The AMI QT Devotionals from June 24-30 are written by Pastor Andrew Kim at Tapestry Church. Andrew, a graduate of Eternity Bible College, is currently attending Fuller Theological Seminary. He and his wife Jessie recently welcomed their first child into the world.
Devotional Thoughts for Today
“Empathy and Sympathy”: Which One Does Jesus Have for Us?
“From the blue and purple and scarlet yarns they made finely woven garments, for ministering in the Holy Place. They made the holy garments for Aaron, as the Lord had commanded Moses. 2 He made the ephod of gold, blue and purple and scarlet yarns, and fine twined linen. 3 And they hammered out gold leaf, and he cut it into threads to work into the blue and purple and the scarlet yarns, and into the fine twined linen, in skilled design. 4 They made for the ephod attaching shoulder pieces, joined to it at its two edges. 5 And the skillfully woven band on it was of one piece with it and made like it, of gold, blue and purple and scarlet yarns, and fine twined linen, as the Lord had commanded Moses. 6 They made the onyx stones, enclosed in settings of gold filigree, and engraved like the engravings of a signet, according to the names of the sons of Israel. 7 And he set them on the shoulder pieces of the ephod to be stones of remembrance for the sons of Israel, as the Lord had commanded Moses.”
Social psychologist Brene Brown has recently become increasingly popular for her insights into topics like shame and vulnerability. As for me, I’ve benefited from her work on the difference between empathy and sympathy. For Brown, sympathy is often an unhelpful response to someone else’s suffering because it is essentially an act of feeling sorry for someone without connecting with that person in the place of pain. For example, sympathy responds to someone’s miscarriage with, “At least you know you can get pregnant.” Or to someone’s struggling marriage with, “At least you have a marriage.” At church a sympathetic response might look like cliché answers like, “Don’t worry, God has a plan in all of this.” While these types of responses to people’s pains are our attempts at fixing the problem, according to Brown, they rarely make a situation better.
Empathy on the other hand is our desire not to solve the issue but to step into that person’s place of pain. It is to connect and identify with what they’re going through—to help the suffering person feel understood and heard. According to Brown’s research, it is the empathic response that actually brings healing and solace to the other. Simply put, identifying with a person’s concerns and issues has a profound impact when it comes to comforting those who are struggling.
In today’s passage, we are given a description of the ephod worn by the high priest. It details the different materials used to design the priest’s uniform. An interesting detail is found in verses 6-7, where it says that the names of the sons of Israel are engraved onto the stones that are on the ephod. This small detail speaks to the primary role of the high priest, which was to take the burdens and concerns of the people into the presence of God that resided in the temple. They were to intercede on behalf of the Israelites before God. They were called to care for their people.
Interestingly, in the book of Hebrews, Jesus is called the better high priest. There are numerous reasons as to why He is greater than an ordinary high priest, but one significant reason is that Jesus personally knew our struggles. The high priest would only be able to bring the concerns of their people secondhand. They had not experienced or were able to identify with all the problems that afflicted the people. But Hebrews 4:15 says, in referring to Jesus, “We do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses.” In other words, Jesus has gone through the entire spectrum of sin’s impact on humanity; that is, he has experienced loneliness, rejection, death and betrayal—but without ever giving into temptations (i.e., sinning). Thus, we can be assured that Jesus can empathize with us, for he has readily stepped into our place of pain to be the source of our comfort. And it is with that heart Jesus constantly intercedes on our behalf to the Father.
Let us, therefore, find comfort and healing in knowing that Jesus is the high priest who understands our pains, and is praying for us with intimate knowledge of our struggles!
Prayer: Father, we thank You for Your Son Jesus who had become flesh and stepped into our broken world. We thank You that we have a high priest who is intimately acquainted with our pain and intercedes on our behalf. Help me to find comfort and hope in this truth especially in difficult seasons. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.
Bible Reading for Today: 2 Samuel 18
Lunch Break Study
Read Matthew 26:36-46: Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit here, while I go over there and pray.” 37 And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38 Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.” 39 And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” 40 And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour? 41 Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”42 Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.” 43 And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. 44 So, leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words again. 45 Then he came to the disciples and said to them, “Sleep and take your rest later on. See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 46 Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.”
Questions to Consider
- Why is Jesus so full of anguish in this story?
- What do you notice about Jesus that is unusual in this passage?
- What do you find comforting about this passage?
- Jesus understands that soon He will be crucified and will have to bear the wrath of God on behalf of sinful humanity. The deepest source of pain and fear is that part of this process entails being forsaken by the Father with whom He has been in perfect and eternal communion.
- Jesus has always seemed calm and collected throughout the gospel narratives. No matter what the issue or pressures He felt, it seemed as if He had everything under control. For the first time, we see Jesus deeply affected by what’s ahead; so much so that He is asking the Father if there was another way to fulfill His mission; and in other accounts He is sweating blood. The humanity of Jesus is clearly demonstrated in this passage.
“In the midst of God’s own grief and sorrow, we see God with us and believe that he is able somehow to take up our burdens upon himself and deliver us from our despair. He is not distant from our pain. He understands our suffering because Jesus Christ – God in human flesh – suffered.” – Trevin Wax