Beset with Weakness

This article is part of the Gentle and Lowly: A 14-Day Devotional series.

Day 5

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. For every high priest chosen from among men is appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. He can deal gently with the ignorant and wayward, since he himself is beset with weakness.—Hebrews 4:16-5:2

When Hebrews 5:2 says that Jesus “can deal gently with the ignorant and the wayward,” the point is that Jesus deals gently and only gently with all sinners who come to him, irrespective of their particular offense and just how heinous it is.

What elicits tenderness from Jesus is not the severity of the sin but whether the sinner comes to him. Whatever our offense, he deals gently with us. If we never come to him, we will experience a judgment so fierce it will be like a double-edged sword coming out of his mouth at us. If we do come to him, as fierce as his lion-like judgment would have been against us, so deep will be his lamb-like tenderness for us.

We will be enveloped in one or the other. To no one will Jesus be neutral.

Gentle and Lowly

Gentle and Lowly

Dane C. Ortlund

How does Jesus feel about his people amid all their sins and failures? This book takes readers into the depths of Christ’s very heart—a heart of tender love drawn to sinners and sufferers.

Consider what all this means. When we sin, we are encouraged to bring our mess to Jesus because he will know just how to receive us. He doesn’t handle us roughly. He doesn’t scowl and scold. He doesn’t lash out, the way many of our parents did.

And all this restraint on his part is not because he has a diluted view of our sinfulness. He knows our sinfulness far more deeply than we do. Indeed, we are aware of just the tip of the iceberg of our depravity, even in our most searching moments of self-knowledge. His restraint simply flows from his tender heart for his people.

Hebrews is not just telling us that instead of scolding us, Jesus loves us. It’s telling us the kind of love he has: rather than dispensing grace to us from on high, he gets down with us, he puts his arm around us, he deals with us in the way that is just what we need. He deals gently with us.

But why? Why does Christ deal gently with us?

The text tells us: “since he himself is beset with weakness.”

Most immediately, this refers to the high priesthood generally. This is clear from the next verse, which speaks of the high priest needing to offer sacrifice for his own sins, which Jesus did not need to do. But remember what we saw a few verses earlier in Hebrews 4:15—Jesus himself, while “without sin,” is able to “sympathize with our weaknesses” as “one who in every respect has been tempted as we are.”

Look to Christ. He deals gently with you. It’s the only way he knows how to be.

Jesus had zero sin. But he did experience everything else that it means to live as a real human being in this fallen world: the weakness of suffering, temptation, and every other kind of human limitation. The various high priests through Israel’s history were sinfully weak; Jesus the high priest was sinlessly weak.

Contrary to what we expect to be the case, therefore, the deeper into weakness and suffering and testing we go, the deeper Christ’s solidarity with us. As we go down into pain and anguish, we are descending ever deeper into Christ’s very heart, not away from it.

Look to Christ. He deals gently with you. It’s the only way he knows how to be. He is the high priest to end all high priests. As long as you fix your attention on your sin, you will fail to see how you can be safe. But as long as you look to this high priest, you will fail to see how you can be in danger.

Looking inside ourselves, we can anticipate only harshness from heaven. Looking out to Christ, we can anticipate only gentleness.

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