“For since he himself has suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are tempted.” (CSB – Read the chapter)
Nobody else knows how this feels. No one can imagine how hard this temptation is for me to resist. If they did, they’d understand why I fall to it as often as I do. Ever thought something along those lines? One of the tricks the devil uses to keep us falling into temptation as often as we do is isolation. If we are—or better yet feel like—we are alone, we are far more likely to succumb to temptation than when we are in community. The truth, though, is that feelings are not always reality. That’s particularly the case here.
The letter of Hebrews is one of the most theologically rich documents in the New Testament. It’s biggest concern is presenting Jesus as the ultimate high priest who is able to stand before God on our behalf. A big part of what makes Him so much greater than any who tried to occupy that position before Him is that rather than bringing an animal of some kind to sacrifice on our behalf, He offered the sacrifice of Himself. He offered the sacrifice of Himself, He died in our place and on our behalf, and then He rose from the grave, defeating the power of death for all time.
What made Him able to do that is that fact that He isn’t merely a human high priest. He is a divine one as well. Jesus, the God-man, is the fullness of both. He is fully human and fully God. Both parts are absolutely necessary for Him to fill His role to perfection.
But, this raises what could potentially be a serious issue to the thinking observer. In order for a high priest to be effective at his position, he has to know his people well. As a pastor, I understand this. If I don’t know the people of my church community well, I can’t lead them effectively. I can’t communicate the Gospel with them in ways they will understand and be able to adjust their lives accordingly.
This is where the problem comes in: If Jesus is all God, how can He serve effectively as a high priest on our behalf. How can God really understand us and the kind of intercession we need in order to be able to have the relationship with Him we were designed to have? This is where His humanity comes powerfully into play. Jesus wasn’t simply all God. As we just affirmed, He was all man as well.
The writer of Hebrews here spells out the implications of this clearly in this verse. Because Jesus was fully human, He understood—He understands—exactly what it’s like to be fully human as we are. He is able to effectively communicate our needs and intercede for us before God because He experienced all the same things we do. All of them.
Specifically, Jesus experienced temptation like we do. His experiences weren’t necessarily the same in detail, but they were in kind. He was fully tempted as we are. He experienced the agonizing tug of desire and had to resist it over and over. And lest you think otherwise, the desire and pull of temptation doesn’t get easier to overcome when we do it every time. We may develop a habit of saying no, but that doesn’t mean it becomes easier. Jesus suffered under temptation exactly as we do, and because of that, He is able to help us bear up under the weight of our own temptation if we will let Him.
What this means is that no matter how strong the feeling might be, when it comes to the matter of temptation, we are never alone. Ever. You are not alone. Jesus knows. Jesus cares. So, stand firm. You have all the help you need to keep on the path of righteousness. You need only receive it.