Jesus practiced what he preached. He didn’t dictate and depart, leaving us to stumble among his precepts without a light. Jesus set the bar high. But he also gave us an example to follow. He can command us to “offer no resistance to one who is evil,” because he himself guarded a patient silence as he was condemned. When someone seeks your shirt, he can command us to “hand over your cloak as well.” If that seems a high standard, consider what he handed over for you. Jesus can command us to love our enemies, because he forgave his murderers in the midst of their crime. What Jesus commands is certainly difficult, but he shows us it is not out of reach.
Perhaps one might object, “but he is God! Of course he can do those things.” Certainly Jesus is God, but he is also one of us. God didn’t become man to become a braggart. He didn’t take on flesh to show off, to rub it in our face that he could be human better than we can. Rather he came to live as we live, to suffer as we suffer, and to win for us the grace to “be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Scripture is clear on this point: “we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has similarly been tested in every way, yet without sin” (Heb 4:15-16).
Jesus is God. Perhaps that made things easier. But “do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” (1Cor 3:16). Jesus wants the best out of us, and so he put the best into us. Empowered by the Holy Spirit, what Jesus did is not beyond us: “whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these” (Jn 14:12).
It is common today to excuse sin, even grave sin, with the phrase “I’m only human.” Well, that’s true, as far as it goes. But being human doesn’t mean being doomed to sin. Rather, being human means being called into union with God. Wounded by original sin, we are prone to fall. When that happens, we need compassion and the assurance of God’s mercy. But we also need the confidence that it is possible to avoid sin in the future (1Cor 10:13). What isn’t needed is anything undermining the hope of living a holy life. A man himself, Jesus has tremendous compassion. But he doesn’t coddle us. He has set the bar high, and he is there with his grace to help us reach it.