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The other night, I watched a documentary by comedian and former drug addict Russell Brand. The film follows his attempt to understand the British government’s drug enforcement policy. It opens up with him riding along with a group of police officers on a drug raid. As they break down the door, Russell turns to the camera and remembers how a decade ago, he would have been on the other side of that door.
But it doesn’t end there. After the police take an addict into custody, Russell joins her in the holding cell, asking her about why she chooses to take drugs and what her future looks like if she keeps heading down that path. At that point, the addict breaks down and starts crying. But instead of fleeing the emotionally intense scene, Russell did something incredible. He sat next to her, put his arm around her and repeated again and again, “I understand that feeling.”
It was an incredible moment of genuine connection – one that highlighted the truth that Russell Brand has been in that exact position – he knows how it feels and is actively hoping for this addict’s recovery.
Those four words – “I understand that feeling” – reminded me of the truth that we are taught in Scripture – that we have a sympathetic high priest in the form of our Lord and Savior Christ Jesus. See how the writer of Hebrews puts it:
Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:14-16, ESV)
I think sometimes it can be a little easier for us to remember Jesus’ divinity. We can recite the list of miracles that he performed, but we can sometimes forget that he was Emmanuel – God with us. He was also fully human. He was tempted in every way, overcame those temptations and remained faithful and righteous for us and for our salvation. He is still incarnate in heaven, seated at the right hand of our Father, drawing us near and speaking those same words that Russell Brand spoke – “I understand that feeling.”
Through the Holy Spirit, he adds more to that sentence, telling us that we are forgiven, we are saved by his grace and that we are welcomed back into communion with our loving and merciful Triune God. He tells us that he will not give up on us, but will continue to work with us and in us so that one day, we will be so transformed from the inside out, that we will not be captive of anyone or anything, but be free to live as his glorified children in his very presence.