The Empathy of God

by Catherine McNiel on April 29, 2022

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then 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.
                                                                                        —Hebrews 4:12-16

Earlier this week, we saw the writer of Hebrews lay a strong foundation for claiming that Jesus was both God and human. Now in today’s passage (and tomorrow’s) we begin to see what a profound difference this dual nature has for our salvation, for the work that Jesus does on our behalf.

In his comments on this passage (Hebrews for Everyone), NT Wright reminds us that Jesus did not pause or cease being fully human at his death; Jesus is fully God and fully human right now. And as we celebrated recently on Easter Sunday, Jesus is not in the grave. Jesus is alive and sitting in God’s presence, acting as our high priest.

Truly, the “good news” is an incredible, excessively wonderful story. God chose not only to create the world and remain among creation, but took on flesh and became fully human, living and dying as one of us—and continues to live at God’s right hand, still fully one with the Father, emphasizing with us in our weakness, suffering, and sin.

Can you imagine it? God became one of us. Now, this deeply and powerfully empathetic God invites us to approach the throne of grace with confidence, receiving mercy, grace, and help in time of need.

What a reality! What good news!

Questions for reflection and discussion: What does it mean to you and your life today, that God became a human? What does this tell you about the character of God? How is this an invitation for your relationship with God? What will you do about it, today?

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