Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted. Hebrews 2, verse 18.
Consider Jesus’ last night on earth, before He was even crucified. There He was, in the Garden of Gethsemene, and He was tempted. He was hurting, He was afraid, He was dreading what He knew had to happen, and He was tempted to put it all aside. Jesus had the benefit of being fully God and fully man at the same time and He KNEW what was in store for Him. He already knew how it felt to be rejected by God Himself. He already knew what the nails felt like, how it felt like burning agony to heave your body up on your nailed feet just to take a breath. He already knew what was going to happen when His soul was ripped apart from His body. A fully man Jesus knew, understood and FELT the temptation to simply wave it away; to plant the thought in someone’s head “I won’t do this.”
A fully man Jesus thought about the fact that He could do it.
And then He didn’t do it. He remained sinless.
You see, being tempted isn’t a sin. Repeat that to yourself: being tempted isn’t a sin. Don’t let some slick preacher, overeager elder, or controlling spouse tell you that it is because they’re wrong. Their motivation might even be a sin itself. Giving into temptation is a sin, but simply being tempted to sin isn’t a sin itself. If being tempted is a sin, then Jesus was sinful because Jesus was tempted. He was tempted at various times throughout His life, not just on that last day. Remember when the devil himself personally tempted Jesus at least three times. Jesus was at His lowest physical and even spiritual energy levels. That was when Satan, coward that he is, tried to move Him over to the dark side. He stood up to it but He endured it.
Consider that Jesus walked among men for over 30 years, watching men take pleasure in things He didn’t, wouldn’t do. Sex, comfort, wealth, luxury: all these and more can be had for just the slightest of indiscretions. Jesus walked with humans, saw what humans do, and He was tempted to do the same. Have you ever seriously contemplated the unfathomable resolve that it took for Him to just say “no” all those thousands of times?
It caused Him to suffer. Have you ever wanted something or wanted to do something so bad that it hurt? Or have you done something, even something small, and then felt tremendous regret after? Regret can be real suffering but so, too, can be the righteous abstention from sin. Guys in a locker room might joke about how it feels to get blocked when you really want to have sex, but consider that Jesus never did. He never even allowed Himself to think the lustful thoughts that we can have without anyone else even knowing. Containing your road rage can build up into unreleased feelings that vent themselves in other ways. Jesus never even allowed Himself to entertain that kind of unrighteous anger. The suffering was real; it wasn’t some Facebook meme. It was real, it really hurt Him, it truly happened. You get the picture.
Yet for Jesus to be the merciful, faithful high priest who could stand in His Father’s presence, full of Their Holy Spirit, and offer Himself as atonement for all those sins He never did, well, there was simply no other way. He had to live a sinless life; He had to willfully abstain from even thinking about the small sins that we would overlook. Jesus couldn’t cross the line even once or there would have been no perfect sacrifice to satisfy our perfect God’s righteous will. When you truly consider what Jesus did for sinful folks like you and I, the depth of the love you find there is immeasurable.
For more reading: Hebrews 4:15, 2 Corinthians 5:21, John 18, Luke 22-23, Mark 14:34-38, Matthew 26:36-46, Matthew 4:1-11, Mark 1:12-13, Luke 4:1-13.
Lord Jesus, too often I’ve sinned, failed You, failed others, and failed to keep Your holy commands. Forgive me for my sins. Thank You for living the sinless life I haven’t.