Hebrews 4:15 declares, “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.” Some assert that Jesus was tempted literally in every way that every human being has ever been tempted. In some part of Christ’s life that was unrecorded by the Gospel narratives, Jesus was tempted with marijuana, annihilating people with nuclear radiation, internet pornography, drug trafficking, and so on.
On the other hand, some say that this idea is preposterous and that Christ was tempted only in three ways as recorded in Matthew 4 and Luke 4. They aver that Christ was tempted in His own particular way in His own trial, and though He had the victory, this has no bearing on you and me today. The former idea makes Jesus into some mega-deranged and abased human, while the latter pushes Him away into the ethereal realm as merely a historical character with no human quality at all.
Philippians 2 presents the solution to this tension. Originally meant to resolve an internal Philippian church dispute, it is what Paul writes about the self-denial and humility of Christ: “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 2:5). Jesus was God and fully divine, but He humbled Himself to not only become a human being but also to suffer an ignominious death as a human being. Paul emphasizes that Christ died the death of the cross (v. 8), a manner of execution for the lowest of classes!
Let’s put this into plainer language. As in the inTro analogy, Christ was “in all points tempted as we are,” but in a different way because He was a divine model of a car. When we are tempted with intemperance, we have to decide whether we are going to eat the object in front of us or not. But when Christ was tempted, He had to decide whether He was going to use His creative power to rearrange the atoms of stones into edible bread. That’s just one way of thinking about it. Perhaps, instead, He was tempted to eliminate the hunger hormones in His body; perhaps eliminate the concept of food; perhaps even reorient the universe so that the notion of consumption and necessity were themselves eliminated! Who knows the extent of temptation when experienced by divinity.
While we battle over whether we should use our human capabilities for selfish desires, Christ was also tempted to use His divine capabilities for self—the same, but totally different as well.
Because Christ overcame, “God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name” (Phil. 2:9). On this basis, Christ’s followers are to partake in this name, to humble and deny self for the larger good. In the case of the Philippians, it was a call for two women to get along (Phil. 4:2) and have the “same mind.” In the case of Christ’s disciples of the twenty-first century, how will the mind of Christ be manifest in our lives?