Like his brothers and sisters in every way: Hebrews 2:17
- For this reason he had to be made like his brothers and sisters in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. Hebrews 2:17
- When Moses was forty years old, he decided to visit his own people, the Israelites.
- 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. Hebrews 4:15
This is what I had always understood from this verse, that Jesus sympathized with the pain and suffering of those he loved. Due to modern medicine, we are a generation of people who expect to go through life without losing a child. I well remember as a child being offered a steady diet of novels from the 19th century, longing for just one in which a child did not die. (except Alice!)
I have been sleeping on a cot at the hospital this last week, watching my own child as the doctors diagnosed the cause of her recent relapse. However, she is now on the appropriate antibiotics and beginning to recover.
In this verse, it depends on how we define being human. Do we define it terms of differential male and female needs and attachments, or in terms of our common needs and attachments? Does Christ sympathize more with men than with women? I find this so strange I can hardly write it - how is that there are so many complaints against the translation 'our brothers and sisters'? Never mind.
To expand the concept of human needs, I would like to offer Maslow's hierarchy as a provisional framework. First, the physical and safety needs, then the needs of love and belonging, of independence and esteem, cognitive and asthetic needs, and finally the needs of fulfillment and mission. So we read the Jesus was tired, hungry and in pain, mortal, sorrowing for those who died, lonely and disappointed in human relationships, not recognized by his own community, and burdened by the need to fulfill his mission. He suffered in order to be able to fully sympathize with us.
I would like to suggest that it is the quality of being human and the nature of basic human needs that enables men and women to share a common culture and read a common literature, and that is why ultimately we can read the same Bible in the first place and talk about it. We share common cognitive and aesthetic needs, and a common need for fulfillment and mission.
Here is one verse of a poem that I read last night, written by the Persian poet, Hafiz, in the 13th century on the death of his son. (tr. Gertrude Bell)
- He sought his lodging in the grave - too soon!
I had not castled, and the time is gone,
What shall I play? Upon the chequered floor
Of Night and Day, Death won the game - forlorn
And careless now, Hafiz can lose no more.