Written by Mary Luti
"We do not have a high priest unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us boldly approach the throne of grace to receive mercy." — Hebrews 4:15-16
Jesus may have been without sin, but he's never expected you to be. So don't worry about the "without sin" part. Pay attention to the "in every respect" part. Jesus was tested just as we are, his weaknesses probed, his frailty in play as he struggled for an authentic life. He knows what is in us.
He's inside the thousand promises we break, the thousand times we swear off a vice and do it again, the thousand lies we tell trying to be someone we're not, the thousand sad, sordid, stupid sins we hide from our own consciences, the thousand ways we try to prove ourselves good before God, who isn't the least bit interested in our self-improvement projects, who just wants us to calm down and come home.
Jesus is a fellow testee, and Scripture says testing has turned him tender. As you and I limp along, driven by fears, overcrowded with longings, distracted by shiny objects, doing the best we can, he sympathizes.
An ancient creed says he's coming again in glory to judge us. Don't worry about that either. Who best to judge you than the one whose visceral compassion for your weakness makes it impossible for him to condemn you? With him on the throne, you should approach boldly, like there's nothing to fear. Because there isn't.
If that doesn't make you weepy and glad, nothing will.
May testing turn me tender, O God. Fill me with Christ's sympathy for weakness, my neighbor's and my own.
Mary Luti is a long time seminary educator and pastor, author of Teresa of Avila’s Way and numerous articles, and founding member of The Daughters of Abraham, a national network of interfaith women’s book groups.