In Reason #24 (which you can read by clicking here) I discussed how Jesus came to live out a perfect life. He obeyed the Law perfectly, something that no human being was able to do or is able to do. He was one with the Father and he knew that his purpose was to live out a perfect life in order to be a perfect sacrifice.
The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke all tell of a time when Jesus was tempted in a special way, and these passages have become known as “The temptation of Christ.” I think this title is a little bit misleading, as surely Jesus faced many temptations all throughout his life. It was not like this was the only point in time that he was tempted or needed to overcome temptation. Nonetheless, it would be good for us to take into account a few observations regarding the time when Christ was in the desert and tempted by the devil.
As you may recall, Jesus was tempted by Satan 3 times: 1) to turn stones into bread, 2) to have God save him miraculously after jumping off a high ledge, and 3) to rule over all of the world’s great kingdoms and thus receive earthly fame and honor.
1 John 2:16 (NIV) states: “For everything in the world--the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life--comes not from the Father but from the world.” It is clear that the devil wanted to tempt Jesus on all three of these levels.
The great theologian Thomas Aquinas, one of the most influential theologians in history, expounded on the temptation of Christ in his monumental work, Summa Theologiae (in section 3, question 41). There, he states that it was totally fitting and right that Jesus was tempted. He quotes Hebrews 14:15 a couple of times:
“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.”
Gregory the Great, (the last good pope, in John Calvin’s opinion) stated: “It was not unworthy of our Redeemer to wish to be tempted, who came also to be slain; in order that by His temptations He might conquer our temptations just as by His death He overcame our death.”
Returning to Thomas Aquinas, he points out that some people may come to believe that if a person is holy enough, then they will be free from temptations. Aquinas refutes this, stating that no person may consider themselves so great as to be free from experiencing temptation because Christ, the perfect holy man, suffered through temptation.
Regarding the temptation of Christ, many have also observed a juxtaposition of Christ’s victory over temptation as opposed to Adam’s fall and defeat when confronted with temptation. Adam lived in a perfect garden, he was at one with the presence of God and had everything he needed around him, yet he failed. Jesus, on the other hand, was tempted in the harshest of conditions – in the middle of a desert and after 40 days of fasting – yet he did not give into temptation! Paul contrasts Adam and Christ in Romans chapter 5: “For just as through the disobedience of the one man [Adam] the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man [Jesus] the many will be made righteous” (v. 19, NIV)
Now as I stated above, we know that Jesus was surely tempted in many ways throughout his life besides the moment in the desert. As a boy he was surely tempted by others in the neighborhood. During his ministry, surely he was tempted to punch his opponents who were trying to trick him, defame him, and even kill him.
I’m sure he was tempted to fight or at least to run and hide when Judas came with the Roman guards to arrest him. Instead of escaping conflict, or fighting against the Romans, or even simply yelling out names against them, he healed the ear of one of the guards. The ear happened to be cut off by Peter, who, opposite of Jesus, gave into his temptations and sought to seek his own vengeance. He let his own emotions and desires dictate what was right at the moment.
In conclusion, Thanks be to God that he knows our fight against temptations!
Questions to consider:
How can you, like Jesus, be more connected to God and understand more about your mission and purpose for your life? (both of these aided Jesus in his fight over temptation)
Does it help to know someone else has gone though the same trials that you have? Is there someone you can reach out to who maybe could help you or give you insight as you go through a specific tough moment?
For further reading:
Thomas Aquinas’ treaty on the Temptation of Christ: http://www.newadvent.org/summa/4041.htm
An article by John Piper regarding his opinions on Romans 14:23: