Hebrews 2:17-18 For this reason he had to be made like his brothers 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. Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.
This chapter is a powerful explanation of the humanity of Jesus. We have such trouble wrapping our minds around the reality that He was and is both fully human and fully divine. Other religions often attribute human weaknesses to various gods. Greek and Roman mythology, representing the dominant religions at the time this was written, overflows with examples of that. Judaism avoids that, but lacks the human element, because God never incarnated Himself before Jesus. This letter, written specifically to ethnic Jews, lays out very clearly that Jesus was not an angel but part of the Godhead, and then goes on to explain how the Son of God could indeed be human without losing His divinity. We are in the middle of the Christmas season, when we celebrate the reality that Jesus, conceived by the Holy Spirit, was born to a human virgin girl and took on our humanity. These two verses emphasize that it wasn’t just a matter of appearances; Jesus had our weaknesses, without succumbing to them. He was genuinely tempted, and He didn’t enjoy it. We’re all too prone to enjoy temptation! I’m sure the famous incident in the wilderness, recorded in Luke 4:1-13 and elsewhere, wasn’t the first or the only time He was tempted. For that matter, He was tempted in the Garden of Gethsemane to evade the cross, and He certainly suffered then. That makes Him fully qualified, not just in power but in empathy, to help us get through our temptations victoriously. We humans have the odd characteristic that the moment something is forbidden, we want it, even if we logically know it wouldn’t be good for us. The devil makes full use of that, so we need all the help we can get to stand against the devil. (James 4:7) James explained the mechanism of temptation clearly. “Each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.” (James 1:14-15) Jesus had the desires of the flesh, but He didn’t yield to them, so He can help us stand firm as well.
I will confess to having relished temptation more times than I could count. The vast majority of those times I didn’t follow through, but my batting average is far from 100%. I am as much in need of Jesus’ help as anyone else! The thing for me to remember, and to teach others, is that temptation doesn’t equal sin. The devil tries to tell us otherwise, saying that since we are tempted we might as well yield, but that is a lie from the pit of hell. I understand perfectionism all too well, being plagued by it in various ways, but “righteous” doesn’t mean “not tempted.” I must not think that because some things, like drugs and alcohol, don’t particularly tempt me, that I am any better than those who have those weaknesses, because I have my own set of weaknesses, and pride is one of the big ones. Thinking about it, Jesus almost certainly was tempted by pride, because He was perfect! However, as it says so beautifully in Philippians 2:8, He humbled himself, so He can deal with my pride as well. I need to rest, relax, and rejoice in the reality that He is far greater than any weakness I could possibly have, and so receive His righteousness. (2 Corinthians 5:21)
Father, thank You for this reminder. Thank You for the joy of seeing the joy in the young woman who is to be baptized Sunday, and for her eagerness for more of You. Thank You for the help of the Taiwanese family in communicating with her as I talked about the baptism in the Holy Spirit last night. I pray that she would indeed open herself up fully to You. Thank You that Your Holy Spirit isn’t bound by language barriers! I pray that everyone in this church would be fully yielded to You, desiring to be useful to you and knowing that You are able to do anything at all through them, for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!