Hebrews 4:15 – For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet he did not sin.
Spring is finally rolling in, and I can tell the excitement is beginning to grow. The sun is starting to make things warm. The heaviness of this Alaskan February feels like it is slowly starting to lift. Maybe you are currently caught up in your local high school’s basketball tournament, or maybe you are just beginning to feel the adrenaline of all the March Madness NCAA games that are on. Or maybe you are getting excited about starting your garden, or the beginning of baseball or softball season, or the drying off of the golf course, or spring break, or quiet walks in the evening without getting frostbite, or the new baby coming, or grilling out in the backyard (a personal favorite of mine).
There are a hundred reasons in the spring to feel new fresh feelings of expectation. That’s the meaning of spring. So why should I want to write about the sufferings and temptations of Christ during a season that is about rebirth and new life and revitalization? The answer is this: springtime doesn’t last in this present sinful age, and if all you have is a springtime faith in a springtime Christ, you will feel destitute in your winter’s night of suffering—which may happen tomorrow, even in the very beginning of this spring season.
If I gave you a Christ who was a chipper, happy-go-lucky, buddy, chum, pal, whose job was to cheer you on in your springtime excitements, it would be a little piece of the truth. And it would make for a brighter, more chipper blog post perhaps. But you know what? I think most of the radio and TV and advertising is already doing that—encouraging you to be chipper, upbeat, sunny, successful, comfortable, leisurely, sporty, smiley, fun people. But my burden in this life is to not be most influential during your springtime leisure, as I believe there is plenty in this world to help you do that. No, my burden is to help you survive the dark and harsh winters of your life: marriage winters, single winters, parenting winters, and financial winters. These winters will surely come, and in those winters you will not want a chipper, happy-go-lucky, buddy, chum, pal of a Christ. You will want a Christ who was “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.” And you will want pastors who are better at weeping than at laughing. And you will want hope—not springy TV hope, but solid, unshakable, everlasting, God-guaranteed hope in the face of utter darkness.
Only Jesus can offer this hope. He can do so because he is our great high priest capable of empathizing with every struggle, suffering, and temptation. How can he empathize with us in these areas? Because he is the Suffering Servant, who bore our griefs, was crushed for our iniquities, was tempted in every manner, yet without sin, and kissed death as our perfect and only substitute. When your springtime fails and you run to the Savior, you are not met by a great religious teacher who tells you to clean yourself up and read six more chapters of 1 Chronicles, and say this prayer 14 times. No, you are met by an empathizing Savior, who says I know what it’s like to be betrayed, hurt, rejected, and despised, and I did it for those who despised me, including yourself.
When springtime fails, Jesus won’t. Cling tightly to the Suffering Servant, he will never let you go.