Dr. Ray E. Heiple, Jr.
Jesus Identifies With us Even Now
For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Hebrews 4:15NKJ
Question 39 of the Larger Catechism asks, “Why was it requisite that the Mediator should be man?” It gives the answer, “It was requisite that the Mediator should be man, that he might advance our nature, perform obedience to the law, suffer and make intercession for us in our nature, have a fellow-feeling of our infirmities; that we might receive the adoption of sons, and have comfort and access with boldness unto the throne of grace.” Last time we looked at the big picture as to why Christ had to be a man in order to save us: how His suffering and death fulfilled the curse of the Covenant of Works satisfying God’s wrath; and how His impeccable obedience fulfilled man’s obligation to achieve perfect righteousness. Today we consider the remaining individual particulars mentioned in the answer.
When Jesus came as the second Adam and passed the test and defeated Satan, He advanced human nature into that state of perfection that God had intended for it in creation. Christ did not do this for Himself but for all of God’s elect. This was His work of atonement and redemption. It is finished and complete. Nothing can ever be added to it or taken away from it. We thank God that it is done, for now in Christ, we have been reconciled to our heavenly Father. However, we should also thank God for those other works that the Son of God had to become a man to do: works that He is still doing or that continue in His human nature as He relates to us. The divines first mention Christ making intercession for us “in our nature.” Jesus is our mediator in heaven before the throne of God. He prays effectual prayers for us as one of us, as one who has a human nature. When the author and finisher of our salvation intercedes for us we know His prayers will be granted.
Moreover, Jesus has a “fellow-feeling of our infirmities.” Here the Catechism is not talking about sins or transgressions so much as weaknesses and limitations. Jesus was without sin but He came in a nature like ours. So He was subject to all of the effects of the Fall that we have to deal with in our bodies. This means Jesus’ body was not immune to disease, injury, pain, or death. He got tired, hungry, and thirsty. His mental capacity was also that of an ordinary human. He had to learn the same way that we learn. Jesus had to work to memorize, study, and do His homework just like everyone else! He felt aches, soreness, grief, and sorrow; He suffered injustice, slander, persecution, and His enemies repeatedly attacked Him mentally and emotionally long before they assaulted Him physically. He was subject to temptation by Satan himself. God cannot be tempted nor does He Himself tempt anyone (Jam. 1:13), and so Jesus had to become a man to endure this kind of spiritual warfare. All of the infirmities that we deal with in this world subject to the curse of sin, Jesus also had to deal with. Thus, as the Scripture at the head of this article states, Jesus could and still can sympathize with our weaknesses, for He experientially knows what it is like to have them.
Furthermore, all of those non-moral infirmities of this world that afflict us and that afflicted Jesus would have been so much more humiliating to Him than they are to us. For He took them upon Himself voluntarily and not because He deserved them as we do. And as one who was perfectly righteous how much more limiting and bothersome they must have appeared to Him than they do to us. He had all of our weaknesses and He was tempted in all of the ways that we are tempted. This is why you can and must always go directly to God through Jesus’ name in prayer. No one needs to come between us and Jesus – as if He did not become lowly enough. No, Jesus came the lowest of all: “He had to be made like His brethren in all things, that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest.” Because of this we can know that we can always come to God through Jesus. Praise God for our merciful High priest!