Hebrews 4:15 Reminds Us That, Yes, Jesus Gets Us

Contributing Writer
Hebrews 4:15 Reminds Us That, Yes, Jesus Gets Us

Have you ever been struggling with something difficult and sought comfort from a close friend, only to find out they, too, had gone through something similar? Even better, they didn’t falter but somehow were able to overcome and triumph over their struggle?

Perhaps it gave you comfort to know someone you respect and care for knew how you were feeling and could relate to your difficulty. Maybe it even gave you inspiration and a boost of strength to know the problem was not, after all, insurmountable. 

That’s why a certain verse in the book of Hebrews is a source of deep reassurance and support for so many. 

In Hebrews 4:15, the writer tells us,

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are — yet he did not sin.”

He’s talking about Jesus, our Lord and Savior, who was both God and man and experienced the full range of human emotions, temptations, and struggles, but did not succumb. 

Hebrews 4:15 encourages us because we know Jesus overcame those temptations, and his example not only made him the perfect, unblemished sacrifice to pay our sin-debt, but it also provides a role model for us when we go through our own temptations.

What Does This Verse Mean?

Hebrews 4:15 tells us that Jesus is our “high priest,” our mediator with God who has full access to the Father, and he entirely understands our reality and what we are facing. In fact, Jesus went through struggles himself and experienced temptation. The difference is that he did not succumb to sin. 

We can trust that our high priest, Jesus, understands us completely.

What Is the Context of This Verse?

The Book of Hebrews was thought to have been written around 67-70 AD, primarily to an audience of Jewish Christians, possibly penned by Apollos or Barnabas. These men and women would have been familiar with Jewish customs, and the book as a whole was designed to emphasize Jesus’s ultimate authority, with helpful tips on how to live as a disciple of Christ in the world. 

The first chapter points out that Jesus, as God’s Son, is superior to the angels, and in the second chapter, it notes that Jesus is also fully human. In the third chapter, we’re told Jesus is superior to Moses, and that we should be careful to have unhardened hearts that surrender to complete belief in Christ as Lord. In chapter four, we’re told to hold fast to this faith so we can embrace the Sabbath-rest promised to God’s people. 

Then we get to Hebrews 4:14-16, which offers us great comfort as it reminds us that Jesus is so much more than the angels or Moses or any of the prophets or priests. Rather, he is the “great” high priest, the high priest above all, a solid hope we can cling to in the midst of all of life’s storms. He understands us and our temptations completely, for he too was tempted, though he never succumbed to that temptation. And he offers us not only an example, but mercy and hope, for as we’re told, anyone who believes in and follows Jesus has salvation.

What Does It Mean That Jesus Is Our ‘Great High Priest’?

The concept of a high priest would have been very important to the audience of this book. Before Jesus, God’s people needed a specially designated and holy high priest in order to access God. 

The first mention of a priest in Scripture came in Genesis 14, when Abraham encountered Melchizedek, king of Salem and priest of God Most High, who blessed him for rescuing Lot and all the goods of Sodom and Gomorrah that had been stolen by enemies. In return, Abraham blessed Melchizedek, giving him a tenth of everything, thereby exhibiting the honor we are to show to people of the priesthood (Genesis 14:18-20).

Later, in Exodus, God has Moses establish the tribe of Levi as a set-apart priesthood to minister in the tabernacle and, later, the temple. They served as a mediator between God and the people. The priests made sacrifices and had to abide by certain cleansing rituals to be holy when they approached the Lord. 

But these were mere people. While they strived to be holy, they fell short. 

That’s why having a “great high priest,” a mediator who is perfect and does not fall short – yet still, as a man, understands what people face – is extraordinarily comforting. We know he was tempted — three of the Gospel accounts (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) tell us how, after his baptism, Jesus fasted in the wilderness for 40 days and nights. Then the devil tempted him. 

Yet Jesus countered these temptations with Scripture and prevailed.

Later, in 1 Corinthians 10:13, the apostle Paul writes, “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.”

Jesus — our “great high priest” — showed us the way out.

How Does This Verse Encourage Us?

We know that no man or woman is perfect. On our own, we will always fall short. That’s why salvation is such a merciful and unexpectedly generous gift. We cannot do anything to earn salvation, nor can be ever be “good enough” to achieve it on our own. 

But knowing we have a great high priest between us and God is so encouraging. As our high priest, Jesus intercedes for us with God. Indeed, Jesus himself told us he is the only path to God. As he said in John 14:6-7, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”

Romans 8:34 notes that Christ Jesus “who was raised to life — is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us,” and Hebrews 7:25 says that Jesus “is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.”

We can lean on Jesus and draw strength from him both by trying to emulate him, but also because, when we believe in him, our faith helps save us.

It’s hard to be perfect — in fact, it’s downright impossible. What is tempting to me might be completely different from what is tempting to you. But Jesus was born a helpless baby, lived as a man, and died on the cross knowing full well what it meant to be tempted and understanding completely what is tempting to us. 

The “flawless, unblemished lamb” continues to serve as our mediator today. When we struggle, we can ask Jesus to help us resist temptation, and we can also strive to do what he did — reading the Bible, praying, and staying strong in the Father so he can live well in accordance with God’s commands. 

We can come boldly to the throne of grace and lay all our problems and temptations at the cross, resting in the perfect peace that Jesus points the way, and he understands. 

Photo credit: Unsplash/Aaron Burden

Jessica Brodie author photo headshotJessica Brodie is an award-winning Christian novelist, journalist, editor, blogger, and writing coach and the recipient of the 2018 American Christian Fiction Writers Genesis Award for her novel, The Memory Garden. She is also the editor of the South Carolina United Methodist Advocate, the oldest newspaper in Methodism. Learn more about her fiction and read her faith blog at jessicabrodie.com. She has a weekly YouTube devotional, too. You can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and more. She’s also produced a free eBook, A God-Centered Life: 10 Faith-Based Practices When You’re Feeling Anxious, Grumpy, or Stressed.