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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Temptations of Christ

One of my favourite scriptures in the bible is Hebrews 4:15, which reads: "For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathise with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin".

Years ago I had become very discouraged with my own weaknesses and felt that I couldn't relate to the perfection of Jesus.  I knew that Jesus had been tempted by the devil when He was challenged to turn stones into bread, when He was challenged to leap from a tower and leave His fate in the hands of the Angels and when He was taken to the top of a mountain and promised the kingdoms of the world in exchange for worshiping Satan.

Whilst these temptations were significant, they weren't the sort of things I had personally been tempted with.  No-one had led me up a mountain and offered me the kingdoms of the world or to turn stones into bread or to leap from a high tower - not literally anyway. I'm sure these temptations can be applied figuratively to our lives, but at that time they really meant nothing to me and were not temptations that I could identify with.  As a result I felt that Jesus had no idea what it was like to be tempted as a human by the allure of the world.

I rationalised that Jesus found it easy to resist temptation because he KNEW that He was the Son of God.  He knew without doubt that God was real.  For me, the reality of God was a matter of faith without any empirical evidence that God really was there.  I believed He was real, but I couldn't physically prove it to anyone.

During this time one of my favourite movies was "The Last Temptation of Christ". A movie that had been banned at one stage at the behest of the Catholic Church.  The reason I liked this movie was that it showed the humanity of Christ and his struggles with both his divinity, humanity and temptation.  Many movies about Jesus only explore His divinity, His Godliness.  As I'm not a god, I found his divinity to be something I couldn't really relate to.  As a man, I could relate to His humanity.

The bible tells us that Jesus was the Son of God AND the Son of Man.  It was necessary for Him to be born of a woman so that he shared both divine and human qualities.  A fact that I had not comprehended until I understood Hebrews 4:15.

The divinity of Jesus is essential in bridging our relationship with God.  Yet this did not mean that Jesus was unaware of the struggles we face. The temptations of Jesus were not constrained to those three events in the Gospels. Hebrews 4:15 says that Jesus was tempted in the same areas that we are.  This means that He was tempted in ALL ways that we are, including lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes and pride of life.  He would have been tempted with immorality, vanity, pride, greed, anger: just as we ALL are.  Yet He remained pure, without sin.  He was tempted, but he did not give Himself over to temptation.

Jesus understands our weakness no matter how discouraged we get, no matter our disenchanted we become with ourselves or others.

He understands because He has been there and is still there for us.

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