Hebrews 2:18 (ESV) … “For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.”
This verse insists on the real humanity of Jesus. It also contains an important application of that real humanity. Because Jesus was a true human being and because he suffered, he can help us in our temptation.
This verse introduces several important questions. How could the sinless Jesus receive temptation? Was he tempted in the same way as human beings? These questions will be discussed further in 4:15.
Three important thoughts confront us here. First, Jesus suffered. He suffered as our Savior physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Second, this suffering became a source of temptation. The sufferings were so intense that Jesus could have decided that enduring them was not worth the pain which they inflicted. He never considered that, for he said, “Not as I will, but as you will” (Matt. 26:39). Third, enduring suffering allowed him to help us. His victory over temptation and sin allowed him to guide us through the dangerous rocks of temptation.
Jesus has great ability to help us. His ability is not based on his experience with sin. His ability is based on his experience of the temptation to sin. Only someone who is sinless can know this experience fully.
When my son was a child, I often took him swimming. He delighted in playing the game of holding his breath under water. We competed with one another to see who could outlast the other. His youth led to his defeat. At the first sign of pain and discomfort under water, he would surface for air. I stayed under until my lungs were heaving with pain. When I surfaced for air, I truly needed it. Jesus remained in the pool of temptation longer than any of us. He knew the pain more fully. He resisted to the end. He never sinned. His experience allows him to encourage us and lead us to victory as we face temptation.