A few months ago, a man came into my office seeking help. With his head hung low and his eyes brimming with tears, he explained how the death of a loved one had left him with a loneliness and sorrow weighing heavily on his heart, suffocating him with grief. He told me, hands shaking, that he wanted to just waste away and die—no one would miss him, he said. The few people he’d reached out to had merely offered advice: read the Bible more and go to church on Sundays. And while the Bible and the body of the Church offer comfort, this man needed something more. He needed empathy, someone to listen to him with an open heart and engage with him in brotherly intimacy.
In Hebrews 2:10-11, the preacher explains the empathy and fellowship we have in Jesus:
“For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering. For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source. That is why he is not ashamed to call us brothers.”
Without hesitation, Jesus claims us as his own. He knows how difficult human life can be.
God knew that we humans, with our oft-closed hearts and propensity for sin, needed a savior that understood the suffering we experience. Hebrews 2:14-15 explains that, because Jesus shared our humanity “in flesh and blood,” he can free us from our fear of death and from death itself. Human feelings of loneliness and shame come from fear—fear of inadequacy, of embarrassment, of failure, and, at the root of it all, fear of death. Everyone has felt afraid and ashamed at some point in their lives. But the preacher of Hebrews tells us that Jesus can free us from those shackles.
You see, though fear binds us to death, Jesus is the key that releases us from those chains. His empathy for our fear and his deep understanding of our humanity allow him to take us from the prison of death into loving intimacy with God. Because his empathy is the key to intimacy, God works through Jesus to draw us closer to himself. Only by opening our hearts to Jesus, just as he opened his to us, can we begin to cultivate an intimate relationship with God.
As Christians, we strive to create and maintain a relationship with God. Ideally, everything we do should glorify him. But temptations are great, and it’s easy to succumb to our human emotions. That’s why God sent Jesus down to earth—in order that we might have someone who empathizes with us, someone to save us. He sent us a Son who, while on earth, acted in time and space as the middleman between perfect divinity and flawed humanity.
But though we can empathize with him, Jesus is also the High Priest, the conqueror of death, and the destroyer of the devil. He atoned for our sins by paying our debt with his earthly life, and through that ultimate sacrifice, proved his place as God’s Son.
Jesus is a holy being who claims us as his own. He calls us his “brothers.” He vibrantly and clearly claims us as his own family to everyone. He joins with us and calls us to join him in family praise of God the Father. How could we not reciprocate his love? How could we instead harden our hearts? How could we reject Jesus’ empathetic invitation to true intimacy with the Father?
Once we accept Jesus’ radical empathy, we can commune with him and create a deep and lasting relationship. This relationship with Jesus only brings us closer to God because the more effort we make to be intimate with Jesus, the more intimate our relationship with the Father and Spirit becomes.
- Excerpt from Draw Near: Hebrews on Christian Worship by The Rev. Charlie Holt, Week 1, Day 5, p. 35-36
Let's face it, the Christian life is hard. Relationships take work. Christians forget. Sometimes it is tempting to go back to the days when God was not the center of our lives - to backslide. We are all faced with tremendous pressures to drift away from intimacy with Jesus and the community of the Church. However, the Lord invites us to pay attention, to move forward, to draw near, and to live lives of worship. Draw Near: Hebrews on Christian Worship is a small group Bible study on the Book of Hebrews intended to lead participants into a deeper intimacy with the Living God in the context of New Testament worship. Draw nearer to God in authentic worship today!
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