Hebrews 4:15 says that:
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. (NKJV)
Let’s talk about that today. Let’s put all the cards on the table and get real.
Jesus was tempted to gossip. He was tempted to overeat. He was tempted to lose His temper. He was tempted to say mean things. He was tempted to physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually abuse others. He was tempted to sleep around. He was tempted to look at pornography (it did exist back then). He was tempted to get drunk. He was tempted to use whatever drugs were available at the time. He was tempted to be disrespectful. He was tempted to be prideful. He was tempted to punch the high priest who handed Him over to death in the face. He was tempted to walk into the palaces in Rome and throw Caesar out. He was tempted to lie. Steal. Cheat. Kidnap. Rape. Kill. Objectify other people in order to satisfy His own needs and desires.
If we can’t be honest about the things that we struggle with and believe that Jesus was tempted in that area, then we will never understand the awesome nature of what Jesus did for us. We will never learn to implement His example of total dependence on the Father. Some of you might object, thinking that we can never be victorious over sin the way that Jesus was. He was God, you say. Yes, He was. But He was also human – just like you and me.
I find this both intensely comforting and intensely confrontational today. Never before had I considered the possibility of Jesus having been sick during His time on earth. It seems offensive to think that the Savior ever vomited, that He ever had a fever, that He ever suffered terrible migraines, that His skin broke out in rashes. It’s safer, somehow, to think that He never dealt with any of that.
He did. He had to. He wasn’t immune to the effects of living in a world under a curse. While people don’t always wind up ill because of personal sin, it’s a truth to bank on that everyone gets sick because of corporate sin. Because the world doesn’t work the way it’s supposed to. So Jesus got the flu. He had sinus infections, bronchitis, boils and sores. Maybe He even struggled with a chronic illness.
While there is no way to know exactly what sort of physical issues Jesus might have dealt with, it is safe to say that, in this, He was also tempted. Ongoing illness and pain opens the black doors of despair and doubt. There is always a question of why God has not brought healing along when He has done it for others. Those who suffer daily with physical failure cycle through the same sorts of questions and sins. In this, He was tempted.
Jesus knows what it is to beg God for mercy when the pain just won’t go away or when the nausea won’t subside – but He also set the example in saying, “Your will, not mine.” He never once gave in to the crippling emotional and mental strongholds that so closely associate themselves with illness.
I have no idea why I have never thought of this before, but today Jesus takes on a whole new dimension for me. He was sick. He knows what it is to stare at the ceiling through glassy eyes. He knows what it is to toss and turn. The fact that He never once despaired makes Him even more of a hero to me.
You might find thinking about Jesus being ill disrespectful. Again, I say that, if we cannot face up fully to our own incomplete humanness, we will never even begin to understand who He is. He is the Savior of the man in jail for raping a woman – He was tempted to do the same thing. He is the Savior of the mother who thinks of killing her kids – He was tempted to harm children. He is the Savior of the ill who fear they will never be better – He was on that sickbed.
Jesus is real. He didn’t live here on this earth wearing some sort of ridiculous mask like we all do (although I am sure that He was tempted in that as well).
If we are to live like Christ, if we are to follow Him intimately, then we must learn to do more than obey commands and give Sunday school answers. At the first sign of struggle, we must throw ourselves on the mercy of the Lord. This is exactly what Jesus did. This is exactly how He overcame the temptation that smacked Him in the face, every day, in every way. We’ve got to say, “God, I want to cheat on my husband.” “God, I want to run that coworker over with my car.” “God, I want to talk about her so that everyone is on my side.”
Whatever it is, Jesus knows it. He was tempted by it and He took it onto Himself on the cross. Our High Priest understands intimately and in ways that we cannot even begin to understand ourselves. Turning to Him in repentance or weakness isn’t our punishment – it is our right and privilege, secured by His finished work!
There is victory for us, my friend. More importantly – there is freedom. The Spirit of Him who raised Christ from the dead lives within those of us who believe (Romans 8:11), and is available to any who would call on Him in faith. Let me repeat that: the Spirit of Him who raised Christ from the dead lives in us. You really think that you can’t get free from that terrible burden when you have access to a power that RAISED A MAN FROM THE DEAD?
We’ve got to stop being so stupidly stubborn, stop pretending that we are anything other than total messes in need of rich, extravagant grace. We can’t fix ourselves. Other people can’t fix us – we’ve got to stop expecting them to. Moreover, we need to believe that there is no depth that any of us has gone that God’s arm is not deeper still. There is no thing under the sun that surprises Him.
I want to emulate the example of my High Priest who took every step in the shadow of the Almighty. I want to hold so tight to my Daddy’s hand that His finger’s turn blue. I don’t care if that’s “acceptable” in our culture, in or outside of church. I want that kind of security and freedom. He knows my junk and He knows how to set me free.
He knows how to set you free, too.