Sex and the Son of God
February 2, 2013
“The Benediction Project”
Jesus was fully human. In the remarkable book of Hebrews we read: “Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity …. [and] had to be made like them, fully human in every way …” (2:14, 17; NIV 2011). The wording is very strong and very clear. Not only was Jesus like human beings, but he was human. And not only that, he was fully human. And fully human in every way.
Because the truth of these words is unmistakable, and because sexuality is very much a part of being human, we know that Jesus was a sexual person. His sexuality was like ours, not only in our physical bodies but in our souls.
The “soulish” aspect of our sexuality is as significant as the physical if not more so. Our desire for closeness, our awareness of mystery and excitement, our sensations of bodily needs longing to be fulfilled—all of these would have been experienced by the holy Son of God. If this were not the case, Jesus would not have been a true human being.
And this error was exactly the doctrine taught by one ascetic sect (the docetic gnostics) in the time of Jesus. Because these false teachers believed that the human body and everything about it was evil, they said that the holy Jesus could not have had a human body.
In the thinking of the docetists, Jesus only seemed (the Greek word is dokeo, where we get docetic) to be human. Because this heresy was widespread throughout the Greco-Roman world, the apostle John, at the very beginning of his first epistle, emphasized the physical nature of Jesus. “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. … We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard (1 John 1:1, 3).”
Since Jesus was fully human, we know he was tempted. And since one of the major realms of temptation faced by human beings is that of sexuality, Jesus would have experienced sexual temptation. In the book of Hebrews once again we read further revealing words about Jesus:
Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then [because Jesus experienced these same temptations] approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:14-16).
This line of reasoning leads us to wonder how exactly Jesus felt the force of sexual temptation. It is obvious that since Jesus never sinned in thought, word or action, he never experienced the kinds of temptations that gather their strength from previously yielding to those kinds of temptation. In other words, if Jesus had been tempted to steal some delicious figs, yet rejected that temptation, then the next time the same temptation came, he did not have the weakened conscience and will of the person who did steal the figs.
With regard to sexuality the same is true. Jesus never experienced those kinds of sexual temptations that get special power because they have been yielded to previously. However, to say that Jesus never sinned once is not to say that his temptations were not as severe as ours. In fact, Jesus must have felt the force of temptation (in many areas of life) more than anyone who ever lived. Those who have given in previously to a certain temptation (perhaps to lie, to steal, or to yell angrily while out of control) will probably find it easier to give in again and again, especially if they have experienced no negative consequences from their sin.
In light of the above, then, Jesus face very strong temptations. Three of these are recorded in the gospels concerning the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life (Luke 4:1-13; 1 John 2:16). He no doubt faced these same kinds of temptations—and many others—all through his life, because we are told that just after the three temptations, “When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time” (Luke 4:13).
We cannot know precisely how Jesus experienced and resisted sexual temptation. As a devout Jewish rabbi he knew his Hebrew Bible well, including the extremely helpful instructions in Proverbs, chapters 5 to 7. Perhaps he had memorized Proverbs 6:25: “Do not lust in your heart after her beauty or let her captivate you with her eyes” (see the similar words of Jesus in Matthew 5:28).
We can be very grateful that the Holy Spirit of God inspired the writer of the epistle to the Hebrews to inform us that “we have one [a high priest] who has been tempted in every way just as we are—yet he did not sin.”
The immediately preceding and following words of the above text let us know why these matters are in the Bible: “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses. … Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence [no matter what kind of temptation, nor how severe it is, nor how often we have yielded to it], so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:15-16).
May our merciful and gracious Lord guide you and guard you always!