Christs Sympathy for His Suffering People
George W. Mylne
"And the LORD said: I have surely seen the oppression of My people who are in Egypt, and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters, for I know their sorrows." Exodus 3:7
This was the language of Him who appeared to Moses in the bush, even of the angel of the Lord, who was God Himself — in other words, the Lord Jesus Christ. (Ex. 3:2. comp. 5:4.) He said, "I know their sorrows." And if He knew them — did He not sympathize with them? Was not this His tender mercy toward them? Yes "in all their affliction, He was afflicted, and the angel of His presence saved them; in His love and in His pity He redeemed them; and He bore them and carried them all the days of old." Isaiah 63:9.
Jesus took flesh, not only that He might save, but also sympathize with, His people. It behooved Him in all things to be made like unto His brethren; like unto them — as a partaker of flesh and blood; like them — in being a Man of Sorrows, and acquainted with grief; like them — in all the infirmities and troubles of life, sin only excepted. As God, the eternal Word, He might have pitied; it was only as God manifested in the flesh, that He could have a fellow feeling with His afflicted people. As Christ "was, in all points, tempted like as we are" (Hebrews 4:15) so was He, in all points, afflicted like as we are. And thus the expression, "In all their afflictions, He was afflicted," may have a double meaning, namely — that He personally tasted all their sorrows, as well as sympathized with them.
Human sympathy is sweet, but it is necessarily an imperfect thing. Sympathy, whether with sorrow or temptation, in order to be perfect, must proceed from One who has infinite power of sympathizing, and infinite good will to exercise it. What a difference we find between man and man! Some men will throw their whole heart and mind into the sorrows or the perplexities of others — while some, either from deficient sensibility, or unwillingness to put it forth, have little or no sympathy to bestow.
It is far otherwise with Jesus. He possesses a human heart, and human mind, endowed with the infinite perceptions and sensibilities of the Godhead. When Jesus sorrowed — His grief was as infinite; when He rejoiced — His joy was as immeasurable as the divine nature, which was His from everlasting. A mind expanding with the endless elasticity, a heart swelling with the boundless emotions, of deity; divine in power, in feeling, in comprehension, but human in all the necessities; divine, yet man; human, yet God — such was, such is, the Man Christ Jesus.
In Jesus infinite sensibility is joined to infinite love — infinite experience of sorrow, coupled with boundless friendship, and brotherly feeling. Hence Jesus is both able, and willing — nay it is the law of His mediatorial nature, the very necessity of His existence, as the Man Christ Jesus — that He would sympathize divinely and infinitely with His suffering, sorrowing people.
Christian reader, is not this your repose? Is it not this that makes the name of Jesus "a strong tower" in the day of adversity? You feel that in Jesus you have One, loving to sympathize — as well as mighty to save. In virtue of your union with Jesus — your heart is His heart, and your feelings are His feelings. Your heart beats not in yourself alone — its every throb is felt in the heart of Christ Himself. Your every emotion swells to the boundless extent of infinitude in the deep recesses of the soul of Jesus.
How can Jesus do otherwise than sympathize with you — when your sorrows are His sorrows — when your every feeling is shared by Him as necessarily as it is by yourself? Between Jesus and your soul, there is a partnership in experience, amounting to unity — a sympathy founded upon inseparable interests — a joint destiny, and an undivided being. How then can you fail of sympathy from Jesus? What can shake the grounds of your repose?
Jesus was perfect man; He had sensibilities laid deep in the ground of the heart, yet ever coming to, and ever dwelling on the surface; and, thus, ready to be acted upon by all that He met with in this world of sin and sorrow.
What a delicate, impressible thing is human sensibility! Even in fallen sinful man, it puts out feelers which are painfully alive to everything calculated to wound, or distress them. Some men are comparatively dull of sensibility — while others are sensitive, to an extent which is agonizing to themselves, and embarrassing to those around them.
In the person of the Man Christ Jesus, these sensibilities partook of the very nature of the Godhead. There was feeling in an infinite degree — infinite powers of feeling; and impressions of infinite force continually being made upon them, and which none but God manifested in the flesh could have sustained. Hence Jesus was exposed to the sorrows and trials of life in a manner that no one else could be. The sensibilities of His holy nature must have been in one continual state of suffering — as constant as were the sins and the trials of others, which called them forth.
Believer, here is your repose in times of sorrow — that Jesus has felt exactly what you feel, only in an infinite degree.
in the enmity of adversaries;
in the coldness of friends;
in the ingratitude of those whom He had served;
in the treachery of companions;
His actions misrepresented;
His words falsely interpreted;
His motives misunderstood;
in agony of mind;
in torture of body;
in all the possibilities of a sorrowing life;
in all the anguish of death upon the accursed tree.
Say, believer, is there any possible form of distress that can befall you, which has not been tasted to the full by the Man of Sorrows? Is there any trial that you cannot take to Jesus, and rely upon His sympathy? In sympathizing with you, Jesus does it not with the poor measure of your sensibilities, but with the full measure of His own infinite sensibilities — with the perfect recollection of what His own infinite sorrows were — so that the whole heart, and mind, and power of God are wrapped up in the sympathy that is put forth on your behalf!
