This is the second part of a series on The Heart of Christ. See part 1 here.
When the question is asked, “How do I become a Christian?” a popular answer is, invite Jesus into your heart. But what does that really mean? No one has explained that to me. When you look to Scripture, you’ll find that rather than inviting Jesus into your heart, Jesus invites you into his heart.
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:28–30)
Salvation involves coming to someone. It’s coming to Jesus, and, trusting that he will deal kindly and gently with us, we entrust our hearts and lives to him. It is unlikely, that a person who knows nothing of the heart of God in Christ, is likely to give their lives over to him, in the same way that is unlikely for a parent to entrust their children to someone they do not know.
Take my own example. I was not raised in a Christian home. I had very little understanding of who God was and knew nothing about his heart. I spent almost a year in the bible reading and learning about the person of Jesus, the way he interacted with people, how he treated people before I was ready to put my life in his hands. My great concern is I come across a lot of people today who have responded to some gospel invitation, but they have never discovered the heart of Christ. Not truly. Not deeply. They have never tasted of its beauty.
Jonathan Edwards lived and ministered during the time of the Great Awakening in early America. In the year 1740, he preached a sermon for children in his congregation. The title simply read, “To the children. August 1740.” In his sermon, he lists six reasons children should love Jesus more than anything else in life. The first is this:
“There is no love so great and so wonderful as that which is in the heart of Christ. He is one that delights in mercy; he is ready to pity those that are in suffering and sorrowful circumstances; one that delights in the happiness of his creatures. The love and grace that Christ has manifested does as much exceed all that which is in this world as the sun is brighter than a candle. Parents are often full of kindness towards their children, but that is no kindness like Jesus Christ’s.”
One place where we see the beauty of Christ’s heart for his own revealed is in his role as our Great High Priest. And that’s what we are going to take a look at today.
The book of Hebrews is all about the priesthood of Jesus Christ. It tells us what it means for Jesus to be our priest, the true priest, the one of whom every other priest is a mere shadow and to whom every priest is a pointer. In Hebrews 4:14-16 we see this:
“Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens—Jesus the Son of God—let us hold fast to our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in every way as we are, yet without sin. Therefore, let us approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in time of need.”
The words “sympathize with” make up one word in Greek: the word sumpatheo. Sum means “with.” Pathos means “suffering,” “passion,” or “emotion.” This high priest is with us in our suffering, with us in our weakness, and with us in our emotion. In our pain Jesus is pained; in our suffering he feels the suffering as his own.
You say, “How can he possibly feel that; he’s God.” Because he is also a man. He’s not a stranger to the human experience. He’s been there. He knows what it is to be tired. He knows what it’s like to be tempted. He has experienced anxiety and stress and mental anguish – think about what it felt like for him anticipating the cross. He sweated blood in the Garden of Gethsemane. If that’s not the extremity of stress and mental anguish I don’t know what it is.
This high priest knows. He understands.
Have you ever tried to tell your troubles to someone who doesn’t understand? There was a time, some years back, when my wife was going through a really hard time. She was deeply unhappy. And it’s difficult when you’re in full-time ministry, talking about these things to people in your church. So we called a counsellor that we knew. Francelle was on the phone, talking to him, and then she started crying and I thought, What’s going on? This doesn’t sound right. After she put down the phone I said, “So, what did he say?” She replied, “He said, ‘That’s ministry. You just got to suck it up.’”
We never called that counsellor again. He showed no understanding, no empathy, and no compassion.
Jesus isn’t like that my friends. He is a merciful, faithful high priest who right now sits at the Father’s right hand, interceding for me and for you. He has an unequalled capacity to sympathize with us in every trial, every problem, every difficulty, every hurt, every pain, every grief, every sorrow, every complexity, and every experience you suffer. Because he’s been through it all.
Note the second half of verse 15: “but one who has been tempted (tested, tried) in every way as we are, yet without sin.” There’s a saying my wife heard growing up: “Don’t judge an Indian until you’ve walked in his moccasins.” Jesus has walked in our moccasins. He knows our world. He’s been in our skin.
There’s a wonderful story about a man during the heyday of the Salvation Army many years ago, told by John Wilson. His name was Booth Tucker. He was speaking on Christ’s sympathy for sinners and a man came forward afterwards and he said to Tucker, “You can talk like that about how Christ is dear to you and how He helps you and how He’s so sympathetic, but he says if your wife was dead as mine is and your babies were crying for their mother who would never come back, you wouldn’t say what you’re saying.”
A few days after that Booth Tucker lost his wife in a train crash, and her body was brought to Chicago and carried to the Salvation Army Headquarters for the funeral. Tucker stood up after the funeral was completed, he looked down into the silent face of his beloved wife, his children’s mother and he spoke these words and I quote, “The other day when I was here a man said I could not say Christ was sufficient if my wife were dead and my children crying for their mother. If that man is here, I tell him that Christ is sufficient, my heart is bleeding, it is crushed, it is broken, but it has a song and Christ put it there. and if that man is here, I tell him that though my wife is gone, and my children are motherless ‘ Jesus Christ speaks comfort to me today.” The man was there, and he came down the aisle, knelt beside the casket and Booth Tucker led him to faith in Christ.
Friends, we have a sympathetic high priest who is able to comfort us in any trial, any difficulty, any temptation, in sorrow and any loss. And therefore, we should heed the words of Hebrews 4:16 and “boldly approach the throne of grace that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in the time of need.”
What kind of throne is it? A throne of grace. It used to be a throne of judgment. But when Jesus went and sprinkled his blood there it became what? A throne of grace, just as when the Old Testament high priest went into the holy of holies and sprinkled blood there. He turned the judgement seat into a mercy seat. So then when you come to this heavenly high priest, grace is what you receive.
Edwards was right, there is no love so great and so wonderful as that which is in the heart of Christ. We just need to experience it, by going to him for cleansing, comfort and refreshment each day.
If you would like to view the message I gave on this post you can view it here (the message begins 7.55 mins in)