Inspired by Hebrews 4:14-5:4
“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:15-16 (NRSV)
An old African American Spiritual hymn begins with the lines, “Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen. Nobody knows but Jesus.” Simple words, but they convey a deep truth that is key to the Christian faith.
It’s true that in this life we may experience many troubles and trials. Sometimes we’re faced with seemingly impossible choices, when none of our options are morally pure and all of them are bound to cause some pain and suffering for someone. Sometimes the temptations we face are too much for us, and, although we do the best we can, we recognize that our best isn’t very good, and we feel like we’re distancing ourselves from God, convinced that our choices and failures are making us unacceptable to him and unlovable in his sight.
But Jesus sits on the throne of grace. Jesus, who has faced the moral ambiguity we call earthly life, knows in his deepest being the trouble we’ve seen. It’s not with harsh judgment and moral absolutes that he addresses us, but with the compassion and mercy of one who has been there. And where we fail, he triumphed. But he doesn’t hold that over us to condemn us; rather he offers his triumph to us in order to share it with us.
Our weaknesses do not distance us from the Holy One; they are the means by which we may draw closer and recognize his grace for what it is: a true gift of mercy and salvation which we can never earn on our own. Glory hallelujah!
Let us pray. Compassionate God, you took on human flesh and lived a mortal life. Enable us to recognize the grace you extend to us, that we may approach you boldly in our weakness, expectant that you will sympathize with us and empower us with your mercy. Through Christ our Lord, Amen.