The Lord Jesus - A Friend in Temptation
The Lord Jesus: A Friend in Temptation (Hebrews 2:17-18; 4:15-16)
It helps to have a close friend with a similar experience to our own. If you name a handicap, a medical condition, or a life-disturbing problem, you will probably find a support group to help the victims of that problem to cope. Most of us seek identity in life's crises with someone who understands because they had the same experience.
The Letter to the Hebrews repeatedly stresses Jesus' identification and sympathy with us in our temptations. He cannot identify with us in our sins; sin is foreign to Him. He never had personal experience in sin. But He had the most extensive and intensive experience of temptation of anyone ever. Out of that He not only sympathizes with us but makes successful provision for us in tempting times. It will be of practical help in tempting times to understand His ability to encourage.
We Should Understand His Identification with Us in Temptation
He identifies with us in the situation of human life: "he had to be made like his brothers in every way" (2:17). For Christ to do His work it was a necessity that He identify with us in every way. He could not have been the sacrifice for sin or an encouragement against temptation without such identity.
His identification was with the totality of the human condition. He identifies with us "in every way." He knows every situation in life that beclouds us, weighs us down, and wears us away. This includes all of the toils, perils, and conflicts of life. He took on flesh and blood and worked as a carpenter. He was rejected by His own people and faced with the misunderstanding of His own family. In all of this He shares the necessities of our own situation.
He identifies with us in the temptation of human life. The emphasis rests on the duration of temptation: "he himself suffered when he was tempted" (2:18). All of His life He faced the temptations that we all face. But beyond that, He faced the temptations that related directly to His role as Savior. He was tempted directly by Satan, by circumstances, by the hardness of the Jews, and by the slowness of His own disciples.
Yet there was a great exception in His temptation: "yet was without sin" (4:15). This means more than the fact He did not sin. It further means that there was nothing in Him that sin could touch. His sinless nature found nothing that responded to temptation. Some of our worst temptation comes from previous sin. Yet because of us He felt the full force of every temptation.
We Should Accept His Compassion for Us in Temptation
His compassion comes from His identity. He is a "merciful and faithful high priest" (2:17). The word for "priest" actually suggests someone who is a bridge builder. He is God's great bridge builder, never more so than in times of temptation. As God's great bridge builder, He is merciful. That is, He has compassion for us in our wretched situations. In some instances the Jewish priests were cruel, insolent, and greedy. Our great high priest identifies with the needs of each sinful person. He is also faithful. We can trust Him to do what He has promised to do. He is loyal both to God and to us.
His compassion comes from His sympathy: "we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses" (4:15). We should never think that because Christ is at the right hand of God in glory that He is unable to sympathize with us in temptation. He has an habitual sympathy. This is more than compassion that regards our sufferings from without. This is the feeling of one who enters into suffering and makes it His own. It is not really feeling for us, but feeling with us. He truly feels our weaknesses. He was acquainted with weariness, disappointment, desertion, and pain. His sympathy is not that of a remote observer but a feeling participant. Do not make your own temptations an exception. He understands them.
We Should Appropriate His Provision for Us in Temptation
We should appropriate His ability: "he is able to help those who are being tempted" (2:18). While there will be continual temptation there will also be continual help. We could be in the presence of someone suffering agonizing temptation and not even know it. Even if we did know it, we could not always help. He is able to give actual, immediate help.
His ability to help relates to our access to Him: "Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence" (4:16). In the moment of temptation we have an invitation to draw near to God's throne. The qualify of this approach is one of confidence. We can come to Him with an open face, with freedom, frankness, and without concealment. We can give utterance to every thought, feeling, and wish.
The destiny of this approach is the throne of grace. It is not a throne of judgment, probation, or law. There are no degrees of acceptability before God. It is all grace or not of grace at all. When we tremble with temptation, remember that our help comes from a throne that is all grace.
The immediacy of this approach is "grace to help us in our time of need." Help is of no avail if not on time. It will do little good to have strength for tomorrow for the temptation of today. God's help is timely. Ask now and find help now.