In our current Bible Study class we’re studying the Book of Hebrews. It’s one of my favorite books of the Bible and our teacher seems more than competent to tackle such a book.
This past Sunday he introduced the topic of “suffering.” Primarily Christs suffering of death (2:9), “being made perfect through sufferings” (2:10) and the idea that Christ himself “was tested by what he suffered…” (2:18). As part of his introduction to the topic he asked folks what their thoughts were regarding suffering and especially the suffering of Christ and there were a variety of answers. As I listened to folks offer their opinion I was certain someone would bring up the verse that Christ was tempted in all things as (we are yet) without sin – chapter 4 verse 15. It’s a oft quoted verse when it comes to suffering, temptation, testing or downright sin.
How exactly was Christ tempted or tested “in every respect as we are yet without sin”? I know about Christ’s temptation in the wilderness. His suffering up to and during his death is without question but when it comes to issues I deal with or others like me, how did that factor into his life? The Gospel writers tell us little of these types of temptations. Yes, there is the agony in the garden leading up to his death, but incidents prior to that – those during his daily ministry seem strangely absent.
Was he tempted with lust by Temple prostitutes or women who followed his motley crew of a dozen? Was he tempted to cheat on the Emperor’s tax obligation? Did he find it difficult to carry on a conversation without slipping in a little white lie every now and then? Did he desire a better life – a means of keeping up with the Jones of his day? Did his thoughts wander to fantasies or dreams of other occupations?
I have no desire to make light or even speak disparagingly of the suffering Christ may have endured in his life in what ever manner that may have been presented. Nevertheless, I am sincere in saying I really don’t understand how Christ suffered in such a way that he could identify with my temptations and their attendant suffering. I struggle in many and various ways in my mind. I wrestle with contentment and find myself often looking over the fence at what my “neighbor” has or who he is as a person. And there’s more, but were these things Jesus experienced or is it only through his divinity that he can “see” my struggles and not so much sympathize but empathize with my turmoil.
Now let’s be clear, I’m not negating the issue of suffering. Suffering is what produces endurance and is an essential component of discipleship. Nor am I attempting to avoid suffering. It has been my companion more than I like. My simple premise is to determine how Christ truly identifies with that. Not that he can’t – but through what means. In the meantime I will continue to cast all my cares on him because he cares for me (1Peter 5:7).