We often don’t think of temptation as a form of suffering, but the New Testament does support such an idea. God calls us to himself in salvation and then calls us to live a godly life while still possessing our sinful bodies. The Christian live is a glorious one and yet it is lived out with the ongoing craving of the flesh to satisfy itself.
Jesus lived in our place and was subject to all the temptations we face. The writer of Hebrews tells us that because Christ was sent to save mankind he came as the God-man, not the God-angel. Jesus “had to be made like his brethren in every way” (2:17a). Jesus was fully man so that he “might make atonement for the sins of the people” (2:17c). The author then makes his point in v. 18b that “he is able to help those who are being tempted.” This is indeed a great encouragement. It is what the writer states in the first part of v. 18 that I want to emphasize. The author says that Jesus is able to help those tempted “because he himself suffered when he was tempted” (2:18a). The verb “suffered” (πέποθεν) is highlighted by the writer with the choice of the perfect tense. The suffering he has in mind is tied to the participle “when he was tempted” (πειρασθείς). Christ suffered when he was tempted. This suffering was part of his living as a human, a point made later by the author. In Hebrews 5:8 the writer states that while Jesus lived on the earth (5:7), “he learned obedience from what he suffered.” This stark reality is actually a source of comfort to us. Jesus knows the sheer brutality that temptation to sin is for us: he experienced it. He knows its lies, its appeal, its power, its deceit, and its consequences. He knows from personal experience that temptation may often leave us only to return with a vengeance (Luke 4:13). Jesus calls us to call upon him in times of temptation.
Spurgeon, in his Morning and Evening noted,
It is a common-place thought, and yet it tastes like nectar to the weary heart-Jesus was tempted as I am. You have heard that truth many times: have you grasped it? He was tempted to the very same sins into which we fall. Do not dissociate Jesus from our common manhood. It is a dark room which you are going through, but Jesus went through it before. It is a sharp fight which you are waging, but Jesus has stood foot to foot with the same enemy. Let us be of good cheer, Christ has borne the load before us, and the blood-stained footsteps of the King of glory may be seen along the road which we traverse at this hour. There is something sweeter yet-Jesus was tempted, but Jesus never sinned. Then, my soul, it is not needful for thee to sin, for Jesus was a man, and if one man endured these temptations and sinned not, then in his power his members may also cease from sin…. Fears are needless, for Christ is with us, armed for our defence. Our place of safety is the bosom of the Saviour. Perhaps we are tempted just now, in order to drive us nearer to him. Blessed be any wind that blows us into the port of our Saviour’s love! Happy wounds, which make us seek the beloved Physician. Ye tempted ones, come to your tempted Saviour, for he can be touched with a feeling of your infirmities, and will succour every tried and tempted one. [October 3rd, evening].
This suffering that we face from temptation to sin does not go unnoticed by the savior. He is a sympathetic friend. He knows the battle, beloved, he knows.