Temptation. The temptation of Jesus recorded in Matthew 4 provides one of the clearest indicators of His humanity. He took on flesh at birth. He did not cease being God, but at the same time He became fully man. Philippians 2:5-7 indicates that He willingly set aside what was rightfully His. He chose not to act in the capacity of God, but rather He took on the likeness of humanity and became man. He endured all that man goes through. It is difficult for us to comprehend God, as Jesus, being man. He had to be changed by His parents. He had to be potty-trained (or the New Testament equivalent), learn to crawl, walk, and speak. He accepted the dynamics of family life as son, brother, and cousin. He engaged as a member of the community learning the rites and customs, politics, suffering of Roman rule, poverty, and how to generally navigate life. Realizing that the Creator, the One who spoke everything into existence, intentionally took on the limitations of His creation, is truly humbling. His humanity also gives us hope.
As we consider Jesus’ temptation, we can learn several things. First, this was not the only temptation Jesus endured. Luke 4 records that Satan left Jesus for a time (CSB). We can be sure that in His humanity, Jesus faced temptations often. Be assured, we will face much temptation.
Second, we realize that temptation is not the same as sin. We know that Jesus was without sin (Hebrews 4:15). When we are tempted, we are not sinning. It is giving into the temptation that is sin. No doubt, we realize the step from temptation to sin is not far, but temptation is not sin. We do not have to sin when we are tempted.
Third, environment does not determine the outcome of the temptation, but rather it is the pursuit of our heart that leads to our response to temptation. The first Adam lived in a perfect environment. Everything that was needed for life was gifted to Him to enjoy and have rule over. Yet, we see that his perfect environment did not dictate the desires of his heart. He believed the lie that in all that was given to him, God was still holding something back from him. Adam gave into the temptation that he was missing out on something. The second Adam, Jesus, was in the desert wilderness, after a time of fasting or going without even the necessities of life, and surrounded by wild animals, yet His heart pursued only the desires of the Father. He did not give into the temptation to believe that God was holding back from Him. He fully trusted His Father to do only what was good.
Fourth, temptation at its root, is an attempt to get something through means other than God’s ordained plan and provision. Jesus was tempted to create His own food, prove God’s faithfulness and care, and bow down to Satan as a means to avoid the suffering of the cross. God already had a plan, but Jesus needed to wait and trust His Father’s plan and provision. He chose to follow the Father’s plan because He desired the glory of the Father over the convenience of His own desires. Jesus did not choose His own convenience or comfort over His Father’s plan. How often do we sin to get something on our own terms that God has already promised?
Fifth, we further see in 1 Corinthians 10:13, our temptation is common to man. Therefore Jesus, as man, was tempted. Temptation is part of being human. It also helps us to understand that we are not facing unique temptation. Satan loves to use isolation, consider Jesus in the wilderness alone, to justify our yielding to temptation. We believe “no one understands what I am going through,” and so we convince ourselves that we are permitted to sin because of the uniqueness of our situation. The commonness of
sin also opens our eyes to see that we have the potential to commit any sin. This is hard to admit since many of us have at least a few sins that we could never imagine ourselves committing. The last thing Paul mentions in Corinthians is that during temptation, God remains faithful. His faithfulness is demonstrated by making a way to escape. The lie, “I just could not help myself” when we give into temptation is a direct attack on the character of God. We lie to ourselves about who God is and we also call God out as a liar because He did not keep His word to provide a means of escape. God is faithful, but
we often are not faithful to trust Him.
Jesus’ temptation is an encouragement to us all. Jesus truly identifies with our testing. Jesus overcame the temptation from Satan which is the foundation of our confidence that we too, in Jesus, can overcome temptation. Jesus’ perfect life as the second Adam also provides us with the assurance that even when we choose to sin in the face of temptation, He has provided the payment for our sin through His sinless life, death and shed blood on the cross, and His resurrection. Temptation and sin are real, but Christ’s
victory in the temptation is the foundation of our confidence that sin and Satan do not win in the end.
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