“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15, ESV)
I heard a story one time of a man that was in an accident. It was severe and the doctors had to amputate his leg. The man was devastated by the loss of his leg and went into a deep state of depression. The doctors and therapists tried to snap him out of it by explaining that he could get a prosthetic leg and be able to walk again. He did not respond and remained deeply depressed. In his depression, he would not listen to anything anyone said to try to encourage him.
One day another man walked into the hospital room to speak with the man who had the amputated leg. Once again, the man indicated that he did not want to hear it. Then the man who walked in, sat down on a chair, rolled up his pantleg, and removed his own prosthetic leg. At that the man in the hospital bed pulled himself up and said, “Now let’s talk.” There was a connection that the man who had gone through the same thing could make with the depressed man that no one else could.
In this verse of Hebrews, we see Jesus as the sympathetic great high priest. He can connect with us like no one else can. Jesus is greater than all the high priests that came before because He was tempted in every way, just like us, and yet never sinned. It is difficult to comprehend the extent of Jesus’ temptations. He was tempted in the area of fleshly desires, in the area of pride, and in the desires of the eyes. However, His greatest temptation was to circumvent the plan of God and deliver Himself from the agony of the cross.
All the high priests that came before had been tempted and sinned, but they had never been tempted like Jesus. They could never sympathize with their people like Jesus can sympathize with us. Moreover, they had never fully conquered sin like Jesus. Thus, Jesus is the great high priest, greater than all who came before. Because Jesus lived the sinless life, He alone was qualified to offer the supreme sacrifice for sin once and for all, and take His position as the eternal great high priest.
Now, I do not believe that Jesus, being the incarnate God, needed to be tempted in order to understand and sympathize with us in our weaknesses. He is omniscient. He knows everything, including our weaknesses and how these weaknesses affect us. The author states that Jesus is not like the high priests who lacked the ability to sympathize with us and then goes on to say that Jesus was tempted in every way. Since Jesus endured the same temptations that you and I have, we have the confidence that He understands as our sympathetic great high priest. He has established a confident connection for us to speak with Him about our struggles in life, because we know He cares.
We are just like the man with the amputated leg. He would not confide in anyone until he met another man who went through the same thing. In our life’s temptations we often do not feel comfortable speaking to people because they lack sympathy. However, knowing that Jesus was tempted in every way just like us, gives us the comfort to go to Him. Frankly, you and I still struggle with temptations, many of them. We can speak with Jesus about every one of these. He is sympathetic towards us. He understands and He will help us as our eternal mediator.