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Message for 8-4-13 SAVIOR TEMPTED TO THE MAX

“SAVIOR TEMPTED TO THE MAX”

Hebrews 4:14-16

 

            When it comes to temptation, Martin Luther had it right when he said, “You can’t keep a bird from landing on your head, but you can keep it from building a nest in your hair.”  Jesus is our supreme example, says the author of Hebrews.  No one, not even Jesus, can keep birds of temptation from landing on their head.  But here is the one person in all of human history who kept them all from “building a nest in his hair”.

            Jesus Christ was tempted in every way we are tempted, yet without sin.  Whatever pressures to sin we may face in life, Jesus Christ has been there before.  Jesus is a Savior who can relate to our weakness.  He may be our great High Priest who mediates for us before the throne of God, but he’s also someone who has walked in our shoes.  Whatever the weakness, whatever the compelling desire, Jesus Christ understands from personal experience.  He went through the same struggles we do, without sin.  He alone can say, no matter what the temptation, “Been there.  Didn’t do that.”

            Some get the mistaken idea that Jesus Christ was born immune to temptation, without the natural human desires the rest of us have.  Nonsense!  Jesus Christ was born with the same human nature with which Adam and Eve were created.  Jesus started out just like our earliest ancestors.  He had the same desires.  He had the same capacity to choose for or against God’s will, to be faithful or false to Himself.  In order for Jesus’ victory over sin to be a real one, Jesus had to go through the same tests of obedience we go through, with the same tools that are available to us.

            Because He was not only truly God but also truly human, Jesus Christ felt the same temptations we feel.  As a single man, Jesus had sexual desires of all kinds cross his mind.  They were like birds trying to land on his head.  But Jesus refused to entertain or act on those desires.  Living a morally sinless life would have been no big deal if Jesus had had no desires to resist.  But because Jesus has conquered real feelings of temptation and desire, with the same help from God that’s available to us, Jesus can be an encouragement to us when we face sexual temptation.  He knows how it feels.  He understands what we’re going through.  He can say, “Been there.  Didn’t do that.”

            Jesus can also relate to other areas of weakness in our lives: weaknesses for alcohol, drugs, food, or any kind of out-of-control appetite.  Jesus Christ has had heavy-duty experience in the area of appetite control.  Talk about hunger!  Try trading places with Jesus for those 40 days in the desert.  Those 40 days without food or water were the ultimate exercise in appetite control.  Even the most powerful case of hunger could not force Jesus to break down and use his supernatural powers to satisfy His stomach (like he was tempted to).  Jesus mastered even the toughest pangs of appetite.  He knows what it feels like to have every ounce of you screaming for satisfaction.  He’s been there before and won the victory.  He can help us with any kind of irresistible appetite we may be struggling with.

            Jesus knows by experience what it feels like to be tempted by power and success.  Jesus was tempted to grab for the earthly glory of being a king.  He had the natural ability to sway the hearts of a crowd.  He had a golden opportunity to manipulate people for his own ends.  Jesus could have had it made.  He was offered the temptation to settle back into a life of ease, a life of pleasure without pain: no cross, no hardship, no suffering of any kind.  How many of us would have grabbed for it?  Jesus turned it down.  He refused to by-pass the torture of death on a cross (and we can be grateful that he did).

            They say, for every 10 people who can endure suffering without being broken by it, there is maybe only 1 who can handle success, without being corrupted by it.

            Are you struggling with temptations in the area of power, money, and success?  Are you tempted to live beyond your means, to borrow money you know you can never repay, to manipulate people to get what you want, to do what’s popular instead of what’s right?  Then know that Jesus Christ has been there before.  He has struggled with power, money, and success.  He was tested to the limit, yet without caving in.

            Perhaps you find yourself driven by the pressures of a busy life.  Jesus Christ has been there before as well.  Jesus suffered the relentless demands of thousands of Galileans begging to be healed, begging for attention.  Mark says that once it got so bad that Jesus’ friends had to come and rescue him by force from the crowds – they said, “He is beside himself!”  Jesus was so zonked by His workload, once they even had to carry him asleep into the boat, where he slept right through a storm that nearly sank the boat.  It could have driven him crazy.

