes from the word ὁμολογέω (homologeo), which literally means “to say the same thing as” or “to agree.”  When we decided to walk this Christian walk, we made an agreement; we told God that we would serve him and we told the world that we were a Christian.  Whenever the temptation gets hard and we feel like giving up on this Christian life that we claim to live, we need to remember that we have a sympathetic and approachable high priest in heaven who will give us mercy and grace to get through.

Some times we just have to hold on.  But that is OK.  The book of Hebrews also tells us

For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end          (Hebrews 3:14)

Remember how Jesus was made partaker of flesh, so that he could feel our hurts?  If we will hang on to the confidence that we have in Jesus, eventually we will be made partakers of him!  We have a confidence in Christ—-he feels our pain and we can come into his presence to find mercy, grace, and help.  If we will hold on to that confidence, we will be made partakers of Christ!  We will share his nature, just as he shared our nature.  As I said earlier, he became what we are so that we could become what he is.  He felt our pain, he felt our infirmities; and if we will come to him for mercy and help, eventually we will never feel that pain again.

Jesus didn’t choose to become an angel—he chose to become a human.  He knows what it is like to be tempted, and he wants to comfort us when we are.  It is so comforting to realize that he knows our struggle; he feels our infirmity.

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