In 2002, I was about 32 weeks pregnant with my sweet daughter Alainah and went to the hospital because she’d stopped moving.
She’d passed away in the womb sometime earlier that day… before I ever got to meet her and gaze into her eyes. I never got to witness the recognition on her face upon hearing my voice. I never got to feel her sweet infant hand grasp my finger, or feel the wiggle of her precious, tiny body as she lay in my arms.
The days and months (even years) after were hard.
Shortly before Alainah was born, we had moved and started a new church. A friend I’d recently met called shortly after I got back home from the hospital and shared her story with me. She’d been through something very similar. She lost her precious son shortly after his much too early birth.
She could empathize with me like few others could. She’d walked that difficult road of grief and loss and was still maneuvering through the rough path. She knew how to pray for me. She knew what I needed and what I didn’t need. She understood when my words failed. She shared my heartache.
She’d also already wrestled with the deep theological questions that lie behind this sort of loss. It was as if she held a small candle, a glimmer of light, and let me follow silently behind her in the paths she’d already beaten down. She was such a help and encouragement to me!
I remember telling her often that I was so sorry that she’d been through such loss, but I was also so thankful that her pain could be used to help me through mine.
“For every high priest chosen from among men is appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. He can deal gently with the ignorant and wayward, since he himself is beset with weakness.” – Hebrews 5:1-2
The Jewish High Priests were a bit like my friend. Bear with me while I explain my imperfect analogy.
God chose the descendants of Aaron (Moses’ brother) to be the priests of Israel. (See Exodus 28:1) A successor to Aaron was always chosen to be the High (or chief) Priest.
Here’s some information on the High Priest for you from the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia:
“There were certain duties which were peculiar to the high priest. He alone could wear the “garments for glory and for beauty.” To him alone it pertained to enter the Most Holy Place and to sprinkle the blood of the sin offering on the mercy-seat. To him alone it pertained to represent the congregation before the Lord as mediator, and to receive the divine communications. He was to be ceremonially pure and holy. He must be physically perfect… …Nor was he to come in contact with death. He must not rend his clothes, nor defile himself, even for his father or his mother (Leviticus 21:10, 11). His sons might defile themselves for their kin, but the high priest must not. For he was the representative of life. Death did not exist for him, in so far as he was a priest. God is the Ever-Living, the Life-Giving; and His priest, who had “the crown of the anointing oil of his God upon him,” had to do with life alone.”
I bet you’re beginning to see how Jesus was our great High Priest.
But how was a High Priest anything like my friend? Well, look again to Hebrews 5:2.
The weakness of the High Priest
The High Priest was weak, because he was still a man. He’d been down the road of temptation, hardship, grief, struggle… you name it! He was a real person with real struggles, even real sin. But because of His weaknesses, he could deal gently with the wayward and ignorant. He could have compassion when he might otherwise not. He could be empathetic because he understood.
Because my friend had walked through what I had, she could identify with the struggles of grief and lend me her wisdom and strength. (I know it’s not a perfect analogy, but I’m sure you get my meaning…) Similarity breeds understanding.
The Strength of Jesus
We’ll touch more on this later this month, but because Jesus walked through this life as fully human He understands. Yet because He also walked this earth fully God, He isn’t weak, but rather, He’s stong! He deals with us gently because of His love and empathy, and yet, lends us His wisdom and strength. His compassionate grace is empowering.
When I’m dealing with sin, frustration, or heartache, it does my heart good to know that the God I serve understands. And not only does He understand, He dealt with temptations and came out victorious… and He lets me share in His victory. And you, too. Wow! We are more than conquerors!
Doesn’t that make all the difference?
Praise His holy name for His great compassion and everlasting love!
1. In what areas are you most thankful for Jesus’ compassionate, empathetic gentleness?
2. Get a notebook and by the end of the month aim to write out Hebrews Chapter 5. Underline any words or phrases that stand out to you. Perhaps try memorizing a few key verses.
3. Study more about the Priesthood and the High Priest. You can use any Bible encyclopedia or dictionary. Here’s a great place to get started: http://biblehub.com/topical/p/priest.htm