            But even Jesus, who knew that his time was short and his mission was all-important, took time to get away from his work.  He observed the Sabbath.  He took a once-a-week total rest.  He took vacations.  For those of you caught under the crushing pressure of life in the fast lane, Jesus Christ has been in that fast lane, too, for some very good reasons.  And he is the One who can help us in our struggle to slow down.

            Perhaps you struggle with anger.  You’d love to give somebody a piece of your mind.  You’d love to return evil for evil.  You’d love to call down God’s curse on that inconsiderate other driver.   You’d love to call him/her an idiot.  You’d love to send them into outer space.  You’d love to push them into a telephone pole.  Jesus understands.  He has been there before.  Jesus got mad at guys who cared more about their rules than about a crippled man who needed help.  Jesus drove the moneychangers out of God’s house with a whip.  But he never crossed the line into what we would call unrighteous anger.  His anger was never selfish or personal.

            If you want to see a champion of anger management, look at Jesus’ cross.  When Jesus was badmouthed, He didn’t return fire.  He didn’t scream for revenge.  He didn’t cry, “I’ll sic my Dad on you!”  He left his anger in the hands of God.  When it comes to reasons to get angry, Jesus has been tested to the limit.  He has walked in our shoes.

            Jesus can also relate to that very real human pressure to give up, pressure that may come from loneliness, physical pain, frustration, and/or violent opposition.  Jesus was severely tempted to throw in the towel, by a Devil who did not want Jesus to succeed.

            Jesus knew the pain of loneliness.  He was misunderstood, abandoned by his friends, and finally left hanging all alone on a cross, where for 1 moment he cried, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  Jesus knew the temptation to give up under fire, to surrender in the face of powerful opposition.

            Jesus experienced the depths of physical pain.  Who would want to trade places with a man who went through 39 lashes with a whip laced with shreds of bone, glass, and lead, and was then nailed to a cross, where he couldn’t breathe without leaning all his weight on those painful nail wounds?  Who would trade places with a man who went to hell and back to suffer for the sins of a whole world?

            Whatever pressure, whatever pain, whatever temptation you may be facing in your life, Jesus Christ knows what you’re going through.  He knows how you feel!  The Bible says he is a priest who can relate to our weakness, a person who was tested to the limit while standing in our shoes.  Jesus Christ is able to sympathize with our weaknesses: our fears, our feelings of inadequacy, our desire for the easy way out, our weaknesses for anger and pleasure.  He knows what we’re going through.  And because this is true, Jesus can also help us in our struggle. 

Hebrews 2:18 says, “Because he himself has suffered and been tempted, he is able to help those who are tempted.”  The author of Hebrews is writing to folks who were being tempted to give up, Jewish followers of Jesus who were being pressured to return to Judaism.  They lost jobs, property, and freedom because of their faith in Jesus.  They were severely tempted to call it quits.

The author’s message to his readers is the same as his message to us.  Jesus is a Savior who can relate to our weakness.  He’s been through what we’re going through.  And he can help us in our time of need.  He can wipe the slate clean for us when we fail.  He can encourage us, by the very fact that where we are, he’s been there before, and has won the victory.  Plus, Jesus can also empower us to overcome our pressure and temptation, by the same power he had: the power of God’s Spirit.  By surrendering our lives to his control, God’s Spirit can change our lives, and mold us from the way we were into the way God wants us to be.

No one can sympathize with our weaknesses like Jesus can.  Jesus, our High Priest before the throne of God, has walked in our shoes.  Whatever our temptation, he has been there before.  He knows how it feels.  And he can help each and every one of us to conquer those temptations and weaknesses.  Who would want to walk away from such a friend?

Let us pray.  Lord, we praise you that you have walked in our shoes.  You have felt the stab wounds of temptation of every kind.  You have known them all.  You understand how it feels.  And you can help us to win the victory, just as you did when you walked this earth.  Help us never forget to look to you in our times of greatest testing, and know that you have endured these tests yourself.  We ask for your name’s sake.  Amen.

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