We are weak creatures—little, frail, and lacking in wisdom and knowledge. But all is not lost because the Bible assures us that God is fully aware of our weaknesses and, even better, cares about them. As the author of Hebrews says, “We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses.”
What does it mean that we have weaknesses? Certainly it means that we are morally weak, that we are prone to sin and that we face constant temptations to rebel against God. But it means more than that. It means that we are physically weak, embodied beings who get sick and get tired, who are prone to illness and who eventually die. It means that we are intellectually weak, limited in our understanding and, therefore, in our ability to make sense of circumstances and make good decisions. It means that we are emotionally weak, that our minds and hearts easily grow weary and downcast, and are sometimes even diseased and afflicted. All this and much more.
And then all of these weaknesses accompany us through the toughest of circumstances. We most certainly do experience many great joys in this life, but also many deep sorrows. We face bodily diseases and mental traumas, we face relational discord and friendships that are cut off by death. We have children who disobey and spouses who betray, we face the fires of persecution and the consequences of our own poor decisions.
And as if all this was not already hard enough, every sorrow, and every pain, and every trial brings with it the temptation to sin. It is so often when we are at our weakest that temptations are strongest, when we are most broken that sin promises to make us whole. It is right then that the world entices us, the flesh ensnares us, the devil incites us. Our enemies don’t fight fair. We can never for a moment let down our guard.
We are so weak. Life is so hard. Our enemies are so vicious. But God is so good. For it’s to weak people, not strong or self-sufficient people, that the Bible assures us that Jesus knows. He knows the facts of your weaknesses, and even better, he knows the experience of your weaknesses.
We can be certain that he knows the facts of them because, as it says in the verse before, Jesus has passed through the heavens, which means that he is reigning over this world, seeing and knowing and maintaining authority over all that happens within it. He sees your suffering and he knows all about it. He hasn’t missed it. He hasn’t failed to spot it. It is before his eyes and within his mind. And you can be certain he knows the experience of your weaknesses as well because Jesus, the eternal Son of God, the one who was present at the creation of the world, the one who with the word of his power upholds the world, took on flesh and entered into the world. He laid aside his glory and became weak. Without ceasing to be God, he became man. And as a man, he faced the sorrows and the temptations and the weaknesses that any human being endures. He was “tempted as we are.”
The text says he was tempted in every respect as we are. That doesn’t mean he faced every possible temptation a human being can face, but that he faced every kind or category. He was tempted to outright defy the revealed will of God; he was tempted to only partially obey the will of God; he was tempted to twist the Word of God. And then he was tempted by the circumstances of his life, for he existed within a finite, weak body like yours and mine. And in that weak body he endured sorrow and loss, he endured insults and betrayal, he endured physical pain and emotional agony. He was weak and in those weaknesses surely tempted to respond poorly, to add sin to sorrow, to add rebellion to pain. It was when he had been fasting for 40 days and 40 nights—when he was hungry and weary—that Satan launched his full-out assault. It was when he was already in physical and spiritual agony that people goaded him to forsake the cross and save himself.
Yet there is this great difference between Jesus and us: He passed through each and every test of character and through each and every temptation without sin. Never once did he mess up, never once did he fail to the love the Lord his God with his whole heart, soul, mind, and strength. Never once did he fail to love his neighbor as himself.
The writer of Hebrews wants us to understand: because Jesus was weak and tempted, he knows—he knows what it is to be weak and tempted. He has experienced it himself. He has endured it himself.
There is such comfort to be had here. There is such comfort in understanding that Jesus knows what you are going through. He sees it all, so understands the facts of it. But he also knows what it is like to face the most grievous circumstances, to endure the greatest sorrows, to face the fiercest temptations. Which means that as you face the trials, difficulties, and even traumas of life, you can remember and you must believe—Jesus knows and Jesus cares. In your most difficult hour and your darkest valley, you have the sympathy of God himself.