Our Merciful, Faithful High Priest
“He had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God… . For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted” (vv. 17–18).- Hebrews 2:16–18
Because Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mary (Luke 1:26–38), we are assured that our Savior is unstained by Adam’s sin and, therefore, that He is the perfect Mediator between us and God. Yet even though our Lord’s conception was supernatural, it is important to note that the Father did not start from scratch when He sent His Son to earth. Our Father did not create a new man out of the dust of the ground like He did when He created Adam (Gen. 2:7). Instead, the incarnation took place in Adam’s line (Luke 3:23–38). Christ’s humanity is therefore our humanity, even though the Son of God did not assume a fallen human nature in the incarnation. Jesus is connected genetically and experientially to the rest of Adam’s children, though He is connected salvifically only to those who put their faith in Him alone.
Christ is, as question and answer 35 of the Heidelberg Catechism explain, “like his brothers in every way except for sin.” He possesses all that is necessary to be truly human and has experienced what it means to be a human creature who is wholly dependent on the Creator. Unlike His fallen brothers and sisters, who rejected this dependence in Adam, Jesus never sought to live independently of the Father. This remained true even when Satan promised Christ fantastic rewards in the hope that He would choose the same autonomy Adam did (Matt. 4:1–11).
The ramifications for this choice are huge, as the author of Hebrews explains in today’s passage. Existing as one of us and resisting temptation enabled Jesus to “make propitiation” for His people and turn away God’s wrath. Also, by taking on our nature and enduring temptation, Jesus went before us in the battle against evil to show us that relying wholly on God is the only way we can stare down sin. In His humanity He also gained an experiential knowledge of temptation, one that enables Him to sympathize with us in our frailties and, as our Mediator, to give us what we need out of His entire person to fortify us against evil. John Calvin writes, “Nothing happens to us but what the Son of God has himself experienced in order that he might sympathize with us; nor let us doubt that he is at present with us as though he suffered with us.”
Our Savior was truly tempted. Yet, He never gave in to sin. Because He succeeded, the glorified Christ, both in His humanity and in His deity, is able to give us just what we need to stand firm against the Evil One. We are united to the whole Christ by faith, and thereby we benefit both from His deity and His glorified humanity. This is a great mystery, but we can go to Him when we are tempted and trust Him for the resources to overcome sin.
Passages for Further Study
1 Corinthians 10:13