Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Encouragement of Jesus' Suffering and Sympathy

As we enter this Christmas season, I have found myself continually reminding my children what Christmas means and why we celebrate it for a whole month. All of us, especially our children, are surrounded by wrong ideas about Christmas, and so it is so important to keep the real meaning of Christmas in the forefront of our minds. Christmas is the celebration of Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God, becoming a human being in order to save us from our sin.

Sometimes I forget the fact that Jesus’ life as a human being was a life very much like ours. I was reminded of this recently from something I read as a part of my daily Bible reading. [By the way, if you are looking for an easy and organized approach to reading the Bible and you have an Apple device, I highly recommend the Reading Plan app.] In Hebrews 4:14-16 we are reminded that Jesus lived a life of weakness, suffering, and temptation, just like us. The only difference is that Jesus never sinned.

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 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. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Reflecting on the details of the life Jesus lived on this earth is both humbling and encouraging. It is humbling because it reminds us that our sin was the reason he came to earth and experienced weakness, suffering, temptation, and ultimately, death. And it is encouraging because, as the verses above tell us, Jesus’ experience on earth makes him able to sympathize with us as we deal with our weaknesses, sufferings, and temptations. And as we go struggle with those things, we can look to Jesus not only for sympathy, but also for mercy and grace. None of us can deal with something like suffering without sinning. In fact, suffering usually reveals more of our sins to us, forcing us to see our need for Jesus’ mercy and grace.

As we enter this Christmas season, I am praying that I will keep the realities of Jesus’ birth and life in the forefront of my mind. And I am praying that Jesus’ sympathy, mercy, and grace will continue to be a great comfort and encouragement to me as I continue on in this life of weakness, suffering, and temptation.