Lent is right around the corner. Now is a good time to ready ourselves for this holy season. One of the most significant aspects of the season of Lent, in fact, is to remind us of how Jesus entered into the human experience. We face that fact when the Passion and death of Jesus are revealed to us during Holy Week.
We know from Church teaching that Jesus was both divine and human in nature. That’s referred to as the “hypostatic union,” which we cannot fully comprehend. For many people, it seemed beneath God’s dignity to become human. Further, how could God suffer and die on the cross? But that is exactly what happened.
The answer is that even though Jesus was God (and human) he did not hang on to those powers and qualities that made him God. He gave them up in his human life to be just like us in all things except sin. This is, of course, a great mystery. Even when we believe it in our heads and hearts, our emotions tend to make Jesus’ life different from ours. In reality, Jesus walked this earth as a human being, and the Gospels are crystal clear in telling of Jesus’ human experiences.
One of Us
When Scripture tells us that Jesus was tempted, that is exactly what happened. The first occasion is what we heard in the Gospel of Mark (1:12-13). Mark’s account is very brief. Matthew and Luke go into detail for each of the three temptations, and Luke adds a very significant detail: “When the devil finished every temptation, he departed from him for a little while.”
The implication is that Satan was not finished with Jesus. There were multiple occasions for temptation during his ministry. But I want to point out that the most terrible and painful work of Satan must have been when Jesus was hanging on the cross in unbearable pain, looking at those who were laughing, spitting, and mocking him.
Imagine how Satan would whisper in Jesus’ ear: “Oh, Jesus, what a failure you have been. How disappointed your Father must be in you. Despite all your preaching, look what you have now—nothing!” The expression “kicking a man when he is down” doesn’t even describe what Satan was doing to Jesus in those moments.
When we say that Jesus was just like us in all things except sin, it is worth our while to reflect on his experience and try to deepen our understanding of Jesus’ suffering for all of humankind.