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. (Hebrews 4:15)
In the study of christology (a theological word for the study of what the Bible teaches about Jesus) there exists an interesting and perplexing question which often stumps Bible students. If Jesus was both 100% man and 100% God, that means that it was actually impossible for him to sin right? Doesn’t that mean that any trail or temptation in his life was very easy to endure seeing that he couldn’t actually fail?
Consequently, doesn’t that mean that he can’t truly sympathize with our weaknesses because he has never fallen in sin?
To understand this question properly we need to, not only understand the true nature of Jesus, but also the nature of trials and suffering. The problem with the question above is that it presupposes that the difficulties we endure are painful because we are sinners and failures.
Yet, evil is still evil when we react to it righteously. The reason why life is tough is because sin is a reality that fills, not only our heart, but also the heart of every person around us. Suffering is itself an ugly and terrible thing no matter how you react to it. Think of a time recently when you reacted in a godly manner to a temptation. Was it easy? No it wasn’t. The only easy option is to give in to our selfish desires.
In fact, our righteous reaction to evil prolongs the battle.
Think about it. Because are we still on the path of spiritual growth, we all have a certain limit to our spiritual maturity and endurance. We are all able to put up with a certain amount of trials and temptations, and then we fall. We bend a certain distance, and then we break. Our fight with sin is cut short when we give in to that sin and fail. The more God matures us in Christ-likeness, the more trials we are able to endure. Does this process make suffering easier? No, in fact it in some sense intensifies the battle because we are able to bend further and further without breaking.
Now consider Jesus. He couldn’t give in. Every trial and temptation he faced he bent, and bent, and bent, and bent. Every difficulty he faced he endured to its limit until it was over. No matter how terrible the pressure of the fallen world around him was, he faced it with perfect humility and love to the end every time.
Jesus experience of trails and suffering was not, as we might think, similar to a tank effortlessly deflecting a paper airplane attack. Rather, it was more like the soldier who is going into battle who, no matter how many bullets he takes, can’t die. Jesus lived in this sinful world and saw and understood sin in a deeper way than anyone else ever has. His perfection made his daily suffering much deeper and longer than we will ever know. And yet he never grew numb, he never gave in, he never compromised. He endured it with righteousness every day.
As the author of Hebrews puts it, he is indeed one who has, “in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” In order to live among us, Jesus bore a load that we will never fully understand. As the mighty Creator come in the flesh, he was pained by the trails of this fallen world unlike any other. We can see this all over the Gospel accounts as he wept and mourned over the condition of the people surrounding him¹, as well as his daily thirst for prayer.
In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him. (Hebrews 5:7-9)
Jesus knows our pain. He’s been there. He has felt it. He understands us better than anyone in the universe ever will. And he alone is able to show us the way out; its a path that he personally made, tracked with his own blood, sweat and tears.
Do you run to him in your toughest times? Do you turn to him in your daily battles? Have you found the power that his wounds offer?
How can we do that? Trust him in the bad as well as the good. Put your suffering in perspective with all that he has done and is doing on your behalf. Let him use these tough times to reshape your heart and mind to more closely resemble him.
1. John 11:35, Matthew 23:37, etc.