Saturday, 1 September 2018
For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted. Hebrews 2:18
The word “For” is based on the explanation given in the preceding verse. Christ “had to be made like his brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.”
In being made like His brethren, He endured suffering. As the author states, “in that He Himself has suffered.” It isn’t a matter of logical, but speculative, analogy such as, “Jesus came as a man; men suffer; therefore, Christ must have suffered.” Rather, the gospels bear out that He, in fact, suffered. And His suffering was in both small ways and in a great way. He did not exempt Himself from the trials, pains, and deprivations of life. He got sleepy and went without sleep. He got hungry and had to eat. He mourned and wept. The things common to man were shared in by Christ.
Further, He also endured even that which was beyond what men suffer. He was judged as a sinner when He had no sin. He was punished though there was no iniquity found in Him. And He died a torturous death, not for His own wrongdoing, but the wrongdoing of others.
In all of these ways, He was tempted, because suffering leads to temptation. The stress is on the temptation, not the suffering. In fact, the NAS – in accord with the analysis of Vincent’s Word Studies – phrases the verse as, “For since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted.” When He suffered from sleep deprivation, he was tempted to get cranky and sin. When He suffered hunger, He was tempted to get “hangry” and sin. Moreover, He was tempted both passively, and actively. His passive temptations (such as being hungry) could have led to wrongdoing, but He also was actively tempted by the devil as is noted in the gospels. This also could have led to wrongdoing.
In each way that He suffered, He could have fallen into sin through being tempted (Hebrews 4:15). Understanding this, the word “tempt” itself needs to be explained. It signifies “a test,” or “a trial.” Christ was tested through the temptations of suffering, and He remained without sin, having passed the test of perfection demanded by God’s holiness. The author then explains the importance of that for His people (His brethren) by saying, “He is able to aid those who are tempted.”
The idea here is one of empathy. It cannot be said that Christ is unable to empathize with us in our own temptations, afflictions, sufferings, and the like. He shared in our common humanity. He felt the pains we feel and endured the losses we endured. He was belittled by others, and was mocked openly, wrongfully accused throughout His ministry, and so forth. In this, He possesses the knowledge of what it is like to be so tempted, and He can thus give us aid and succor in our own lives as we face similar tests of our resolve and of our faith.
Life application: It is not uncommon to hear people complain that God must have no idea what they are going through. They will also call God unfair for the plight they face. First, God owes us nothing. There is nothing we can accuse God of, nor is there anything we can challenge God over. But even more, He was willing to participate in our humanity in order to understand the very weaknesses we face. Those who reject what the Son has done have rejected the greatest demonstration of God’s tender mercies. He didn’t send Jesus to show how bad we are in comparison to Him. He sent Jesus to reveal how much He cares for us.
Wonderfully loving God! You sent Jesus to participate in humanity and to show us how much You truly care for us. In His trials and tests, He has shown that He truly can empathize with our own times of trial and testing. Thus, He stands as a faithful High Priest who has earned the right to mediate between us. There is nothing we endure that He has not also faced. What a comfort it is to know that You have gone to such great lengths for us. Thank You for our faithful High Priest, Jesus. Amen.