For assuredly He does not give help to angels, but He gives help to the descendant of Abraham. Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted. (2:16–18)
Christ did not come to redeem angels but men. So He took on Himself the form of Abraham’s descendants and became a Jew. “How odd of God to choose the Jews,” someone has quipped. We wonder why He chose them and not some other race or nation on whom to show His special favor. But if He had chosen some other group, we would ask the same question about them. He simply chose them in His sovereign will out of love. “The Lord did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any of the peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but because the Lord loved you and kept the oath which He swore to your forefathers” (Deut. 7:7–8).
Again the writer answers the question, “If Jesus is God, why did He become a man?” He came to substitute for men, to reconcile men to God, to fit them for God’s presence and to destroy death. But beyond that He also came to help the reconciled when they are tempted. He wanted to feel everything we feel so that He could be a merciful and understanding, as well as a faithful, high priest. He came not only to save us but to sympathize with us.
In his letters to Timothy, Paul gave words of counsel and encouragement to his young friend about many things—his health, his critics, his moral and spiritual welfare. But all of his counsel could perhaps be summed up in these words in the second letter: “Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, descendant of David” (2 Tim. 2:8). Paul was saying, in effect, “Remember Jesus Christ in His humanity, Timothy. Remember that, wherever you may go, He has been there before you. You can get down on your knees when the going gets tough and you can pray, ‘Lord, You know what You went through when You were here. I’m going through it now.’ And He will say, ‘Yes, I know.’ ”
When you have a problem, it is wonderful to be able to talk with the divine One who has already experienced it and come through successfully. Other people may be understanding, but they cannot fully understand. Jesus came to identify with us, to experience what we experience. “For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15). He became our Sympathizer, a merciful and faithful high priest. He was hungry, He was thirsty, He was overcome with fatigue, He slept, He was taught, He grew, He loved, He was astonished, He was glad, He was angry, He was indignant, He was sarcastic, He was grieved, He was troubled, He was overcome by future events, He exercised faith, He read the Scriptures, He prayed, He sighed in His heart when He saw another man in illness, and He cried when His heart ached.
Jesus felt everything we will ever feel—and more. For example, He felt temptation to a degree that we could not possibly experience. Most of us never know the full. degree of resistible temptation, simply because we usually succumb long before that degree is reached. But since Jesus never sinned, He took the full measure of every temptation that came to Him. And He was victorious in every trial.
Why did He go through that? He did it so that He could become a merciful and faithful high priest who could sympathize with our weaknesses and who could come to the aid of those who are tempted. Ours is not a cosmic God, powerful and holy, but indifferent. He knows where we hurt, where we are weak, and where we are tempted. He is the God we can go to not only for salvation but for sympathy.
This is our Savior. The perfect Savior. Our Substitute, our salvation Author, our Sanctifier, our Satan-Conqueror, and our Sympathizer. What a Savior He is. There is no other.
MacArthur New Testament Commentary