Christ Also Suffered Temptation

The following are excerpts from the book Believing Christ by Stephen E. Robinson.
I found this section of the book to be very comforting.
Christ really can feel what I'm feeling and have compassion for me!


According to the scriptures, Jesus was not only divine, he was also fully and genuinely human: "The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth." (John 1:14.) 

"Wherefore in all things it behooved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted." (Heb. 2:17-18; italics added.) 

A remarkable doctrine is taught here. The same Jesus Christ who is God the Son is also one of us. 

He was human in every respectright down to being tempted like other human beings. And because he personally has been tempted, Christ can understand what temptation is. From his own personal experience of the human condition, he understands what we are dealing with here, and he can empathize with us and help us overcome temptation just as he overcame it. 

But can Jesus Christ, the divine son of God, really have been tempted? Let me put the question more pointedly: Did Jesus Christ have a carnal nature and suffer carnal urges? Did he ever feel his flesh say "yes!" and have to say "no!" to it? Did he ever experience the enticement, the carnal appeal, of sin? 

Many Christians want to answer, "No, Christ was too holy to experience real temptations," but I believe the correct answer, the scriptural answer, is yes. Jesus was human like the rest of us. Part of what the Book of Mormon calls the great condescension of God was Christ's willingness to come into a mortal body that would subject him to physical temptations. (See 1 Ne. 11:13-32.) 

Jesus' holiness and perfect obedience were the result of consistently ignoring, rather than of never encountering, the enticements of a carnal nature. The righteousness of Jesus is that he experienced the same temptations, the same carnal urges, the same distractions and opposition of the flesh and of the mind that we do in mortality, yet he instantly rejected them in every case: "He suffered temptations but gave no heed unto them." (D&C 20:22.) 

Think about it. If Christ were not like us in being subject to temptation, if he were some different kind of being with qualitatively different experiences, how could he possibly set an example that we could follow? How could his person or his performance then be relevant to human beings? . . . If Jesus Christ was not genuinely human, or if his righteousness and obedience were due to some special gift that I do not share with him, then he cannot teach me by example to be like he is. 

Being tempted, even being tempted greatly or over a long period of time, is not in itself a sin. We seldom choose what we will be tempted by, or how strong or how frequent our temptations will be. Still, as long as we resist them, we remain innocent. 

Thus, for the scripture to maintain that he "hath suffered being tempted" does not insult the Savior or detract from his moral perfection. 

Do not misunderstand me. I am not suggesting here that Jesus in any way indulged in unclean thoughts, for that would be sin, and he indulged nothing sinful. I do not believe that he "struggled" or "wrestled" with temptations. My only point is that he was as vulnerable to suggestions and impulses coming into his mind from his mortal nature, a nature inherited from his mortal mother, as any of us. He simply paid no attention to those suggestions, and he immediately put them out of his mind. The ability of the flesh to suggest, to entice, was the same for him as it is for us, but unlike the rest of us, he never responded to it. He didn't ponder, deliberate, or entertain the sinful options even as theoretical possibilities—"he gave no heed unto them." 

"We have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin." (Heb. 4:15; Because he "was in all points tempted like as we are," our Savior understands our situation, knows from his own personal experience what we struggle against, and can sympathize with us and have compassion on us. 

Thus, when I am tempted, I don't have to appeal to some distant entity who has never been in my shoes. I can take my problems to a high priest, Jesus, who can "be touched with the feeling of my infirmities"—because he has been where I am. I can share my problems with a compassionate God who knows from experience what I am talking about and understands from experience what I am going through. There may be certain aspects of his nature that the rest of us do not fully share, but there is no aspect of our human nature that he does not share. 

And that is good news! 

1 comment:

Aania Gowans said...

Hi, I wanted to thank you for sharing this! I don’t know when you wrote this, but it was incredibly helpful for me! Thank you so much!