Tempted as We are
Life on earth was not easy for Jesus. He was tempted in all things as we are yet without sin. Now we can easily underestimate the agony of these temptations-- as if it was easier for Him than for us. He, after all, had no sin nature to contend with. He never wanted to sin (To desire to sin is itself sinful). Perhaps you think of Jesus facing temptation as Mr. Teflon: No temptation sticks to Him. And so, you might be forgiven for thinking, it was easy for Jesus.
But it was not, and for at least two reasons. First, the greatest temptations for Jesus came in the form of self-denial, saying no to things that were not only perfectly good in themselves, but were also His by right. For example, as God the Son enflesh, he has a right to eat when hungry. As a righteous man, he had a right to blessing. Where it not for us, and our union with Him, He should not have been cursed. And He had a right to God's smiling presence. All of these were denied Him for our sake. He had to deny Himself these things for our sake. His enemies. This would not have been easy.
During his earthly life, therefore, we see Him suffering. Isaiah calls Him a man not just of sorrow, but a man of sorrows. As if all the sorrows of the world coalesced in His soul. In all of this, our brave Savior, never once allowed himself to exploit his divine nature to make his human life easier. When he was exhausted, crushed beneath the weight of the cross, he didn’t reach across the great divide and tap into the Almighty strength of the divine. No, this would have completely destroyed his role as our representative. We cannot do that, so He wasn’t allowed to either. He had to carry the cross by Himself and it was hard. Have you ever had to bite your lip when you wanted to speak out, even had a right to speak out, but you chose not to? It's not easy, is it?
On top of this, we can only try to imagine how hard it must have been for Jesus to embrace our guilt, our sins, and our shame as His very own. We hear of the witness protection program, where a valuable witness gets a new identity to live a new life. Well Jesus got a new identity, one he never had before. He came in the likeness of sinful flesh, that was one thing, but he took the identity of a sinner. This identity did not give Him a new life. It brought Him death.
People were ashamed of Him, worse: God was ashamed of Him and pulled back His comforting presence completely, leaving His Son completely exposed to the mocking taunts of devils and wicked human beings. In the end, totally abandoned by everyone He held dear, he cries out, “My God, My God….” Almost as if he was unable to say, “My Father, My Father. As Macleod says, “In those hours of darkness, Jesus lost all sense of Himself as the Son of God. He saw Himself only and completely as the Sin of the World!” Giving yourself to this, can't have been easy!
Jesus’ temptations were also difficult because they never stopped, he never gave in to them. Think of it, the devil only has to use a little bit of pressure to convince us to sin. Just a little breeze of a suggestion and we are off on the run to evil. But not Jesus. The Devil had to come against Jesus with the hurricanic fury of Category 5 Temptations.
Listen to Macleod again:
It is completely misguided to imagine that the agony of temptation overcome is less than the agony of temptation yielded to. On the contrary, to yield to temptation is to escape its full ferocity. The devil never has to do his utmost to secure our fall. A little of his power and cunning will suffice. But Christ did not yield and this made it necessary for the Tempter to increase the pressure. Here, for the one and only time, he had to try everything he knew, using every means, every agent, and every occasion. He stepped up the intensity to an appalling pitch: but still Christ did not yield. From this point of view there is an interesting contrast between the temptations in the desert and the agony in Gethsemane. In the desert, there is an imperious rejection of the Tempter’s suggestions. In Gethesemane, there is agony. Certainly, there is victory, but in a way that leads us to interject always, ultimately. Ultimately there is victory. (As a manJesus) was almost overwhelmed, almost broken, so that he had to cry with strong crying and the tears. Far from being the One who escapes temptation because he is sinless, he is the one who precisely because he is sinless alone experiences temptation in its full intensity. He alone took all the devil could throw at him.
And these temptations taught Him something. Jesus learned obedience through the things that he suffered, and he also, I believe, learned in a special way what it was to have compassion. A way never open to him before: what it was to suffer as a helpless victim. On the road to hell, Jesus had plenty of time to learn this lesson.
So, do you see, this knowledge as only increased Jesus’ capacity to sympathize with you in your weakness-- to walk up to you and say, I understand where you are. I know how you feel. I love the King James translation of this verse:
“For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15)
You see, as Jesus walks by us in our suffering, he just can’t walk by. Our suffering reaches out to Him, touches him, grabs Him, and compels him to stop and think, “O, my! I’ve been there. In just that situation. And. Worse!.”
Isn’t that our greatest desire when we are suffering. We want someone who understands our agony. Who knows what we are going through. Someone who has the same scars, who has endured the same pressure, who has felt the same crushing load. Well in Jesus Christ of Nazareth, my friend, there is!