THE SYMPATHY OF JESUS
"This is the resting place, let the weary rest; and this
is the place of repose"—
"Because He Himself suffered when He was tempted, He is
able to help those who are being tempted." Hebrews 2:18
There can be no more gracious whisper from the leaves of
the Heavenly Palm than this. What a magnitude of comfort to every sorrowing
one, the simple declaration, "He Himself suffered when He was tempted!"
Jesus the Incarnate God, "the Living Kinsman" (Job 19:25), had a
mysterious identity of experience with His suffering, and with His tempted
people; so that nothing can happen to the members but what has happened to
the Head. They can feel that no sorrow shades their souls but the same
darkened His. "As He is," so are they "in this world" (1 John 4:17). He
Himself—the thorn-crowned King—knows every thorn which pierces them, every
pang of spirit and pang of body. The loss of beloved friends, the treachery
of false ones, temptation to distrust God's providence, to pervert and
misapply His Word, to question the wisdom and reason of His dealings, the
forecastings of a dark and troubled future; yes, the saddest and most
intolerable woe that can crush and overbear the soul—the sense of Divine
desertion—the withdrawal of the countenance of His Heavenly Father. Oh, the
unutterable solace in the darkest hour of earthly suffering, to look up to
the Brother in our nature—the "prevailing Prince" who has "power with God,"
and to say, "He Himself suffered when He was tempted!"
When we first contemplate this amazing theme, the
identity of experience seems to be partial and incomplete. Jesus, we are led
to say, was never 'tempted' as we have been. Temptations might assail, but
they could never overcome His sinless, spotless, uncontaminated humanity. He
never could know, therefore, the sorest part of these our struggles, when
through its own weakness the soul has at last to succumb to the hurricane,
and is haunted with the terrors of remorse!
Yes! but let us remember it was the very fact of the
Infinite purity of the tempted One which imparted, in His case, the
saddest element to temptation. How inconceivable the recoil of the refined
and exquisite sensibilities of His holy nature from the presence of sin.
And, with these unchanged human sensibilities in His glorified state, how
deeply must He still sympathize with the case of His assaulted people! How
tenderly must He feel for every wound of His soldiers, seeing that He, the
Captain of their salvation, was Himself "made perfect through sufferings."
Afflicted believer! rejoice that sorrow and suffering
have (if the expression dare be used) assimilated Christ with you, and you
with Christ, in this your trial-hour. With what a divine significance,
augmented and intensified by subsequent experience, can He say, "I know your
sorrows." If you are bleeding under some peculiarly heavy infliction of the
rod, ready to say in the bitterness of your grief, "No one knows, no one can
gauge the depth of my anguish," THE SYMPATHY OF JESUS can—He does! "He knows
our frame, He remembers that we are dust." With reverence we say it, God—the
Omnipotent, Omniscient God—cannot, with all infinitude of His nature,
sympathize. He can compassionate; but He cannot sympathize in the way of
feeling with us. Sympathy requires, as its two conditions, identity
of nature and identity of experience. "We have such an
High Priest;" One who is said to be (not touched with our infirmities), but
"touched with the feeling of our infirmities."
Our beautiful motto-verse gives more comfort still. The
words affirm not merely that Christ has identity of experience—a passive
sympathy with His tried people—He is also the helper of the tempted,
"He is able to support those who are tempted."
If He is summoning any of us to difficult and perplexing
duty, or exacting from us some heavy sacrifice, or even apparently placing
us in the way of peril and temptation, He will not allow the burden to
crush, or the temptation to overcome, or the fiery trial to consume. He will
keep us in the crucible as long, but no longer than He sees to be absolutely
needful to test our faith and purify Christian graces. All that concerns us
and ours is in His hands.
Oh, as we see the Angels of Tribulation with their
sevenfold vials issuing forth from the gate of heaven (Rev. 15:7)—how
blessed to know that they are marshaled, commissioned by the great Lord of
Angels, the once suffering but now exalted Redeemer! In Zechariah's vision
(1:8) of "the man on the red horse"—behind Him were angels and
providences—the "black and speckled white horses." But He is
between them, ordering, regulating, appointing, all that befalls His
people, trusting their persons and fortunes not even to an angel's care,
without His own guidance, sanction, and direction.
And when the last hour arrives (which, however
varied be our other experiences, we must all encounter), is it not here
that His sympathy—the sympathy of fellow-feeling—is most of all valued? He
can endorse even this closing experience with the words, "I know it." To the
living Christian in his season of affliction, He can say, "I am He who
lives." But to the dying Christian He can add, "I am He who was
dead." "I know well, through the memories of My cross and passion, the
conflict of that final struggle-hour! I know, what it is, O Believer, to
die! And because I know this, I can make Palms of comfort to spring up
and overshadow you on the brink of Jordan as well as in the
wilderness! Fear not to pass what I have passed! Feel amid these
buffeting billows that they have swept over Me. And with the thought
of Me as your Precursor, and of My deathless exalted sympathy, sing, as you
plunge into the stream, "Behold, the Ark of the covenant of the Lord of the
whole earth passes over before me into Jordan!" (Joshua 3:11).
"As often, with worn and weary feet,
We tread earth's rugged valley o'er,
The thought, how comforting and sweet!
Christ walked this toilsome path before!
Our needs and weaknesses He knows,
From life's first dawning to its close.
"Just such as I, this earth He trod,
With every human ill but sin;
And though indeed the very God,
As I am now, so He has been.
My God, my Savior, look on me
With pity, love, and sympathy!"
"Learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart."