For those who are following along the last few days, you know I am wrestling to get my mind around the oft quoted statement that ‘Jesus was 100% man and 100% God’. While I have no doubt it is true, I am struggling getting my head, heart and spirit wrapped around it biblically.
And then today, I hit the temptation dilemma … momentarily. I’m sure most of you are familiar with this passage …
Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:14-17 (ESV)
It is so comforting and encouraging to know that Jesus was in every respect tempted as we are … and yet is without sin. But then Someone threw a monkey wrench in the gears that seemed to create a major issue … once again momentarily …
Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. James 1:13 (ESV)
See the problem … if Jesus is 100% God and God cannot be tempted with evil then Jesus could not be tempted as we are. Don’t give up on this line of thinking … because as a result I was eventually led to a very clear understanding of Jesus being 100% man and 100% God.
The door of understanding began to creak open as I was reading through a new little book, The Shorter Catechism Made Simple by Andrew Conway. The author has translated the Westminster Shorter Catechism of the seventeenth century into language of the twenty-first century. Consider …
- Q4: What is God? A: God is an infinite and unchanging Spirit who has no beginning and will have no ending. He is full of wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth.
For me, the key background Scripture for the above is the following …
God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth. John 4:24 (ESV)
And Jesus’ words of warning to His disciples rang in my ears …
Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak. Matthew 26:41 (ESV)
IMHO … perhaps a better way to word the pivotal quote of which we speak, ‘Jesus is 100% man according to the flesh and 100% God according to the Spirit’. (And it is also important to note that as the last Adam, Jesus, the Son of God, was born with a divine nature not the sin nature of man inherited from the sin of the first Adam.)
Perhaps you are saying ‘Big deal Bernie, so what does that mean?’
It is not the 100% God aspect of Jesus that must face temptation. It is the 100% man aspect. It is the flesh, not the Spirit that is faced with resisting temptation.
For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. Galatians 5:17 (ESV)
Just like Jesus … the born-again Christian is faced with the same internal conflict between the desires of the flesh vs. the desires of the Spirit. And while man from time to time succumbs to the desires of the flesh resulting in sin … Jesus, by the power of the Holy Spirit, was the perfect Lamb of God because He never succumbed to those desires … while being tempted in every way that we are. And as a result of the victory of Jesus in overcoming the world and the flesh and by the presence of the indwelling Holy Spirit, through the maturing and perfecting work of God … in a moment … or over time … the born-again Christian shares in that victory.
Note what Paul wrote of Jesus to Timothy …
Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness: He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory. 1 Timothy 3:16 (ESV)
I have really wrestled with the word vindicated above … and the dictionaries don’t really help a great deal based on how I believe it is being used here. But it would seem that what Paul is saying is that the Holy Spirit provided a defense for Jesus against the desires of the flesh … a defense in which Jesus is ultimately declared innocent and without sin.
In one regard, when the desires of the flesh are fulfilled the flesh becomes satisfied …. yet at the same time, desires even more. To the degree in which we deny the flesh, at times we will also suffer in the flesh … just like Jesus. But take heart, at times that very suffering may reveal you have ceased from sin and are living for the will of God … just like Jesus.
Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God. 1 Peter 4:1-2 (NKJV)
Just like Jesus … deny yourself … the desire of your flesh, take up your cross … your suffering and follow Jesus.