Question 22: Why must the Redeemer be truly human?
Answer: That in human nature he might on our behalf perfectly obey the whole law and suffer the punishment for human sin; and also that he might sympathize with our weaknesses.
As one who was fully human, Jesus knew the experiences of human weakness. He got hungry and thirsty. He needed sleep. Although the Scripture never specifically tells us so, we can assume he got sick at times as we all do. His experiences as a man were like ours.
In addition to physical weaknesses of being a human being in a fallen world, Jesus Christ also experienced external temptations. In the Gospels we read accounts of the devil appealing to his natural human desires in order to seek to turn them toward evil ends. For example, in the garden of Gethsemane Jesus agonized over his coming death. Like any human being, he had a natural desire to continue living and to avoid the pain and humiliation of flogging and crucifixion. And so he asked that the cup of God’s wrath be removed from him (Luke 22:42). However, he did so knowing that no matter what, he desired the fulfillment of the will of the Father above all. And so, tempted as he was by his natural, human desires to preserve his life and avoid pain, he never experienced illicit desires to disobey the Father and go his own way. No matter how much the devil appealed to him, Jesus never felt the inward pull of an ungodly desire, which James tells us is itself the mother of sin (James 1:13-15).
So in one sense, Jesus experienced everything we experience as human beings in our weakness. But in another sense, his experience was different, because he alone of all people endured temptations throughout his life without once having an inward response of ungodly desire to them. The devil did his worst, and in his righteousness Jesus never budged an inch.
Suggested passage for personal or family reading: Luke 22:39-46. How do we see Jesus’ experience of weakness in this passage? How do we see his incredible strength? How were his temptations both similar to ours and different from ours?