“For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.” Hebrews 4:15
St. Paul gives a glimpse of Jesus’ human nature in his letter to the Hebrews. Remember that he was personally called by Jesus as well as instructed by Him, so we can be quite sure when St. Paul tells us Jesus was tempted just as we are, but without sin.
You can’t be tempted without being aware of the sinful alternative. That means Jesus had a chance to consider His choices. He didn’t fantasize about what it might be like, but He evaluated His options in light of His knowledge as the Son of God. Implicit in this is the fact that He COULD have sinned. He really could have! And what a terrible end to the story if He had!
We see the Gospel as a done deal. We have the historical record of how it played out from Genesis to the Revelation to John. We don’t really see the alternate ending, because it isn’t presented outright. When we know how the story ends, any other result just isn’t on our radar screens.
Jesus could have succumbed to temptation. He almost did in Gethsemane. That’s how I read it. Just had one prayer to bring to His Father. Just one.
“O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.” Matthew 26:39b
Matthew records that He went a small ways from the disciples that accompanied him, fell on His face to God, and prayed to be let out of this horrific deal. He went back to check on the guys, who were fast asleep. Then He went back and did it again. Came back again, then went off a third time.
Jesus REALLY did not want to do this. Knowing how Jesus and His Father conversed, I believe He got His answer on the first round.
That doesn’t sound too different from St. Paul who asked for God to remove the thorn in his flesh three times and was denied three times. God informed him that “My strength is sufficient for you” each time. Paul finally accepted that message and quit asking, then got on with the job.
Jesus as a man looked at what was coming, decided it wasn’t quite what He was hoping to do, and asked His Father three times to find another way. Even after The Father said, “No,” Jesus came back twice in true human fashion:
“Are you sure about this? ‘Cause we’re getting down to the wire here, and it doesn’t look like as good a plan for me as it used to. Please tell Me You’ve got something else up Your Sleeve.”
After three “No’s,” He sucks it up and gets back with the program. He even shares His struggle with those disciples with the answer to His own current temptation:
“Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Matthew 26:41
Was He talking to Himself as much as them?
His resolve was such that He didn’t even wait for Judas and company to get all the way to Him. “Rise, let us be going. See, My betrayer is at hand.” He goes to meet Judas and get the show on the road.
Jesus really is the High Priest St. Paul us tells He is, tempted just as we are. He prayed persistently as He taught in the parable of the widow who harassed a judge into giving her justice.
Salvation was never a done deal. It was up in the air until Jesus could proclaim, “It is finished.” The love displayed, the heroism of one Man saving the world against all odds is beyond staggering, shooting way past incomprehensible.
That’s our High Priest, our Brother, our Savior. Remind yourself of the things He’s asked us to do, and show the Man a little love in return.