This is the second of a series of articles about Jesus and His role in our lives as our high priest. This article is going to address Christ’s empathetic role toward us and God and how important that is to our daily lives.
Saying that Christ has a high priestly role of empathy means more than what we might think at first glance. As we look, we’ll see that Christ is able to know, feel, and respond to our deepest needs and desires, and to God the Father’s deepest needs and desires as well.
The role of empathy
First, what do we mean by empathy? The dictionary defines it this way:
“the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.”
This is more than sympathy.
To be sympathetic is to feel for someone. To be empathetic is to feel with someone.
When we speak of Christ’s empathetic role, we speak of His ability to feel with us, and as Mediator, with His Father as well. He is the go-between of our needs, emotions, delights, and pains, bringing them to God the Father. In turn, Jesus is also the go-between of God’s needs, emotions, delights, and pains, bringing them to us.
In the Bible
Christ’s empathetic role is perhaps best seen in Hebrews 4:15-16. We’ll look at both sides to His empathetic role in the rest of the article. Try to spot both sides as you read the verses:
Hebrews 4:15-16 “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.”
Christ’s role toward us is special and intimate and explained in verse 15:
Hebrews 4:15 “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.”
When we think of a high priest, we may have images of someone in white robes, perhaps with a large religious hat, who is clean and pure and apart from the common people. This isn’t a bad picture if we’re trying to think of the high priest in the Old Testament.
But Jesus is much greater. In His role as high priest, He became one of the common people. Hebrews says our high priest isn’t one that is far removed from our pains and weaknesses; He has felt them all. He knows what it is like to be sick, to be tired, to be sick and tired of being sick and tired. And in case we didn’t get it, we’re told He was tempted like we are tempted, yet without sin.
Do we understand that? Jesus knows, not in a hearing or far away knowledge, but in a feeling knowledge, a close knowledge. He has experienced our weaknesses; He feels our pain. Jesus even knows what it’s like to deal with sin and its struggle.
In His role as high priest, Jesus delights in understanding us. He considers it a joy to carry our cares and understand our wounds. This isn’t a job to Him; it is His nature. It pleases Him to serve us in feeling our feelings and knowing our cares.
As Mediator, Jesus not only carries our feelings to God His Father, but His Father’s feelings to us as well. We learn what those feelings are in verse 16:
Hebrews 4:16 “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.”
See the “therefore” in the verse? What we see is an invitation, knowing that Jesus ministers to us through His ability to know and feel our deepest feelings. This invitation is to come boldly to the Father’s throne. Why?
Jesus is telling us His Father’s deepest feelings and desires toward us is to shower us with grace.
Jesus, in His empathetic role, sees our suffering and weakness and begs us approach His Father’s throne! He has seen His Father’s heart for us, a heart that wants to lavish us with grace and mercy for our needs.
Does God have needs that Jesus would need to mediate? No, at least He doesn’t have needs like we do. He doesn’t need food or clothing. He doesn’t even need our praise. His “need” is to act in His nature. He must act in His nature. In theology we call this His “immutability,” the fact that He is unchanging, always the same.
Normally when we think of God’s unchanging nature, we think of it in a static, unmoving form, like how a statue doesn’t change. But God’s immutability is greater than that. The great comfort of His unchanging nature is that He acts on it. He does what He is. What we know of God from His testimony of Himself is that His nature is loving and merciful toward those who place their faith in His Son Jesus, and that will never change.
Notice God’s testimony of His own nature when declaring His name to Moses:
Exodus 34:6-7 "And the LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed, The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and to the fourth generation."
What do we see about Jesus’s empathetic role toward His Father? He mediates God’s nature of mercy and grace. He calls us to His throne because He desires to give us the goodness that His nature moves Him to give us.
This is Christ’s empathetic role as high priest.
Jesus feels our weaknesses and responds by moving toward us, not away.
Jesus feels His Father’s loving heart toward us and calls us to Him.
Christ is the mediator, the high priest, between us and His Father. In His empathetic role, He feels our needs, and calls us to come to the Father who wishes to fill our needs.
Praise God for Jesus, our empathetic high priest!