Jesus of Nazareth was both fully divine and fully human, “like us in all things but sin.” So, Jesus of Nazareth experienced human life as we experience it. As the Risen Christ who sits in Glory at the Father’s right hand, he knows how human beings suffer at human hands because he suffered at human hands too. Scripture affirms this fundamental likeness between the Risen Christ and us and comes to an extraordinary conclusion:
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who is every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin…Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in time of need (Hebrews 4:15-16).
As a good Jew, Jesus of Nazareth loved God, family and neighbor. He spoke out against injustice, unkindness and dishonesty. He gave hope to the poor, the disenfranchised, and the alien. He criticized religious leaders who not only failed to respond to injustice, but who only congratulated themselves on being “religious” and so superior. Jesus was a whistleblower, an activist, and animator, what Scripture calls a prophet.
Inevitably, people misunderstood him and failed to respond to him, took him for granted, and even deserted him. Religious leaders condemned him and plotted against him. And he responded as you and I might under the same circumstances:
He lost his ability to help people when confronted by their lack of willingness to be helped, their cynicism and skepticism. “He was amazed at their unbelief” (Mark 6:1-6).
He was “grieved at the hardness of heart” of leaders who failed to respond to human need (Mark 3:1-5).
He was angry with the moneychangers in the temple who turned work of moral worth into self-promotion and self-satisfaction (John 2:13-17).
He felt fear at the prospect of his betrayal, passion and crucifixion (John 12:27; 13:21) and mostly notably in the Garden when he sweated drops of blood (Luke 22:44).
Now, translate the formal language of Scripture into the words of our own experience:
Have you become discouraged in your attempts to be helpful because people doubt your intentions or your ideas, say, in your family or your parish?
Have you seen official indifference to people’s suffering (think: Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans)?
Have you seen powerful people hurt “average” people for their own gain (think: Enron)?
Have you been afraid to make a decision in your family or at work for fear of disapproval and threats?
Notice how similar our experience of human life is to his. This means that we can trust in him to “know our weaknesses” because he experienced weakness and opposition. “So let us approach the throne of grace with boldness,” because Jesus of Nazareth knows our sufferings.