“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to feel sympathy for our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.Jesus.” (Hebrews 4:15-16)
The way we think about Jesus is important.
Is he God or man? …or both? And in seeking your explanation, with which category do you begin?
In the first couple of centuries of the Church, both approaches were attempted and two kinds of heresies took root: one started off with a straight equation of jesus=God. He only appeared human but was really divine. His human traits were only apparent. If I can say it respectfully, it was like Superman with the bullets bouncing off him. In this way of thinking, he performed miracles simply because he was God.
This produced the critique of Islam; How could God die?
In the opposite view, Jesus was really man, though filled with the spirit of God and so godly, or divine.
Then subtler explanations were attempted. He was born man but the Spirit came on at baptism and ascended at death (“Why have you forsaken me?).
Or how about this one: He had a human body but a divine soul.
None of these really satisfy what the Bible itself says
“Being in very nature God…”
“Image of the invisible…”
“He who has seen me has seen the father.”
“The Word was God… the Word became flesh…”
It’s just not good enough to say that Jesus had a “divine soul” and human body because to be human is not merely bone and tissue. We are what we are inside
And so Jesus (Luke 2:40.51) grew naturally. He was weary, thirsty… he exhibited the normal reactions of a physical body. He “looked round in anger…”, he wept, he asked for close friends to stay awake with him. These are the attributes of a sensitive human being.
In Hebrews 2 and 4, the expression of this complete humanity is woven into the total meaning of why God became man. “
“He understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same temptations we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy and we will find grace to help us when we need it.”
He is touched with the feeling of our pain. He can be touched NOW because of what he experienced THEN.
Because, you see, if, so to speak, the bullets bounced off him, then so did the pain. If Jesus has some advantage over me in being human (that it’s just an act, a game) then how does he really understand? How did he really “suffer being tempted”? You see, he didn’t sin. It’s hard to understand how he can face the temptation fully if there was no possibility of failure…
But it’s at this point that we misunderstand what it is to be human.
We think that we are the norm, but really that’s not so. For generations the human race has devolved (rather than evolved) into a state of increasing wickedness and darkness. Is it not so?
But we were not created for sin but for God, for pleasure and light. We were created for heaven. Our choices have led us badly astray, worse and worse . Romans 1 describes that spiralling in of sin and degradation.
We have arrived at the point when we almost do not realise that we even face temptation. Or think much of it. And so we blunder from wrong choice to wrong choice.
But Jesus is fresh born from God, the son of God, the second Adam… the light that lightens everyone was coming into the world. He was the first truly human being since Adam. He came with two driving passions: one was “to do the will of He who sent me” and the other was the overwhelming pain of the people around him. “He had compassion on them…” Those two polar drives charged every word and action with powerful meaning.
The divine commission meets the human condition.
So I suggest that Jesus had it not easier but tougher than us because he was fully awake to what temptation really was. It was sharper for him. He really “suffered being tempted”. If you think the pain on the cross was just physical (which I don’t), the pain of Gethsemane was deeper than we could ever understand.
And he washed the feet of Judas too, that night.
But he is touched with the feeling of our pain because he fully experienced it. “That which is not assumed is not healed” said a wise Athanasius. God entered fully into what it was to be human so that humans might enter fully into what it is to be Godly.
And because he understands, he’s in a position to help.
But what use is it to be helped by someone who is –after all- in the same position as you? It would be like an AA meeting run by an alcoholic. The leader might mean well, sure, but you just know that it might not work in the long run. You can’t trust them, ultimately, to stay clear of the stuff themselves.
But Jesus is clear of the stuff. He has faced the temptations but is clear of the sin, of the failure. “He faced all the temptations we do, yet he did not sin.” That’s the difference.