One of Us
Once you begin to understand that Jesus is in fact God, and that he is in a unique and exclusive relationship with God the Father, you also begin to understand that if you want to know the God who created you, then you need to know Jesus. There’s just no other way. This is why it’s such good news that Jesus is not only the great ‘I AM’; he is also fully and forever one of us.
In Luke 4:1-13 we come to look at Jesus’ victory over temptation. And as we do so, we’ll see how his victory reinforces his identity – ‘Truly this is the Son of God’ – and how it gives us a model, the ultimate example, of resisting the devil. Jesus was tempted in order to show us that we have a Savior who ‘is able to help’ us when we ‘are being tempted’ (Hebrews 2:18), a Savior who is able to ‘sympathize with our weaknesses,’ because, as Hebrews 4:15 says, he was tempted in every respect as we are, ‘yet without sin.’
But first, let’s consider a common objection to Hebrews 2:18 and 4:15. The question sounds something like this: ‘How can Jesus, if he was without sin – if he never thought, said, or did anything wrong – sympathize with me?’ This common objection, however, is ungrounded.
Sure, when you share with fellow sinners some of your particular sins, some who have never been tempted to do the same thing might react, ‘What kind of person are you?’ They might think they are morally superior. But that is never how Jesus reacts. He never reacts with self-righteousness, for Jesus understands the weight of every particular temptation, even that particular temptation that so easily entangles you, because he was tempted to distrust God, to follow his own agenda, to take the detour to glory. Furthermore, just because Jesus never gave in to a particular temptation that you or I always seem to give in to does not mean he has never felt the pull of such a temptation.
For example, in a sermon on the temptation of Jesus, Dick Lucas urges us to think of two weightlifters. Let’s say both athletes are trying to lift 500 pounds over their head. The first pulls the bar off the ground, then quickly up to his knees, but then he drops it after a two-second struggle. The second lifter also pulls the bar off the ground, up to his knees, but then he lifts it up to his waist and finally, with two great thrusts, up and over his head. Who knows better the heaviness of those weights? The point is this: those who resist temptation are those who feel the weight of it most.
Jesus was (and is!) a real human being who knew the weight of sin and the heaviness of temptation. He was not shadowboxing with the devil. He was vulnerable. Like Adam (perfect in nature), he could have been hit. He could have fallen. But he didn’t. He is the undefeated Champion of the world. He won! In his victory he models for us true humanness.
For all that, however, it’s important to realize that Jesus didn’t come only to show us authentic, God-intended humanness. No, Jesus became human because we needed him to do so. We needed someone to represent us before God and be our substitute. That’s ultimately why Jesus came – to be a loving Warrior King who would save his beloved people.
What does it mean that Jesus Christ is one of us and was tempted in every respect as we are (yet, of course, he was without sin)? Join us this week to see how the text remarkable demonstrates that Jesus stood in our place.
It is an obvious, and not unhelpful, lesson to us that in dealing with the devil’s temptations Jesus turns each time to Scripture. But we have to look more closely to see the point which is really being made here. Jesus quoted Scripture, it is true; but the devil can do that too. What is more important is to ask ourselves which Scripture Jesus quoted, and why. When we think that question through, we shall find that the answer sheds great light on the whole meaning of this episode, and on its connection with what has gone before.
Remember to pray for our service, and for those who are leading in the service. Pray that the Spirit of God will visit us with his grace. Pray for your friends and neighbors as you invite them to come along with you. Take some time now to pray for the church. Grace and peace to you.
In Christ’s love,