Main article: The Sufferings of Christ
Christ’s Sympathetic Sufferings are what Christ felt as He sympathized with others in their circumstances. There are at least two reasons for these sufferings: (1) His deep compassion for others, and (2) that He might be a merciful and faithful high priest.
With joy we meditate the grace
Of God’s High Priest above;
His heart is filled with tenderness,
His very name is Love.
Touched with a sympathy within,
He knows our feeble frame:
He knows what sorest trials mean,
For He has felt the same.1
Carrying the Sorrows and Cares of Others. The prophetic scriptures speak of how the Messiah would pass through the sorrows and griefs of life to be able to sympathize with His people. He carried the sorrows and cares of others on His heart;
“Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows.” (Isa. 53:4)
Isa. 53:4 is quoted in Matthew in connection with the Lord’s physically healing the crowds, which gives us a remarkable insight into the healings performed by our Lord.
“When the even was come, they brought unto him many that were possessed with devils: and he cast out the spirits with his word, and healed all that were sick: That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, Himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses.” (Matt. 8:16-17)
He bore on His heart the suffering of those whom he healed. It wasn’t like a rich man handing out nickels… at no cost to Himself. No, every sorrow and grief Jesus took away was carried on His heart. What a comfort!
Tears of Sympathy. The sympathetic suffering in the Lord’s soul produced real, human tears. We see this clearly at the grave of Lazarus. Earlier we read of Mary and the Jews “wailing” or “sobbing”… but this word is simply, “shed tears”. It was not hysteria that produced those tears, but deep feeling in His own Person, feeling their anguish in Himself as a man. The cause of those tears was unmistakable… they sprang from the Lord’s heart of love as a perfect man among men.
“Jesus wept. Then said the Jews, Behold how he loved him!” (John 11:35-36).
Fitting Him to be a Sympathetic High Priest. Now we come to the second reason; Christ’s sympathetic sufferings prepared Him to be a sympathetic High Priest to those who believe on Him. It is fitting for a captain in the army to have gone through all the routines that a soldier goes through, so that when the captain gives commands, he can do so having perfect understanding of the experience. The captain would never ask his soldiers to do something that he wouldn’t do himself or hasn’t gone through himself. In the same way, there isn’t anything we can go through that the Lord doesn’t understand. That’s the kind of captain that God has prepared for us!
“For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. … that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted. … For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.“ (Heb. 2:10, 17-18; 4:15)
Connection between Sympathetic and Atoning Sufferings. It is interesting that all through scripture the sympathetic sufferings are mentioned often connected with Christ’s atoning sufferings. Yet they are clearly distinct.
|Reference||Sympathetic Part||Atoning Part|
|Hebrews 2:17||“that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest”||“to make propitiation for the sins of the people”|
|Hebrews 2:10,15||“make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings”||
“deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage”
|Isaiah 53:4-5||“Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows”||“But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities”|
|Isaiah 63:9||“In all their affliction he was afflicted”||“in his love and in his pity he redeemed them”|