READ : Hebrews 4:14-16
We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses . . . (v. 15)
That Jesus suffered under Pontius Pilate historically locates Jesus in a certain time and place. The time was first-century Palestine and the place was under the boot of Roman occupation. This meant that Jesus would suffer pain, agony, and desolation at the hands of Pontius Pilate. But know this, friends: his pain was our gain!
There is an important distinction between empathy and sympathy. Empathy is the capacity to feel deeply for someone despite the fact you do not share the same experience. Sympathy is the capacity to feel deeply for someone because you do in fact share their experience.
Our English word sympathy, as the writer of Hebrews uses it, comes from two Greek words: sum meaning “sharing” and pathos meaning “feeling.” Together they make a word that means “shared feelings.” Jesus Christ does not have to empathize with us; he can sympathize. He sympathizes because he has shared in pain, he knows agony, he has experienced hurt.
When we affirm together that Jesus Christ suffered under Pontius Pilate, we are boldly claiming with the author of Hebrews, “We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses . . . “ And that makes all the difference in the world.
Great High Priest, we thank you for sympathizing. Amen.