The apostle John often focused on the fact that Jesus, though 100% deity, was 100% man also, and He lived in a fleshly body on earth. Indeed, “The Word was God” (John 1:1), and, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). Even if we only had the writings of John, such alone would affirm beyond any doubt that Jesus, though God, was also a man and walked this earth in a human body.
Why does the incarnation of Jesus matter to us? Simply, it means He was subject to both temptation and death. The Hebrews writer says, “Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil” (Hebrews 2:14). This article’s focus is on Jesus’ sinless life in the flesh.
Jesus was tempted by Satan in the wilderness. Jesus had fasted forty days (Matthew 4:2), leaving Him extremely weak physically. Luke’s account states, “Being forty days tempted of the devil” (Luke 4:2), suggesting the specific temptations recorded in Matthew and Luke may have been the culmination of forty days’ worth of temptations leading up to those specifically mentioned. Having fasted forty days and then being enticed to turn stones into bread must have been an exceedingly difficult test for the Savior.
To a mere man, such a suggestion is merely taunting, but to God in the flesh—who could do it—this was surely difficult. Some might rationalize it as sheer survival, so as to be able to finish the Father’s work, lest He starve to death. Instead, the sinless Son of God—even in such a weakened state—quoted God’s word (from Deuteronomy 8:3), saying, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God’” (Matthew 4:4). And, with the following two temptations, Jesus likewise met Satan’s evil attempts, even as Satan himself quoted (and misused) Scripture, with quotes from God’s word (Matthew 4:6,10).
Jesus was tempted by Satan at other times. Luke records, “Now when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from Him until an opportune time” (Luke 4:13). Lest we think Jesus only faced temptation in the wilderness, the Holy Spirit tells us Satan left Him alone, but only until he could secure further opportunity. Perhaps one such occasion was when Satan used Peter to tempt Jesus (Matthew 16:21-23). Peter did not realize he was being so used, nor did he intend to tempt Jesus, but after Jesus began telling His disciples how He was going to die in Jerusalem, Peter unwittingly placed himself in Satan’s shoes, tempting Jesus not to do the very thing He came to earth to do — die a sacrificial death for all. Jesus’ reply was quick and strong, as He said, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men” (Matthew 16:23). And, Satan was undoubtedly hard at work in the Garden of Gethsemane, tempting Jesus to falter at the very apex of God’s great scheme of redemption (Matthew 26:36-44; cf. Luke 22:39-44).
Jesus was tempted in all points like humanity. “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). Though He may not have faced the same exact temptations, Scripture tells us sin tempts all through three specific avenues: “The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life” (1 John 2:16). Jesus faced temptation through all three of these avenues and overcame the temptation every time (all three at once when tempted by Satan in the wilderness).
The sinless life of Jesus is not the stuff of legend, myths, or fairy tales, but is real and gives hope to mankind. Because Jesus lived a sinless life, all who come to Him in obedient faith may have eternal salvation. As Hebrews 5:8,9 says,
“Though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him.”
Furthermore, because of Jesus’ sinless life, no one can stand before God in judgment and say, “But, You are God; You have no idea what it is like to be tempted to sin.” Jesus stands as the greatest example of how to face and overcome sin with the help of God and His inspired word. Let all hear and heed the words of Psalm 119:11 –
“Your word I have hidden in my heart, That I might not sin against You” (Psalm 119:11).
Adapted from Chad Dollahite