Key passage

See, my servant will be successful;
he will be raised and lifted up and greatly exalted.
Just as many were appalled at you—
his appearance was so disfigured
that he did not look like a man,
and his form did not resemble a human being—
so he will sprinkle many nations.
Kings will shut their mouths because of him,
for they will see what had not been told them,
and they will understand what they had not heard.

Who has believed what we have heard?
And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
He grew up before him like a young plant
and like a dry root out of dry ground.
He didn’t have an impressive form
or majesty that we should look at him,
no appearance that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by men,
a man of suffering who knew what sickness was.
He was like someone people turned away from;
he was despised, and we didn’t value him.

Yet he himself bore our sicknesses,
and he carried our pains;
but we in turn regarded him stricken,
struck down by God, and afflicted.
But he was pierced because of our rebellion,
crushed because of our iniquities;
punishment for our peace was on him,
and we are healed by his wounds.
We all went astray like sheep;
we all have turned to our own way;
and the Lord has punished him
for the iniquity of us all.

He was oppressed and afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth.
Like a lamb led to the slaughter
and like a sheep silent before her shearers,
he did not open his mouth.
He was taken away because of oppression and judgment;
and who considered his fate?
For he was cut off from the land of the living;
he was struck because of my people’s rebellion.
He was assigned a grave with the wicked,
but he was with a rich man at his death,
because he had done no violence
and had not spoken deceitfully.

Yet the Lord was pleased to crush him severely.
When you make a guilt offering,
he will see his seed, he will prolong his days,
and by his hand, the Lord’s pleasure will be accomplished.
After his anguish,
he will see light and be satisfied.
By his knowledge,
my righteous servant will justify many,
and he will carry their iniquities.
Therefore I will give him the many as a portion,
and he will receive the mighty as spoil,
because he willingly submitted to death,
and was counted among the rebels;
yet he bore the sin of many
and interceded for the rebels.

Isaiah 52:13–53:12

Quotes from Chapter 4

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.

Hebrews 4:15

Even though Christ is now in heaven, he is just as open and tender in his embrace of sinners and sufferers as ever he was on earth. The risen Lord alive and well in heaven today is not somehow less approachable and less compassionate than he was when he walked the earth.

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens—Jesus the Son of God—let us hold fast to our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in every way as we are, yet without sin. Therefore, let us approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in time of need.

Hebrews 4:14-16

All our natural intuitions tell us that Jesus is with us, on our side, present and helping, when life is going well. This text says the opposite. It is in “our weaknesses” that Jesus sympathizes with us. “Sympathize” here is not cool and detached pity. It is a depth of felt solidarity. In our pain, Jesus is pained; in our suffering, he feels the suffering as his own even though it isn’t—not that his invincible divinity is threatened, but in the sense that his heart is feelingly drawn into our distress. His human nature engages our troubles comprehensively. His is a love that cannot be held back when he sees his people in pain.

He has been “tempted” (or “tested,” as the word can also denote) “as we are”—not only that, but “in every respect” as we are. The reason that Jesus is in such close solidarity with us is that the difficult path we are on is not unique to us. He has journeyed on it himself. It is not only that Jesus can relieve us from our troubles; it is also that, before any relief comes, he is with us in our troubles.

He didn’t have an impressive form
or majesty that we should look at him,
no appearance that we should desire him.

Isaiah 53:2

He came as a normal man to normal men. He knows what it is to be thirsty, hungry, despised, rejected, scorned, shamed, embarrassed, abandoned, misunderstood, falsely accused, suffocated, tortured, and killed. He knows what it is to be lonely. His friends abandoned him when he needed them most.

The key to understanding the significance of Hebrews 4:15 is to push equally hard on the two phrases “in every respect” and “yet without sin.” All our weakness—indeed, all of our life—is tainted with sin. Not so Jesus. He had no sin. He was “holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners”.

For this is the kind of high priest we need: holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. He doesn’t need to offer sacrifices every day, as high priests do—first for their own sins, then for those of the people. He did this once for all time when he offered himself.

Hebrews 7:26, 27

That enticing temptation, that sore trial, that bewildering perplexity—he has been there. Indeed, his utter purity suggests that he has felt these pains more acutely than we sinners ever could.

When the fallenness of the world closes in on us and makes us want to throw in the towel—there, right there, we have a Friend who knows exactly what such testing feels like, and sits close to us, embraces us. With us. Solidarity.

Our pain never outstrips what he himself shares in. We are never alone. That sorrow that feels so isolating, so unique, was endured by him in the pst and is now shouldered by him in the present.

Jesus’ sinlessness means that he knows temptation better than we ourselves do. He endured all our temptations and testings without ever giving in. He therefore knows the strength of temptation better than any of us. Only he truly knows the cost.1

Our only hope is that the one who shares in all our pain shares in it as the pure and holy one. Our sinless high priest is not one who needs rescue but who provides it. This is why we can go to him to “receive mercy and find grace” (Hebrews 4:16). His sinlessness is our salvation.


  1. C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York: Touchstone, 1996), 126.

Questions

  • How would you define Christ’s ability to sympathize?
  • What does it matter that Christ remained sinless?
  • Was Jesus tempted the same way we are?
  • Was his temptation easier or harder than our temptations?
  • Was Jesus a beautiful man to look at?
  • What kind of high priest was Jesus?
  • Think of a time you know Christ sympathized with you. How does that give you future hope?

This article is adapted from: Gentle and Lowly by Dane Ortlund and Gentle and Lowly Study Guide by Robert Zink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s