Last evening, I finally finished reading The Last Temptation of Christ. That was a tedious read, but, I would say, it was well worth it. It was not at all one of the best books I have ever read. In fact, I found much of it rather boring. But, scattered throughout, were little nuggets of wisdom and some thought provoking passages. I also liked the human-ness of Jesus. That is one side of our Savior that we don’t seem to want to look at too often. It’s almost as if we are scared to think of Jesus as a man for fear that, in doing so, He will be less God than He actually is. But is this necessarily the case?
I am beginning to wonder if we haven’t maybe over-emphasized the Godhood of Jesus. I know that in making a statement like that that I risk being misunderstood. I am not at all saying that Jesus being God is unimportant. I actually believe the incarnation to be one of the most important doctrines of the Christian faith. But it is not all that there is to Jesus. After all, we believe that Jesus was mystically both fully God and fully human. And if we can’t truly understand Jesus without understanding that He is God incarnate, can we really truly understand Him without understanding that He was God incarnated as man?
When one reads the Gospels, one really does find a very human Jesus. He weeps, He begs, He feels pain, He learns, He grows up, He is born, etc. He lives a life on earth. He actually leaves footprints in the sand that He walks on. He is real. That is what makes His resurrection so powerful. It is not the fact that He was God. God can do as He pleases, and the New Testament writers and the characters in the stories know that. But what makes the reusrrection so powerful is the fact that Jesus died. He wasn’t in a coma. He wasn’t asleep. He was dead. Jesus the Son of Man was dead. The Messiah was dead. There was no doubt in anyone’s mind that He had died.
What was remarkable was that three days later, He was walking around. He was eating with people. He was talking with people. He let one of His disciples touch His wounds. In some way that we tend to overlook, Thomas did not believe that Jesus was God until he believed that He was a living man.
Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.” Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:24-28 ESV)
The resurrection, and therefore the entire ministry of Jesus, was powerful because it was real; tangible; something that one could see and feel. There was healing. Jesus worked within the physical. He was a real human. A real man.
This being the case, Jesus had to have felt the same temptations that every man feels. Even the early church expressed this reality when they stated,
For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. (Hebrews 4:15 NASB)
(As an aside, since Jesus was human, His temptations had to have been tengible and real as well. They were not something that He scoffed at and simply reasoned away. The Scriptures do a good job of hiding the emotions of Jesus during those times, but we cannot deny their existance. When Jesus was tempted in the desert, it had to have been agonizing for Him. After all, He had not eaten in 40 days. The Bible even tells us that He was hungry.)
So why is it far-fetched to think that Jesus was tempted sexually? If He was human, then this had to have been a reality for Him. But He didn’t succomb as so many men do. And why is it far-fetched to think that He was tempted even to deny God’s very existance? If He was truly “tempted in all things as we are,” then this had to have been a temptation for Him as well.
I think it is this reality that makes Jesus so accessible to us. He was real. He was like us. But He overcame, thereby showing that it is possible for us to overcome as well. Of course, Jesus wasn’t alone, and, as a human, could not overcome alone, and neither can we.