A few days after Halloween, I opened my Bible and my eye caught a line about Jesus being accused of being a drunkard (Luke 7:34).
I’d known for years that this was in the Gospels somewhere, but I’d never stopped to consider the implications. I knew Jesus had performed his first miracle at a wedding, turning water to wine, and I knew he hung out with drunks. But I’d never thought about how many people mistook him for one.
The idea amused me. It also made me wonder: Exactly how much did the Son of God drink? And does this mean Jesus knows what it feels like to be tempted to drink too much?
The question prompted me to go back to that passage about coming boldly to the throne room. And there it was: “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” (Hebrews 4:15, NIV).
Tempted in every way just as we are. Really? Empathizing? You mean that Jesus wasn’t tempted only in a theoretical way, but in a real way? That would mean he knew what it felt like to find himself gripped by the urge to indulge when he knew he should abstain. Did he ever want to alter or escape reality, too? Did Jesus feel an inner emptiness ever?
I choose to think so, even though we know he never sinned. This passage makes it clear that it was the actual, experienced pain of his temptation that makes him able to help us: “Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted” (Hebrews 2:18, NIV; emphasis added).
Wow. How does that work? And how many years had I never understood what this was saying?
It wasn’t until I was on the porch taking down decorations that I flashed back to Halloween and all of those kids charging up to our door, expecting something for free. Not because they thought they deserved it. Because they knew we wanted them to come, hoped they would come – expected them to come for candy.
When I was young, my siblings and I wouldn’t dream of using a measly bucket for our candy – we used pillowcases. And we’d stuff them. And we’d run, breathless, from house to house. Our family was always poor, candy was a huge luxury, and Halloween was almost as good as Christmas.
Maybe this is a picture of how God wants us to come to him, too. Anxious to arrive, breathless with a good kind of greed for a grace more generous than we could possibly deserve.
And what if he wants us to rush to him boldly not because of what it says about our worthiness, but what it says about his? Maybe he sees all of us coming from far off – trolls and witches and angels with missing wings – and he wants us to come more than we ever could. Because we’re beloved. Because he can’t imagine what he’d do without us.
Heather Kopp appears on LIFE TODAY this Monday. This is an excerpt from Sober Mercies: How Love Caught Up With A Christian Drunk by Heather Kopp. Copyright ©2013 by Heather Kopp. Reprinted by permission of Jericho Books/Hachette Book Group. All rights reserved.