Tuesday, July 18

Perfect in Every Way

The lovely Missmelliflous has a question. It's about question 1 and the answer to question 1 on the quiz from last week on the humanity of Jesus.
I have a question about Number 1, cause I don't think I get it:

If Jesus was did not experience sinful desires, how was he tempted in every way (yet without sin) as Hebrews 4:15 tells us?

Can temptation really be temptation if you do not experience sinful desires?
Where does the temptation lie?

What then does it mean that Jesus was tempted in every way, like us, yet is without sin?
First of all, let me clarify that when I used the term sinful desires, I was defining that term as desires that are in and of themselves sinful. Jesus certainly had desires that arose from being human, but his human desires were never in themselves sinful. Some human desires that are not sinful would be the desire to eat when we are hungry, the desire to get rest when we are tired, and the desire to avoid physical pain. In the category of sinful desires I'd put lust, coveteousness, or greed, for instance.

Those desires in the last category--the sinful ones--seem to include right within them a purpose that's wrong. Someone who's coveteous, for example, doesn't just want an ox to make his work easier, he wants to own his neighbor's ox. Sinful desires have an evil intent at the heart of them, and are at their core wickedly self-indulgent, and they often have hurting others as an additional part of their purpose. They are the sorts of things James talks about when he says that people are tempted when they are lured and enticed by their own desires (James 1:14), or where Paul says we all were, at one time, busy fulfilling the passions of the flesh and of the mind (Ephesians 2), and were by nature objects of God's wrath. Our very character or nature, which all by itself was deserving of the wrath of God, produced passions that were wicked ones, and we were willingly fulfilling them.

We know Jesus didn't have those sorts of desires, because, for one thing, if he had sinful desires, he would have been an object of God's wrath as well, and we can't have that, can we? The only way he can stand in our place and bear the wrath of God that was our due is if he himself is blameless, and thus due no wrath of his own. So the two places in Hebrews where it says Christ was like us, except for sin, I would take except for sin to include not only sinful acts, but a sin nature and sinful desires as well.

The point of the statement in Hebrews about Christ being tempted in every way like we are, I think, is not that Christ experienced temptations that arose from sinful desires, but that he had the sorts of human needs that call out for satisfaction--needs that are not in themselves wrong, but that can be satisfied in ways that are wrong. Therefore, he understands the kind of suffering that results when we fight against temptations arising from all sorts of human frailty, and the difficulties we endure when we don't give into them. Jesus was hungry in the wilderness, and he certainly desired to eat, but he did not want to eat in disobedience to the Father's will for him, and that resulted in him suffering prolonged hunger. As a human being, he desired to avoid physical pain and death, but not if that meant going against the will of the Father, so he had to endure the pain and suffering of death on the cross. He withstood temptations because his overriding desire was to do his Father's will, and as a result of this ever-perfect obedience despite various sorts of temptations, he understands how much we suffer when we resist temptation, and how difficult it can be to continually put obedience to the Father ahead of fulfilling our own desires.