The fascinating thing is that even though Jesus was fully human like us, and was tempted like us in every way, “yet he did not sin” (Heb 4:15). Like all of us, he experienced human emotions like love, anger, hunger, sorrow, and joy. Like all of us, he experienced pain, discomfort, exhaustion. Like many of us, he became the target of mockery, bullying, betrayal, and criticism; he became the recipient of animosity; he became the subject of gossip; he was shamed in public; he was treated as a worthless criminal and outcast; he was oppressed by his leaders; he was abandoned by his close friends. And yet, in all these experiences, he did not sin!
What does this mean for us? It means that we, like Christ, can live a victorious life over temptations. If Jesus, as fully human, experienced everything that we experience, then we too, who are followers of Christ, can become victorious as human beings. This is one of the meanings of Christ-likeness, or of imitating Christ. This means that we can no longer use the defensive tactic that we usually employ when we sin, saying “I am just a human being…” We can no longer use our human weaknesses and limitations to excuse ourselves from committing the sins that we do over and over again, because Jesus too was fully human, with all the weaknesses and limitations we have, and yet he did not sin. Certainly, when we face Jesus Christ someday, we cannot tell him: “What did you expect from me? I am just a human being.”
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Jesus was tempted as a human being. If we go back to the devil’s temptations in the wilderness, we can see that the devil was precisely trying to appeal to the weaknesses found in human nature. First, he appealed to the human feeling of hunger; then he appealed to the human need for security; then finally he appealed to the human desire for possession. The devil did not tempt him as God, for the devil can offer nothing to God. The devil was appealing to the basic human tendencies like instinct for survival, self-preservation, need for others, avoidance of pain and suffering, desire for comfort, fear of death, and desire for glory.
Throughout his life, Jesus shows us that we can actually become triumphant over our own weaknesses. Our weaknesses do not need to be reasons for sinning, but for glorifying God. It is easy for us to react with rage when we are hurt and offended, like the disciples whose response when they were not received was wrathfully to call fire from heaven to devour the Samaritans (Luke 9:54). But Jesus shows us that even when betrayed by his friend Judas, instead of being led to hatred, he showed composure and abstained from condemning him. It is easy for us to give up when we are oppressed, and to be discouraged when we are downcast, but Jesus shows us that even in the midst of sorrow, we can still pray “May Your will be done, not mine!” (Luke 22:42). When suffering, it is easy for us to put the blame on others and resent everyone around us, but Jesus shows us that even in the experience of innocent torture and death, we can still pray “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34), and “Father, into your hands I commit everything” (Luke 23:46). Even when our human strength is failing and all the world is against us, we can, like Christ, still give glory to God and put our neighbors first. This is what the humanity of Jesus Christ teaches us.
Rev. Dick O. Eugenio is the Academic Dean of Asia-Pacific Nazarene Theological Seminary and SDMI Field Coordinator of the Philippine-Micronesia Field.