For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are…
I. CHRIST'S POWER OF SYMPATHY ASSERTED. Differences of position and circumstances among men materially affect their power to sympathise with one another. It is a difficult matter, for instance, for those born in palaces and nurtured in affluence to enter into the difficulties and understand the hardships endured by those to whom life is a perpetual struggle for the barest necessaries; or for those who are hale and strong to sympathize with those whose very existence, by reason of their bodily infirmities, is a burden to them. It was not unnatural, then, that persons who, judged by human analogies, should suppose that He who was the Son of God and had passed into the heavens would be indisposed to sympathise with wretched, sin-benighted men on earth. The text assures us of the contrary. Christ exchanged earth for heaven, the weakness and infirmities of an earthly existence for the everlasting vigour of a heavenly state, degradation for exaltation, the Cross and the thorns for a throne and a crown; but He never exchanged His power of warm, glowing sympathy for men for coldness and indifference. Sympathy was the heritage which earth gave Him to enrich His heavenly state.
II. THE CONDITIONS GUARANTEEING THIS POWER.
1. His exposure to temptation. Just as the light becomes tinged with the hues of the glass it passes through, so the unfathomable love of the Son of God becomes sympathetic towards men as it passes to them through the human heart, steeped in sorrow and agonised with suffering, of the Son of Man Egypt has its two great watercourses, its river and its sweet-water canal. The canal conveys the sweet waters of the river where the river itself cannot take them. The human heart of Jesus is the canal which conducts the sweet waters of the Divine love in streams of sympathy to the parched souls of men.
2. The other condition of His power of sympathy was His freedom from sin, notwithstanding His exposure to its temptations. Flame will not pass through wire gauze of a certain texture. This is the principle of the safety-lamp. This useful and ingenious contrivance is unaffected by any amount of explosive gases external to it. Under ordinary circumstances, the flame of the lamp would set any atmosphere, strongly charged with explosive gases, into a devouring blaze, but, protected by the wire gauze, the lamp-flame merely glows within a little more brilliantly. Such was Christ as He lived among men. The moral atmosphere in which He lived, surcharged as it was with explosive temptations and provocations to sin, did not penetrate the amiability of His sinless nature and cause it to shoot forth into consuming resentment. It merely caused it to burn with a livelier glow of holy anger against hypocrisy and false pretence. Just as the rays of the sun pass over the foulest paths and among heaps of filth untainted, so He passed along the ways and paths of human life untouched by the foulness that surrounded him on all sides. It is a belief with the people of the district that the River Doe passes through the whole length of Bala Lake without mingling with its waters. Its current, they affirm, can be clearly traced, marked off by its clearer, brighter waters. So Christ's life, passing through the lake, so to speak, of earthly existence, is clearly defined. I, is one bright, holy, spotless stream from its beginning to its end — a life without sin. Now, this freedom from sin is no hindrance to His power of sympathy; in fact, it is an additional qualification to Him in this respect. Temptation yielded to makes the heart callous and cruel, and dries up the fountains of feeling. Temptation resisted and overcome mellows the feelings, and quickens their sensitiveness towards the tried and tempted.
III. CHRIST'S POWER OF SYMPATHY USED AS AN ENCOURAGEMENT TO SEEK THE BLESSINGS PROVIDED FOR US.
1. The blessings we are urged to seek. Mercy represents the new life; grace, all that may be needed to sustain and nourish it until its consummation in everlasting glory. And here we may note the bearing of this promise of "grace to help in time of need" upon the case of a certain class of persons whom we believe to be Christians, true disciples of the Redeemer, but who stand aloof from the fellowship of His people, and shrink from a public avowal of their discipleship. Their reluctance in this direction, they tell us, arises from the sense of their infirmities, and their dread of bringing dishonour on Christ's Church. But such a plea is essentially unbelief. It arises from a failure to apprehend God's power to keep from falling those whom He has graciously converted. They forget that He promises to His children "grace to help in time of need." It is as reasonable to suppose that God will preserve the new life He has quickened in the heart of His people, as that the mother will do all in her power to strengthen the infant that owes its life to her.
2. The place whence these blessings are dispensed. Christ occupies the throne — the place of power and authority. That He is a King as well as a Priest is one of the great truths of this Epistle. And His kingly office becomes the instrument of His priestly sympathies and functions.
3. The spirit of confidence in which, in view of the assurance furnished to us of Christ's power of sympathy, these blessings should be sought. The word rendered "boldly" here may, with equal propriety, be rendered "joyfully." The very fact that such blessings as mercy and grace, blessings so inexpressibly precious to sinful men awakened to a sense of their guilt, are procurable, should fill the seeker with the joy of gratitude. To seek them in this spirit is to carry out the prophetic injunction, "Therefore, with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation." The allusion, no doubt, is to the desert traveller, after days of wanderings in the arid waste, coming parched with thirst upon a well. We can well imagine with what grateful joy he would draw therefrom the refreshing element to quench his consuming thirst. With some such joy, yea, with much deeper and intenser joy, should the Christian man come to the throne of grace to draw the grace which is to quench his soul-consuming thirst, and sustain the Divine life quickened by the Divine mercy in his soul.
(A. J. Parry.)
Parallel VersesKJV: For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.