Was Jesus ever sick? I think not. Sickness is an attendant of fallen nature — of sinful flesh. We never hear of Jesus having been sick. The probability is that He never was so, inasmuch as His flesh was not sinful flesh, nor His nature fallen nature. True, it is written of Him, saying, "Himself took our infirmities, and bore our sicknesses." But this was said, not on account of Himself having been sick, but on that of His casting out the spirits with His word, and healing all that were sick. Matthew 8:16, 17. The divine power of the Man Christ Jesus enabled Him to realize the suffering of sickness, as His divine sensibilities fitted Him to sympathize with the sufferers, although He Himself had not personally experienced the same. And thus, His people may repose upon His boundless sympathy in their sickness. He needs not to be reminded that those who He loves are sick. John 11:3. Christian reader, He cannot but make all your bed in your sickness. He cannot do otherwise than take your infirmities, and bear your sicknesses. On this you may most surely repose.
"Ah," say you, "but there is one distress, in which Jesus can have no sympathy with me — and that is sorrow for sin." True, Jesus can have no sympathy with you in the act, or yet in the sense, of sin; but He can, and does fully sympathize with you in the consequences of your sin. What is it that occasions your chief suffering under sin? Is it not the hiding of God's countenance? And was not this the chief ingredient in the bitter cup which He had to drink? "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me? Why are You so far from me, and from the words of my roaring? O my God, I cry in the day time, but You hear not; and in the night season, and am not silent." Psalm 22:1, 2. Matthew 27:46.
And why did God forsake the Man who is His fellow? Zech. 13:7. Because of sin — not His own sin — for Jesus had no sin; but, Christian reader, because of your sin, and mine!
Thus Jesus suffered, only in an infinite degree — what you and I suffer when we have sinned. His sufferings too proceeded from the very same cause — from sin — not His own, but yours and mine. The hiding of God's countenance, savors of the very pains of Hell. When we suffer from it, we are made to taste those very pains themselves. Whatever Jesus did, He did infinitely. On the accursed tree He drank the cup of the wrath of God to the very dregs — He suffered, as you and I would have suffered — had the Father's countenance been hidden from us to all eternity.
May we not then repose on the sympathy of Jesus under sorrow for sin? And this all the more, because it was the very sin that you or I may have committed which occasioned the sorrow of Jesus on the accursed tree. Most truly therefore can He sympathize with us under that common cause of His own infinite, and our limited, distress. Herein, then, is our repose.
Although Jesus does not sympathize with us in sickness from His own personal experience — nor share our pain under a sense of sin, from having Himself felt the same — the case is different in respect of bodily pain. Although a perfect nature did not admit of sickness, yet flesh and blood, even in contact with Deity, must have been alive to the sensations of bodily anguish. Could His head be crowned with thorns — and not respond in agony? Could His hands and feet be nailed to the Cross — and the whole weight of the body press on these its suffering members, without causing pain? Who can tell the deep mystery, the wondrous combination of Godhead and manhood, in the Person of Jesus! We have seen how this must have imparted infinitude to all the mental perceptions of Jesus. Is there any reason to suppose that it did not the same with His bodily feelings? The Word made flesh; the eternal God dwelling in a human body; Deity conveying its own character, and properties into human flesh!
Who can fathom — still more, who can prescribe limits to, the perceptions of flesh and blood under such circumstances? Are we not warranted, then, in supposing that the bodily sufferings of Jesus were of an infinite nature — seeing that every nerve and fibre of His body was in immediate union with the infinitude of Deity? Jesus had to bear a weight of infinite displeasure — to endure the infinite penalty, demanded by infinite justice. His human sensibilities, being extended over the infinite surface of the divine nature, presented an area of endurance co-equal with that of divine power. In other words, all that Jesus felt in body, as in mind, He must have felt infinitely.
If these things are so, it throws great light upon the atonement, in its exact payment of the debt by the crucified Jesus. If "He bore the sin of many" (Isaiah 53:12), He must literally have suffered the pains — the eternal punishment, due to the many. What is not infinite pain, included in infinite atonement! One moment is to infinitude — what endless ages would be to a finite existence — and thus, had Jesus hung upon the Cross only one moment, instead of six hours, His sufferings must still have amounted to what the whole company of the redeemed would, otherwise, have endured to all eternity!
Christian reader, if you are in pain, may you not repose on the sympathy of Jesus? Are you, through bodily anguish, "made to possess months of vanity?" Are "wearisome nights appointed" to you? When you "lie down," you say, "When shall I arise, and the night be gone?" You are "full of tossings to and fro unto the dawning of the day." Job 7:3, 4.
Who can tell what a power of anguish is shut up in a single nerve of the human body? Who can enter into the inner chambers of pain, to find it out? Who can measure its capacity, or define its torment! Yet there is One who can do all this; One who can detect our anguish in its deepest recesses; One who can weigh its intensity in the balances of divine perception; and, what is best of all, One who can say to the afflicted, "I have endured the same" — not the same as to the circumstances, but far more intensely, yes infinitely more! Is not this our repose?
Is not Jesus your Brother — a "friend who sticks closer than a brother?" May you not depend upon His sympathy? Can you not repose upon it? In all your time of need He is pledged to be with you, to care for you, and comfort you — pledged by the everlasting covenant never to leave nor forsake you. The Law of that new covenant, is the love which Jesus bears to you from everlasting. He does not love you because He covenanted to do so; He covenanted to be your sympathizer — because he loved you! Jesus is wrapped up in His people. They are dearer to Him than the apple of His eye. It would be pain to Him to be absent from them; not to tend them in their trouble; not to sympathize with them, and make His sympathy known.
Can you, then, repose too securely on Jesus, on His tender spirit, and His loving heart? Be sure that He knows your every sorrow, and notes your every care. It is His sweet office, as the Elder Brother of His people, to pour the oil and wine of His consolations into their wounded souls. Then cast your care meekly, yet boldly, upon Jesus — repose on Him with all the confidence that He demands of you. Then shall He see of the travail of His soul in you, and be satisfied — yes, He shall find rest in your repose!