J.B. Phillips translates one of my favorite verses this way:
“For we have no superhuman High Priest to whom our weaknesses are unintelligible—he himself has shared fully in all our experience of temptation, except that he never sinned. Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with fullest confidence, that we may receive mercy for our failures and grace to help in the hour of need” (Hebrews 4:15-16).
When I sin, He is there because He was tempted by the Tempter extraordinaire and came out unscathed.
When others sin against me, He is there because He felt the inhuman weight of humanity’s depravity on His holy shoulders.
When I’m alone, He is there because He stood alone on this earth, not a soul understanding His heart. (Click to tweet)
When I’m crying into a pillow, He is there because He wept tears of blood for the price He’d soon have to pay.
When my affections are fickle, He is there because He watched Peter’s undying love turn to triple denials.
His presence and understanding gives me the uncanny ability to say three words that feel foreign and freeing on my tongue: I forgive you. And I forgive again.
I once heard that we are most like Jesus when we forgive others. (Click to tweet) I see Jesus hammered to the cross, the torture chamber His very own people placed him on. And He says those crazy-beautiful words: “Father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).
Even in the statement, He offers grace, saying those people who probably do know what they’re doing are simply misguided and messed up. Not malicious. He offers these words after Pharisees wag their mocking heads His way; a thief pokes fun; a soldier offers vinegar.
I cannot relate to a God who dares to leave perfection, to come to this pain-paved world and heal folks who eventually scream for His death.
And yet, in the tiniest of ways, I can. Because I’ve been hurt by others before. I’ve felt abandoned. I’ve cut my feet on shards of glass others have laid before me. I have suffered directly because of others’ sins (and as I write this, it agonizes me to say that others have suffered directly because of my myriad sins).
Oh how we all need Jesus. (Click to tweet) Because He’s been there, experiencing every facet of human joy, pain, anguish, revelation, neediness, exuberance, frailty—only He faced it all perfectly, wearing a countenance of forgiveness. He showed us how to experience God the Father in thin places: on mountaintops, in quiet moments, through the raging of days.
I love Him for it.
Read more about Mary’s redemptive journey in her memoir Thin Places.