Was Jesus Tempted Like Me?
I was struck with a thought while reading through Hebrews. When I came across this verse—For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.—I thought, "How could a 1st-century Jewish carpenter be tempted in all the same ways as a 21st-century American woman?
We live worlds apart. Different cultures. Different challenges. Different opportunities for sin. It made me wonder, what is this about to teach me?
James wrote, “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.” (James 1:13-15)
I have to admit, James muddied it up a bit more for me. If Jesus was tempted in all things as I am—but God cannot either tempt or be tempted—then what am I missing?
Maybe I need a clearer understanding of sin and temptation.
In Romans 5:12, Paul tells us, “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned.”
Death entered the world through Adam’s sin. Adam's Sin = Death.
Through Adam’s transgression, the entire human race received a fallen, broken, sinful nature. Adam's Sin = Sinful Nature.
David understood this truth. In Psalm 51:5 he wrote, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me.”
Paul taught this. In Romans 5:19 he wrote, “For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners…”
A point to ponder here is that though Eve sinned first, sin and death didn’t enter the world until Adam joined her. I’m no theologian. I can’t even begin to wrap my mind around that. I only mention it because there’s an interesting tradition in Judaism that a person’s Jewishness is passed down through their mother, not their father. Though Jesus had no earthly father, he was still completely Jewish. If sin entering the world was credited to Eve and passed from mother to child, then Jesus would have received a sinful nature from his mother.
But Adam's Sin = Death & Sinful Nature, so, because Jesus had no earthly father, he did not receive the fallen sin nature that lives in each of us. He received the nature of his Heavenly Father. The nature that is pure and holy. The nature that is completely incorruptible.
This is why James says God does not tempt nor can he be tempted. It isn’t in his nature.
So what does Hebrews 4:15 mean? Many things, I’m sure. More than I’ll ever understand in one lifetime, but one thing that stands out to me is how it parallels Psalm 103:13-14.
Just as a father has compassion on his children,
So the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him.
For He Himself knows our frame;
He is mindful that we are but dust.
Jesus walked a mile in our shoes, so to speak. He saw and felt and experienced the ways we are constantly presented with opportunities to sin. He knows what temptation looks like.
He has compassion on us.
Is temptation the same as sin? No. If it were, James wouldn’t say, “Each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.”
Temptation is the opportunity. The doorway. The fork in the road. It’s our inner desire that navigates the outcome.
Opportunity effects each one of us. Opportunity to set our pride above God or to submit to His will. Opportunity to disobey or to be faithful. Opportunity to doubt God or to believe that what He says is true.
With Eve, Satan presented each one of these opportunities. He tempted her to disobey, he twisted her understanding of what God had told her, he appealed to her pride.
With Jesus, Satan tried the same strategy. But instead of succumbing to the temptation, Jesus withstood. His inward desire navigated him to obedience and submission to God’s will.
Eve’s inward desire (lust) carried her into sin. But though Jesus was presented with the opportunity to sin (temptation), he never allowed the temptation to bridge the divide from opportunity to inward desire and moral compromise. His nature was perfect.
And, as children of God, it’s our privilege and right to become more like Jesus every day.
For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; (Romans 8:29)
As we do, we know that because our High Priest understands our weakness, we can seek Him his help.
Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:16)
We can be confident that He will provide us with rescue. A way out when we need it.
No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it. (1 Corinthians 10:13)
And knowing that He has equipped us for the temptation battle, we can stand firm and fight.
Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (Ephesians 6:14-17)
If we remain obedient to Jesus, He will make us holy like His Father, which was His mission from the start.
Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:13-16)