A Counselor Reflects on Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
“That is why bad people, in one sense, know very little about badness. They have lived a sheltered life by always giving in. We never find out the strength of the evil impulse inside us until we try to fight it: and Christ, because He was the only man who never yielded to temptation, is also the only man who knows to the full what temptation means—the only complete realist (p. 142).” Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
For a long time I didn’t have a good answer to those who asked (some sincerely; some cynically), “Wasn’t Jesus’ temptation easier because He was God?” I could take the conversation one step by replying, “Jesus faced His temptation with his full humanity. So just like he submitted to hunger, thirst, and sleep as a human, Jesus also submitted to the full force of temptation.”
But there was the second, frequent statement that left me puzzled, “Yeah, but He was still perfect, so it had to be easier for Him.” I could assert that Satan came after Jesus harder, because he knew how significant God taking on humanity must be. I could argue that being a perfectionist (a bad depiction of Jesus) has its own, very unique and intense pressure.
By the end of the conversation, I may have satisfied the other person. But I walked away perplexed. Their question struck a chord with me that left me unsatisfied with anything I said. I didn’t question my faith, but I felt like there was a significant hole in my understanding of Jesus, sin, tempt
ation… or something.
This quote by Lewis has been very helpful in filling that hole. I was thinking that the only force/influence of sin was the shame of failure and the taunting knowledge of forbidden pleasure.
Jesus didn’t know the shame of personal sin (desire to hide or be fake). But Jesus did know the shame of bearing our sin while naked on a cross being misunderstood and maligned.
Jesus didn’t know the affection generated by partaking of sin’s temporal pleasures and wanting to taste them again. But Jesus did know the taste of bread when hungry and had to resist eating at Satan’s command after 40 days of fasting in the desert.
But even these, which far exceed my experience of temptation, were not the pinnacle of Jesus’ temptation. Jesus walked against the current of the world’s draw towards sin without rest or relief his entire life. Jesus was the trout swimming up stream into the increasing fury to Satan’s temptation and reached places no other person ever achieved.
Jesus planted his victory cross where the current of sin’s force was most intense – bearing the full wrath of God because he was under the unabated downpour of sin’s fury. After taking the pounding of everything both God and Satan could unleash, he cried in victory, “It is finished!”
And it was.
In light of this, read again Hebrews 4:15-16, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”