For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathise with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet he did not sin. (Hebrews 4:15)
Being part of a Growth Group is such a blessing. This came home to me this week as my Growth Group dove deeper into last week’s sermon, ‘The Sexuality of Jesus’. We spent a lot of time on the first question, ‘Do you think Jesus experienced the same temptations that we experience?’. For some of us it was as simple as quoting Hebrews 4:15, but others of us needed more time to ponder what this actually looked like. Later on in the week one of the members messaged our group with this excerpt from an article on desiringgod.org. It helped us to grapple with just how much Jesus experienced our human difficulties. I hope it helps you like it helped our Growth Group:
Now, imagine what living in this world was like for him. Jesus was without sin (Hebrews 4:15). We might think this sounds like a pleasant problem to have. I doubt it was only pleasant. I suspect it tormented him. If Lot experienced daily torment while living in Sodom because of the “lawless deeds that he saw and heard” (2 Peter 2:8), how much worse was it for sinless Jesus constantly surrounded by sinners and demonic powers, rarely if ever able to fully escape their defiling presence?
And imagine what Jesus’s childhood must have been like. Do you remember what it felt like to want friends? Jesus was truly human and would have longed for human friendship too. But lacking the sin nature everyone else had, and having a divine nature no one else had, he would have been a very odd person. Holiness makes sinners want to flee. Jesus would have stuck out morally like a sore thumb, never quite being understood, frequently despised and rejected, even within his own family.
His parents knew who he was and loved him deeply. But they wouldn’t have fully understood him. How could they? Nor would they have been able to protect him from others’ stinging remarks or cruel mocking over his strangeness.
I wonder how much of that came from his siblings. His brothers and sisters (Matthew 13:55–56) would have grown increasingly self-conscious around him as they aged, aware of their own sinful, self-obsessed motives and behaviour, while noting that Jesus didn’t seem to exhibit any himself. And they couldn’t have helped notice the unique way their parents deferred to him. What kind of sibling resentments grew? We know that all was not harmonious because Jesus’s own brothers didn’t believe in him (John 7:5), possibly not until after his resurrection (Acts 1:14).
Jesus was a sinless person living with sinful parents, sinful siblings, sinful extended relatives, sinful neighbours, sinful countrymen, sinful foreigners, and sinful disciples, not to mention the sinful spiritual entities he would have had an unprecedented awareness of and sensitivity to. No one on earth could identify totally with him. No human being could put an arm around him as he sat in tears and say, “I know exactly what you’re going through.” Jesus’s experience of rejection, sorrow, and grief would have begun as soon as he was old enough to comprehend and communicate.
And we think we feel weary. How did he bear it? What did it mean for him to sing psalms like, “My soul is greatly troubled. But you, O Lord — how long?” (Psalm 6:3)?”