10 Minute Read + Scripture readings
Today’s Bible Reading:
Today’s Bible Verse(s):
“Therefore, he had to be like his brothers and sisters in every way, so that he could become a merciful and faithful high priest in matters pertaining to God, to make atonement for the sins of the people. For since he himself has suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are tempted.”
Hebrews 2:17-18 (CSB)
Reflections on Today’s Bible Verse(s):
First of all, we have to define “temptation.” Simply put, temptation is when desire and opportunity converge. If you desire to do something that God has forbidden and you also have an opportunity to engage in that sin, you are genuinely tempted.
So, what does it mean that Jesus was tempted? After all, since He is fully God, then He “is not tempted by evil, and he himself doesn’t tempt anyone.” How are we to understand this?
This is a point of much debate and has been for centuries. So, let’s talk about it.
Jesus is God in the flesh. As God in the flesh, He was fully human yet lacked one thing that every other human had/has – the sin nature. We are all born with a sin nature which explains our sinful cravings. We sin and violate God’s laws because there is within us what the Bible sometimes calls “the flesh” that wants to focus upon gratifying self regardless of what God has said. Even though God’s laws are given for our good, we often violate them to our own harm … because of the sin nature.
Well, Jesus didn’t have a sin nature. Thus, the question: “How could Jesus be tempted if He didn’t have a sin nature? He was given opportunities to sin by Satan in Luke 4:1-13. But if He didn’t have the desire, then how could it be temptation?”
An even bigger question than that is, “How could it be said that Jesus was tempted when He was, in fact, God?” God can’t be tempted, right (James 1:13)?
For starters, the Word of God calls it “temptation” so, well, um, that’s what it was whether we understand it or not.
Second, Adam and Eve were not created with a sin nature. They were created neutral to sin. They could take it or leave it. Unlike us, there wasn’t a driving force within them that compelled them to sin. Yet, they sinned.
I believe that it is in this way that we are to understand Jesus’ human nature. He was fully human. Yet, He had more in common with Adam than He did with you or me. (In fact, Jesus is compared/contrasted to Adam in the New Testament – see Romans 5:12-21 & 1 Corinthians 15:45-49). He did not have the driving force to sin within Him that you and I have. He was neutral to sin like Adam and Eve in their original state. In His human nature, He could take it or leave it.
Yet, that being the case, one can see how even though Jesus was neutral to sin He could be tempted in the three areas that Satan hurled at Him.
Jesus was hungry (He hadn’t eaten for 40 days!) and Satan tempted Him with the idea of recklessly using His divine power to turn rocks into bread (Luke 4:3-4). That would be VERY tempting!
Jesus knew that claiming a position of authority over the world would require His substitutionary death (see Philippians 2:5-11). Satan provided a shortcut (Luke 4:5-8). We can see how this would be tempting, can’t we?
In the third and final temptation, it seems as if Satan was calling upon Jesus to prove that He really was a person of divine value. He could find out by jumping off the highest point of the temple and seeing Heaven’s angelic host come to His rescue (Luke 4:9-12). The assurance from Heaven could be tempting.
So, it is true that Jesus was tempted. Even though His human nature was neutral to sin, we can see how the temptation that Satan lobbed at Him was truly tempting.
Yet, how are we to understand that Jesus was tempted when we consider His divine nature? After all, since He was God in the flesh, He couldn’t be tempted (see James 1:13)?
An explanation that has made the most sense to me is found in the book, “Systematic Theology” by Wayne Grudem. In it, the author states that we may understand Jesus’ human nature by picturing someone in a baseball game. They are the catcher behind home plate. The pitcher winds up and throws the ball. The catcher is supposed to catch it and absolutely not let it get past him. Yet, if the ball gets past him, there is a backstop behind him to stop the ball.
It was noted that the human nature of Jesus is the “catcher.” Satan lobbed temptations at Him and he combated those temptations in the realm of His human nature. (If He had combated them in the realm of His divine nature, it could not have been accurately said that He was tempted since God cannot be tempted.) If His human nature had failed and was made willing to yield to temptation, His divine nature would have stopped it from happening. Yet, that never happened. Jesus battled Satan and sin in His flesh and emerged victorious.
In fact, we could even say that Jesus knows what temptation is like even more than we do. We often only experience momentary temptation before we give in. Yet, Jesus bore the full weight of temptation because He refused to give in.
So, Hebrews 2:17-18 is absolutely accurate when it says that Jesus was genuinely tempted.
Since Jesus has experienced temptation and understands what it’s like, call out to Him when you are struggling. Not only does He know all things as God, He experientially knows what it’s like. He can help you, friend.
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Lord Jesus, thank You for coming to die on the cross and rise from the dead so that I can be forgiven and made righteous in the Father’s eyes. But I also thank You for coming to live as a man so that You can understand, experientially, what it’s like to be tempted. Since You’ve experienced the full force of temptation by Satan himself, You understand my struggle and are able to help me during those times. Praise Your Name! Amen.