“For every high priest taken from among men is ordained for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins: who can have compassion on the ignorant, and on them that are out of the way; for that he himself also is compassed with infirmity. And by reason hereof he ought, as for the people, so also for himself, to offer for sins” ().
Here we must be cautious, though. The above verses tell us that the reason priests were selected from “among men” was so that they could have compassion on others because they themselves were “compassed with infirmity.” Before we conclude that Christ must have inherited the same infirmities when He became human, read verse 3 again, “And by reason hereof [or for this reason] he ought, as for the people, so also for himself, to offer for sins.” But we know that Christ needed not to offer sacrifice for Himself—for His infirmities were not the same as ours. Crucially, they were “like” ours. Ellen White described it like this,
“[Christ] was a mighty petitioner, not possessing the passions of our human, fallen natures, but compassed with like infirmities, tempted in all points even as we are.”—The Review and Herald, May 19, 1885.
The Scriptures expound this further. We read that “the law maketh men high priests which have infirmity; but the word of the oath, which was since the law, maketh the Son, who is consecrated (perfected) for evermore” ().
So we see that perfection was necessary for Christ’s sacrifice, as well as for His office of High Priest. This does not mean that He commenced life on earth as imperfect and then became perfect—but rather that His humanity, from childhood to the cross, underwent a trial of obedience. The Bible says that He learned obedience "by the things which he suffered” (). Once His life was tested, He was found to be perfect. How do we know?
“Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost. And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom” ().
This testified already, that God accepted the perfected and spotless life of His Son upon the cross in the place of all sinners.
Now, let’s look at this thought of how Christ was perfected a little further. We read that “we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man. For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings” ().
What sufferings are these through which Jesus was perfected? We know that He was “a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” (). But what did Christ’s sufferings have to do with how He was perfected? Notice carefully the following verse, “For in that he himself hath suffered (painful experience) being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted” ( ).
No one has ever suffered as Jesus did under temptation. In rebellion against Christ, the natural mind delights in temptations. We naturally enjoy being enticed to sin. We might revel in the lust of our carnal cravings. But of Christ it is said, “Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows” ().
“For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners” ().
Nobody ever suffered under temptation as Jesus did because nobody ever hated sin and the enticement to sin us much as He did, and also because no one ever resisted temptations to the degree that He did.
“For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds. Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin” ().
He resisted unto blood. He was perfected because from the moment He entered the world, Satan was His shadow, trying to get Him to sin. The temptations became stronger and stronger, and greater, and more violent. Yet He learned obedience by the things that He suffered. In Gethsemane, the cup of suffering trembled in His hands, but He still resisted, He yet obeyed. Still, the temptations became stronger, He resisted, and with every resistance, the strength of temptation increased, until at the cross, when Satan put forth his most powerful temptations, and summoned all the power of darkness against Christ—He resisted still. He resisted unto blood striving against sin! As He hung upon the cross, what seemed to be His greatest defeat was His greatest victory. The greater the temptation, the more perfect the sacrifice. He died in resistance—but conquered sin in the process.
But with what was Christ actually tempted at His most trying hour and indeed throughout His life on earth? Satan knew Christ’s human weakness; notice how Satan spoke through evil human beings at the Lord’s weakest hour, as He hung upon the cross:
“And the people stood beholding. And the rulers also with them derided him, saying, He saved others; let him save himself, if he be Christ, the chosen of God” ().
Indeed, this was the hour for evil men to work. This was the hour of "the power of darkness” (). The reason this temptation was so strong for Christ was because He was familiar with absolute power.
“Christ was put to the closest test, requiring the strength of all His faculties to resist the inclination, when in danger, to use His power to deliver Himself from peril and triumph over the power of the prince of darkness.”—Confrontation, p. 85.
So it was by His sufferings that Christ was made able to help us in our temptations. He knows the strength of temptation—more so than we will ever be called upon to bear.
“For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted.”
This is what qualifies Christ Jesus to be our Advocate—He is more than qualified to have mercy and be a faithful High Priest.
“Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” ().