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Jesus High Priestly Ministry and Temptation

Posted On January 5, 2020

In Hebrews 2:11, the author has demonstrated that Jesus and His people belong to the same family; the implication is that Jesus has assumed our human nature. Now the author indicates that the necessity of delivering His people from their enemies—death and Satan—meant that Jesus had to become man. He had to have a body of flesh and blood, and had to be fully human, in order to set His people free. Delivering His followers from the curse of sin and the clutches of the Devil demanded nothing short of taking the place of those whom God had given Him, but who stood condemned because of their sin.

The author of Hebrews elaborates more on this point in Hebrews 4:14 with the phrase “the Son of God”, which is a reference to both the title of humanity (Jesus) and of deity (Son of God). The writer in Hebrews 4:15 adds to his statements in Hebrews 2:18 that Jesus was sinless. Jesus was able to be tempted (Matthew 4:1-11), but not able to sin (Hebrews 7:26). Though Jesus was tempted in every respect—that is, in every area of personal life—He (unlike every other human) remained sinless, and thus He is truly the holy high priest (Hebrews 5:2-3; Hebrews 7:26-28). In their temptations, Christians can be comforted with the truth that nothing entices them is that is foreign to their Lord. He, too, has felt the tug of sin, and yet never gave in to such temptations.

The Two-Fold Result of Christ’s Death

The result of Christ’s death is twofold: He conquered Satan and set His people free from the fear of death. Satan, the murder from the beginning, desires man’s death in the fullest sense of the word: physical and spiritual death. Since the death of Jesus on Calvary’s cross, death has lost its power and its effect. Through death, the Christian does not enter Hell, but Heaven. And because Jesus’ human body was resurrected, the believer’s body also shall come forth from the grave in the last day to be ‘glorified’.

Jesus’ humanity can be demonstrated, as the author of Hebrews teaches in verse 2:18, by the fact that He was tempted. Dr. Guthrie notes that because of His suffering, Christ is able to help believers in their temptation.[1] Christ personally experienced the power of sin when Satan confronted Him, and when the weaknesses of His human nature became evident. Jesus experienced hunger when He was tempted by Satan in the wilderness, thirst when He asked the woman at Jacob’s Well for water, weariness when He slept while the storm raged on the Sea of Galilee, and sorrow when He wept at the grave of Lazarus.

The Active Help of Jesus in Temptation

As High Priest, through His sacrificial work, Jesus removed the curse of God that rested on man. Because of the forgiveness of sin, God’s love flows freely to the redeemed, and Jesus stands ready to help. Those who are being tempted may experience the active support of Jesus. They can expect nothing short of perfect understanding from Jesus, because He Himself suffered when He was tempted. Jesus did not share with man the experience of sin; instead, because of His sinlessness, He fully experienced the intensity of temptation.

Christ is Like Us, but Unlike Us

Christ’s ability to sympathize and help is the result of His likeness to us. He was tested in every respect, but did not sin. The verb “to test” or “tempt” was used in Hebrews 2:18, where His testing was related to His suffering and death. His own experience of suffering and trials during His earthly life equipped Him so that He is able to support His people in their sufferings and temptations.

Christ’s likeness to us meant that He was tested in every way and yet without sin. The qualifying phrase “without sin”, in Hebrews 4:15, does not resist the reality or likeness of testing, but relates exclusively to its outcome: that is, without the result of sin. Jesus was faithful to the One who appointed Him (Hebrews 3:2). He was tested to the very limit—His shame-filled death (Hebrews 12:2; 13:12)—but did not sin. Jesus is a faithful and merciful High Priest, whose sympathy for His people in their weakness will prove to be a powerful help to those being tempted.

Profound Hope and Help in Jesus

For those who are tempted and facing various trials, the confidence of forgiven sins, and God’s anger turned aside by their merciful High Priest (Hebrews 2:17), is a profound hope. The emphasis in Hebrews 2:18 on Christ’s personal experience of temptation, teaches that this help includes strength for Christians to stand firm in the face of their own trials—particularly those temptations to be disloyal to God and to give up their Christian profession. Later, Hebrews draws attention to a further dimension of Jesus’ powerful help: namely, His ongoing intercessory role as High Priest, by which He will save His people completely (Hebrews 7:25). Because Christ Himself suffered—and His suffering was the source of His temptation—He is able to come to the powerful aid of His brothers and sisters, who themselves are tempted and exposed to humiliation in a hostile world.

The fact that Christ intercedes and has gone through similar temptations as every believer, and withstood them victoriously is a source of great assurance for the believer.[2] Jesus Christ is able and willing to help man oppose the power of sin and temptation. As He said to the sinful woman in the house of Simon the Pharisee, “Your sins are forgiven[…] go in peace” (Luke 7:48, 50), so also Jesus shows mercy, peace, and love to His people; as He is our sympathetic High Priest.

 

 

References:

 

[1] George H. Guthrie, Hebrews: The NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids, Zondervan, 1998), 111.

[2] F.F. Bruce, The Epistle to the Hebrews Revised (Grand Rapids, Eerdmans, 1990), 89.

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