The Temptation of God

Even God has faced temptation. God became a human being, and as a human being, he faced all the sorts of temptations that each of us experience (see Matthew 4:1-11 or Luke 4:1-13). Satan approached him once, after Jesus had spent a long time in the wilderness fasting a praying, The first temptation, therefore related to food: “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

The second temptation related to pride. If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written: “‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.'”

Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'”

And the final temptation related to laziness: he was offered the world if he’d only bow down and worship Satan. That would have saved the trouble of dying on the cross to get it. Jesus told him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’” And so Satan went away, at least for a little while.

In all the temptations described, Jesus resisted giving in. With each temptation, he quoted the Bible, demonstrating why it was necessary for him to resist the temptation.

Later, the author of Hebrews states that Jesus was tempted “in every way just like us” (Hebrews 4:15). We shouldn’t understand this to mean that every temptation ever faced by everyone who lived–say the temptations faced by Jack the Ripper, or the temptations faced by the current Pope or, or even my temptations to each too much pizza or sleep with someone I’m not married to were precisely the temptations that Jesus faced.

Jesus lived a long time before my fantasy woman or the existence of pizza and so he didn’t face those precise temptations. But being human, he would have faced the same sorts of temptations we all face: whether of lust, hunger, avarice, or anger. Jesus was God, but he was also completely and fully human, subject to the same needs and desires as all of us. That is the point the author of Hebrews wants us to understand.

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About R.P. Nettelhorst

I'm married with three daughters. I live in southern California and I'm a deacon at Quartz Hill Community Church. I spent a couple of summers while I was in college working on a kibbutz in Israel. In 2004, I was a volunteer with the Ansari X-Prize at the winning launches of SpaceShipOne. Member of Society of Biblical Literature, American Academy of Religion, and The Authors Guild
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