When one speaks of the Lord Jesus knowing or understanding each one’s sorrow does that mean that He went through or was the victim of each type of sin?
It is important to answer this question carefully. An error on one side will diminish the appreciation for the true compassion of the Lord Jesus and deprive us of much-needed comfort. An error on the other side will deprive the Lord of His intrinsic holiness and thus His suitability as our atoning sacrifice.
There is no question that the Lord Jesus is compassionate beyond our understanding. He knows and understands “each one’s sorrow.” But, the second part of the question is a little ambiguous. The Lord Jesus certainly was the “victim” of the sinful acts committed against him by man. But there are those that argue that the Lord Jesus was subject to the temptation to sin. So, we must distinguish these two thoughts. The latter thought is absolutely repudiated by Scripture.
When we speak of temptation or trial we are often speaking of difficulties of life. These may come from outside, like persecution and abuse. Or, they may come from within, like medical or psychological weakness.1 For these we have the Lord’s absolute sympathy and help. In this case, we do not include the tendency in us to commit sin. James tells us that a person is “tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin.” (Jas. 1:14-15) We cannot digress here to consider the details of temptation in relation to our sinful nature. We will consider the Lord’s holiness below.
The Lord Jesus Is Compassionate
We must be thoroughly confident in the compassion of the Lord Jesus for every difficulty that we might face. It seems a bit strange to even have to assert this fact. After all, He suffered unimaginable agony to deliver us from our sins. Yet, often in the middle of the anguish of circumstance we can feel forsaken. Here we must remember His sovereign goodness. The song “No never alone, no never alone. He promised never to leave me, never to leave me alone.” comes to mind.
Although His compassion is a necessary consequence of His being Creator and loving His creatures, it is seen most vividly in His perfect Manhood. The apostle in Hebrews tells us, “we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” (Heb. 4:15) The apostle is careful to add that He was “without sin” in spite of the fact that He came into our condition as a man. Notice also in Romans 8:3, that He came “in the likeness of sinful flesh.” (my emphasis) Now, “in that himself has suffered, being tempted, he is able to help those that are being tempted.” (Heb. 2:18) So, having experienced trials He is our High Priest now at God’s right hand to sympathize and to be a source of help. So, the apostle adds, in Hebrews 4:16, that we are to come before the “throne of grace.” The throne reminds us of the power of sovereignty and that it is a throne of grace reminds us of the kind compassion that motivates all its decrees.
One incident recorded by the apostle John is particularly appropriate. We find the shortest verse in the Bible spoken by Jesus at Lazarus’ grave: “Jesus wept.” This is one of those amazing verses whose ambiguity opens so many wonderful applications. Did Jesus weep in sympathy with the sorrow of those around? No doubt. Did Jesus weep because of their unbelief which led to their sorrow? No doubt. Did Jesus weep because He would have to bring Lazarus, who He loved, back from “Abraham’s bosom” (Lk. 16:22) to a sin darkened, sorrow filled world? No doubt. No matter how you view this incident, it reflects in a profound way the compassion of the Lord Jesus.
The Lord Jesus Is Holy
But, can this sympathy extend to our personal struggle with sin? There are those who maintain that the Lord Jesus was tempted to sin, that it was possible for Him to sin, but that He maintained a holy walk to be our sacrifice. This view is promoted to try to make the Lord seem more sympathetic to the struggles we face. This may sound reasonable, but has the root of an absolutely fatal error. In fact, it destroys the holiness of the Lord and robs us of a true Savior.
This doctrine is neither possible on His part nor desirable on our part. One of the problems is that we are not careful to distinguish between sinful actions and the sinful nature from which the acts proceed. The Lord said, “For out of the heart come evil thoughts.” (Matt. 15:19) We need to distinguish the source from the action. The Lord suffered estrangement and wrath from God (Matt. 27:46) to atone for our sins (actions). He died to account for the sinful nature. (Rom. 6:6-8, etc.)2 In both cases, He must be the suitable sacrifice for us. He must in both cases be totally without blemish to stand before God on our behalf to make a full atonement.
But, has He no sympathy with our struggles against sin? Here we need to be very careful. First, we need to be sure we don’t confuse experience with sympathy. A common thought is that we cannot sympathize with what we have not experienced. This certainly cannot be applied here. He certainly has sympathy with our weaknesses (Ps 78:39; Ps 103:14). Yet, Scripture is equally clear that He was “holy, harmless, undefiled, separated from sinners” (Heb. 7:26). He could say, “for the ruler of the world comes, and in me he has nothing” (Jn. 14:30, JND3). The point is that in Him there was nothing that could respond to the devil’s allurements. There is no sin in Him; He is holy. The deliverance from our struggles is given in detail in Romans 5:12 through chapter 8. Unfortunately, this is much too large a study to enter into here.
Scripture establishes the absolute holiness of the Lord Jesus. That He has sufficiently satisfied the heart of God on our behalf is our security and comfort.
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Grant, F. W., The Numerical Bible: Acts to 2 Corinthians. Neptune: Loizeaux Brothers, 1903, pp 216-255.
Grant, F. W., Atonement in Type, Prophecy and Accomplishment. New York: Loizeaux Brothers, 1956.
1. I have distinguished these for convenience of description, but “mental” and “physical” components of distress are not always easily distinguished in our experience.
2. This is a large subject which I have necessarily simplified. See Atonement by F. W. Grant.
3. Unfortunately, the ESV misses the true sense.