Why Jesus Was Tempted
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.
Temptation, by its very nature, feels wrong and sets off an alarm in our head. Since God's moral law is written on our hearts (Rom 1:20), we sense something isn't right when temptation comes along. But temptation, by its very nature is also enticing. Because we want to do the very thing the temptation is proposing, we will have to choose--give in or turn away. The temptation itself is not sinful, but when we give in to it, we sin. Colin Smith of Unlocking the Bible says, "Every sin holds a passing pleasure, that's why sin tempts us. Nobody would sin if this weren't true." Think about it. Sin is the reason we are tempted in the first place. We are never tempted to do something right. The Bible says:
James 1:13-15 When tempted, no one should say, "God is tempting me." For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.
1 Thessalonians 3:5 For this reason, when I could stand it no longer, I sent to find out about your faith. I was afraid that in some way the tempter had tempted you and that our labors might have been in vain.
In these two verses, we learn that temptation comes from either our own evil desires or the tempter, who is Satan. We will not all be tempted by the same things, but all temptation comes in three forms that are part of the world's system: the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the sinful pride of life (1 Jn 2:16). Or as the NLT puts it: a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. The NLT note says, "The world is a morally evil system that is under the influence of Satan and is opposed to God and Christ's kingdom on earth. The world appeals to people's fleshly desires and thereby diverts them from God." We cannot escape temptation, but we can escape sinning. We don't have to give in. The Bible gives us the answer:
1 Corinthians 10:13 No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.
God will always provide a way out. You can count on it. But for you to see the way out He provides, you must be aware of:
What you are up against. We are told to be alert and sober-minded for the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour (1 Pet 5:8). Satan can fill our hearts with lies like he did Annaniah's heart when he lied about how much of the proceeds from his property he was giving (Acts 5:1-4). John 8:44 says that the devil hates the truth because there is no truth in him, and whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.
Who is stronger. When Jesus died on the cross, He defeated the devil and his works. It's why He came (1 Jn 3:8). And Hebrews 2:14 says, "Now since the children have flesh and blood, He too shared in their humanity, so that by His death He might destroy him who holds the power of death, that is, the devil," Lastly, John 16:33 tells us to "Take heart, I have overcome the world. Jesus has the power to forgive sins so even when we give in to temptation, God is ready to forgive us.
1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Jesus never sinned. He was tempted in every way as we are but never gave in. We first see Jesus being tempted in the wilderness after His baptism. He was led into the wilderness by the Spirit to be tempted by the devil (Matt 4:1). After forty days of fasting, the Bible tells us He was hungry. That's often when temptation comes; when our defenses are down, and we feel weak. After forty days of fasting in the wilderness, Satan shows up to tempt Jesus.
Jesus is fully God and fully man. He has two natures. Warren W. Wiersbe says in his commentary on Matthew 4:1-11, "It is important to note that Jesus faced the enemy as a man, not the Son of God...we must not think that Jesus used His divine powers to overcome the enemy because that is just what the enemy wanted Him to do! Jesus used the spiritual resources that are available to us today: the power of the Holy Spirit of God (Matt. 4:1) and the power of the Word of God ("It is written"). Jesus had nothing in His nature that would give Satan a foothold (John 14:30), but His temptations were real just the same. Temptation involves the will, and Jesus came to do the Father's will (Heb. 10:1-9)."
Why is it important that Jesus never sinned?
2 Corinthians 5:21 For God made Christ who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin so that we could be made right with God through Christ.
Because Jesus never sinned, He could be the offering for our sin, and we can be made right with God. "The sinless Savior has taken our sins that we might have God's righteousness" (NASB note on 2 Cor 5:21). If Jesus had sinned, He could not have been the perfect and holy offering that God required.
Why was Jesus tested?
Hebrews 4:15 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.
"Because Jesus endured and successfully passed every test, He can now offer us mercy and grace to help in our time of need, for He knows what we are going through" (NASB note on Heb 4:15). Jesus knows what it is to be tempted, and He knows what it is to resist each and every time. Got Questions says this about the purpose of Jesus being tested:
It is because He is human, and made like us in every way, that He could do three vital things: 1) destroy the devil’s power and free those who were held in slavery by their fear of death (Hebrews 2:15); 2) become a merciful and faithful High Priest in service to God and atone for our sins (Hebrews 2:17); and 3) be the One who is able to sympathize with us in all our weaknesses and infirmities (Hebrews 4:15). Our Lord’s human nature enables Him to sympathize with our own weaknesses, because He was subjected to weakness, too. More importantly, we have a High Priest who is able to intercede on our behalf and provide the grace of forgiveness.
Remember earlier when I said that all temptation comes in three forms that are part of the world's system? And how Hebrews 4:15 tells us that Jesus was tempted in every way as we are? When Satan came to tempt Jesus, he used the three forms of temptation: the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the sinful pride of life. He also used the same tactics when he tempted Eve in the garden (Gen 3:1-6). Of course, we know that Eve gave in to temptation, and Jesus did not. And as a side note: this occasion was not the only time the devil tempted Jesus, but it is the one that is fully written about and helps us see how Jesus was tempted in all three categories and didn't give in. But since this blog seems long enough, we will look at Jesus' temptation in the wilderness next time.