III. Jesus Has Work to Do

In the meantime, Jesus is quite busy, among other responsibilities that Scripture reveals that he has, serving as mediator for us when we sin. As Paul says by revelation, still showing in his manner of expression, that Jesus is distinct from God: “For there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5). One of the most encouraging things that I think I have found in my most recent study of the Scripture is knowing that Jesus has paved the way for us, demonstrating, as the human that he was, that it is possible to live free from sin. That we have chosen to sin has to do with our desire not to live up to our potential. God began things this way. He placed Adam in the Garden of Eden. Adam was the son of God at that time according to Luke who traces Jesus human lineage all the way back to the beginning of time. He says distinctly that “Enosh [was] the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God” in Luke 3:37. He miraculously was placed in this world as was Jesus, who is appropriately called “the second Adam.” Note Paul’s explanation:

“Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who was a pattern of the one to come” (Romans 5:14).

Even so, Jesus is called a life-giving spirit, inasmuch as he, having the same ability to make choices for good or evil as Adam #1 did: “So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being” the last Adam, a life-giving spirit” (1 Corinthians 15:45). Jesus basically showed us that a sentence of physical death—which came about because of the sin of one man, who could choose to sin or to be obedient to God—could be reversed because of the obedience of one man. What one man did to curse the human race because of his choices, another man could un-do because of his decision to learn obedience in this life. Jesus had the choice of sinning, since he was a man. Certainly God cannot be tempted, nor does he tempt anyone, according to the testimony of God’s inspired writer James (James 1:13). So should we find it strange to see that Jesus, who was not God was tempted? The Scripture said that he was just like us–made that way by God:

For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted (Hebrews 2:17-18, ).

This truth is repeated two chapters later where we find these words: “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). The fact of the matter is that Jesus understands us because he was subject to what we were subject to: temptation and the possibility of sin. It’s a silly waste of time to argue that anyone could have been the sacrifice on the cross for sin, since it was God’s choice that (1) his only Son would be given for that purpose; and (2) no one, to that point in time had lived the life that Jesus chose to live in obedience to God. It was that very life that earned his right to be ceremonially “perfect,” and therefore qualified to serve as the sacrifice for sin: “Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him” (Hebrews 5:8-9).

So when Satan tempted Jesus to satisfy his hunger, worship him, and inappropriately use the power that God had given him to remain physically safe until it was time for him to die as a human sacrifice for sin on the cross (Luke 4:1-11), he was moving God’s plan forward. Jesus had things to learn. Jesus had perfection to be accomplished. It wasn’t that he was a perfect God man who “had all of his stuff together” to qualify him as a sacrifice. He was a man who had to learn things to reverse what another man had neglected to do. The Second Adam, the man Jesus, suffered in his resistance of temptation and became what the first Adam forfeited when he chose to sin in the Garden of Eden. And in so-doing, Jesus demonstrated that we do not have to give into our basic nature, the same nature that he had by his human birth, and give in to sin. No! His life, attacked and tempted as it was by all the sins that we have been attacked with— again “tempted in every way” (Hebrews 4:15)—sufficiently demonstrated this truth, so cogently expressed by the apostle Paul:

No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it (1 Corinthians 10:13).

Could I claim to have taken hold of that hope and resisted Satan’s temptation in my past? No. There are many reasons, perhaps, why that isn’t so.

One that I hope I will not lean on is the one that admits defeat in advance and says, “I’m infected with the sin nature of Adam, and I just can’t help myself!” This is Satan’s lie that we have believed too long, and that we have used to excuse our sin. The life of Jesus encourages us to know that we can resist sin, just as he did, made like us as he was “in every way,” says the writer of the book of Hebrews (Hebrews 2:17).

IV. Perfection: the Goal, not the Reality, for Disciples