Our House Group is studying the book of Hebrews and this week, we were on chapter two. One of the author’s major themes throughout the book is that Jesus became what we are and experienced what we did. Hebrews 2 closes with ‘Therefore he had to become like his brothers and sisters in every respect, so that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make a sacrifice of atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself was tested by what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested,’ (Heb. 2:17-18, NRSV).
The conversation turned, as it usually does with this verse, how much can Jesus be like if he didn’t sin? We focused on v. 18, what did it mean to be ‘tested’ or ‘tempted’? One person in our group said he didn’t have a problem with thoughts that Jesus was sinless, but thought that the temptations be attractive. In other words, for him to be truly like us then there must have been a part of him that wanted to sin (he admitted that this may not be the best possible way of saying it).
With the First Sunday in Lent just over a month away with the Lectionary reading giving us Jesus’ temptation in the desert, it might be good to think about what Jesus experienced. To be truly human, the temptations must have presented two true alternatives to Jesus. There must have been a moment when Jesus had to decide which way to go (whether in the desert or in Gethsemane) and he could have chosen either way, but chose to follow the plan God set out for him. If there was never a true choice, then Jesus would have been a superman who deflected temptations like Superman deflects bullets.
I remember watching a movie in which grandpa was encouraging his grandson and he said, ‘[Superman] isn’t brave… Superman is indestructible, and you can’t be brave if you’re indestructible.’ Superman, as the story tells us, isn’t human. I think in the same way, for Jesus to truly be human, he had to experience the choice given him and make a decision.
So, how do you express this paradox without going toward a too high christology or too low christology?