A gracEmail subscriber asks whether Jesus was really tempted to sin, since the Bible says that God cannot be tempted and we say that Jesus was God in human flesh.
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To become our Savior and high priest, Jesus “had to be made like [us] in every way” (Heb. 2:17). In that respect he both suffered and was tempted (Heb. 2:18). Jesus’ ministry began with his baptism by John, immediately after which he was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil (Matt. 4:1-11). The night of his betrayal and arrest, he faced Satan’s temptation again in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matt. 26:36-46). Between those events, Jesus faced temptations of pride and of despair, of self-will and impatience, of anger and lust. He was tempted by covetousness and by racial hatred and religious prejudice. He encountered the temptation of depending on himself rather than on God, of seeking human approval rather than the Father’s, of choosing an agenda based on personal comfort and glory rather than the glory of the One who sent him into the world.
In becoming a man, the Word of God who created human beings divested himself of every superhuman advantage. Jesus, who was “in very nature God,” emptied himself to be “made in human likeness” (Phil.2:5-8). He did not act in his own power or speak from his own creativity. His teaching came from God; his works reflected what God was doing (John 8:28-29). Jesus performed miracles by the power of the Holy Spirit. He was not Superman — he hungered, thirsted, grew exhausted, bled, hurt and finally died. Jesus was tempted thoroughly and truly, but his heart was set firmly, clearly and consistently on pleasing the Father and so he did not sin.
The Scriptures assure us that Jesus “has been tempted in every way, just as we are — yet was without sin” (Heb. 4:15). For this very reason, among others, he is perfectly suited to stand in our place before God — which is what it means that he is our high priest (Heb 4:14). Based on Jesus’ mediation and intercession with the Father on our behalf, we can “approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Heb. 4:16).