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Bible Q&A: Did Jesus Fall into Temptation?

August 25, 2017

Question: How can you say Jesus wasn’t drawn to sin? Hebrew 2:18 says, “For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.”

Answer: We’ve received a number of questions about this. One reason for this is that we can only draw upon our own experience of being tempted. None of us has ever been in Christ’s shoes.

But I think the following analogy from Pastor Colin’s message called “Tempted” gives us a very different and very helpful perspective on Christ’s temptation:

Confronted by the Enemy

For the first time since the Garden, there is a confrontation between the enemy and a man with an unfallen nature. It is the same pattern: the initiative of God and the reaction of the enemy. God always has the initiative; the enemy is always reacting.

The Son of God, who created man in his image, now takes human flesh, joining the glory of God to humanity in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ. Notice that it is the Spirit of God that leads Christ out into the wilderness (Luke 4:1). Christ goes stalking the enemy. The first step in his public ministry is to confront the enemy and to triumph where Adam failed.

There are some beautiful contrasts: Satan confronted Adam in a garden where his hunger was satisfied. Christ confronts Satan in a wilderness, after 40 days of fasting, when his body is weak and his hunger is raging. Satan confronted Adam while he enjoyed the company of his wife. Christ confronts Satan utterly alone.

Satan’s Three Strategies

Do you remember the strategies that Satan used in the Garden? The first was confusion: “Did God say…?” The second was presumption: “You will not surely die…!” The third was ambition: “You will be like God…” The strategies were exactly the same in the wilderness.

1. Confusion

“If you are the Son of God…” (Luke 4:3). In effect, Satan says, “Are you sure about that? If God is your Father, he doesn’t seem to be taking very good care of you, leaving you out here in a desert like this. Strikes me you had better take matters into your own hands…turn these stones into bread.”

2. Presumption

The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here” (Luke 4:9). “Okay,” he says, “Let’s say that you are the Son of God…if God is your Father, surely he will take care of you. Can’t you trust him to float you down to the ground?”

3. Ambition

The devil led him up to a high place and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in an instant. And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor…if you worship me it will all be yours” (Luke 4:5). “Obedience to the will of God is going to be incredibly costly. Think of what it will cost you. You can do much better for yourself if you will back off this ‘obedience to the will of God.’”

A Different Outcome

It is the same strategy, but notice an entirely different outcome. Where Adam collapsed in defeat, Christ rose in triumph: When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left Christ until an opportune time (Luke 4:13). He exhausted every strategy he knew, and at the end was left with no alternative but retreat. The enemy launched everything he had in his assault against our Lord Jesus Christ, but he could not break him.

Imagine three airmen who are flying jets over enemy territory during a war. They are shot down, captured, and taken by the enemy for interrogation. One by one they are brought into a darkened room.

The first airman gives his name, rank, and serial number. Then they ask him for the positions of his forces. He knows that he must not give this information, but he knows that the enemy is cruel, and eventually they will break him, so why go through all that? He tells them what he knows.

The second airman is brought in. He gives his name, rank, and serial number, and they pump him for information.  He is determined not to tell them, so the cruelty begins. Eventually they break him, and he tells them what they want to know.

Then the third airman comes in. He gives his name, rank, and serial number. “You will not break me,” he says.

“Oh, yes we will. We have broken every man who has ever come into this room. It is only a matter of time.”

The attack begins, but he does not break. It is intensified, and he does not break, so it is intensified again, but he still does not break. Finally there comes a point where they have tried everything they know. “It is no use,” they say, “we will never break him.”

Which of the airmen faced the full force of the enemy?

Tempted, Yet Without Sin

Do not ever think that Christ’s temptations were less than we experience. Only Christ knows the full power of temptation because only Christ has withstood the full force of his assault. Adam capitulated early! Some of the heroes of the Old Testament put up a good fight, but sooner or later all of them broke.

The Bible makes it clear that Christ was “tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin” (Hebrews 4:15).

The difference between the temptations Jesus faced and ours is that we are tempted by our own evil desire: “Each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin…” (James 1:14). Sin already resides in us, but this was not true of Jesus: “He was tempted…yet was without sin.” In his case, temptation came directly from the devil, whom he confronted in the wilderness.

“Because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted” (Hebrews 2:18). Jesus can sympathize with our humanity. In his temptation, Jesus knew the suffering of hunger and thirst, hatred and ridicule, and he endured these things alone. This doesn’t mean that Christ’s temptations were any less than ours; in fact, they were greater. Christ stood against the full force of everything the enemy was able to throw at him, and he triumphed!

I trust that this gives you great hope, knowing that Christ has triumphed over the power of our enemy. The reign of sin and death has been broken, and all who belong to Jesus Christ are set free!

In Christ, Pastor Tim

[Photo Credit: Lightstock]

The Author
Tim Augustyn

Tim serves as the resident pastor, writer, and editor of Unlocking the Bible. He was born and raised in northern Wisconsin, came to faith in his 20's while working in the business world, and received a Master's in Divinity from Trinity International University. He is author of the children’s book Man on the Run, and co-author of The One Year Unlocking the Bible Devotional with Colin Smith. Tim and his wife, Janna, and their four kids live in Arlington Heights, Ill. Contact Tim at taugustyn@unlockingthebible.org.



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