“And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil.” (Luke 4:1)
The good news in the story of Jesus’ temptation is that Jesus obeyed God and defeated temptation at every point where Israel, and Adam, and you and I have failed! Jesus was tempted as our brother, captain, and king. Adam, our first representative, was tempted in paradise and failed. Jesus, the second Adam and our final representative, was tempted in the desert and conquered. He reversed every aspect of the fall.
What Jesus won in this initial victory was soon to be completed in his decisive victory on the cross and over the grave. Just as the young David, freshly anointed as Israel’s king, assumed the role of champion and defeated Goliath on Israel’s behalf, so Jesus, anointed by the Spirit in his baptism, assumed the role of our champion, to defeat and disarm the devil.
When an ancient king won a battle on behalf of his people, he shared with them the plunder of the battle. His victory meant wealth for them. So it is with Christ. He has won the decisive battle against sin and Satan, and he shares with us the spoils of war.
The story of Jesus’ temptation has a very practical application, but it is different from what we might first expect. The application is not merely moral exhortation to resist or flee temptation, though Scripture does, of course, command us to both flee and resist. But the Scriptures do so much more. They provide us with rich and wonderful, gospel-laden, grace-infused, Spirit-inspired applications of Christ’s priestly work to our lives.
For example, we learn in Hebrews 2 that Christ shared human nature with us. He was “made like his brothers in every respect” (v. 17). He “partook” of our same “flesh and blood” (v. 14), or had the same basic human nature that we have. As we saw in the first chapter of this book, the eternal Son united human nature to himself in the incarnation. And his union with us in nature becomes the foundation for our union with him in grace. His shared humanity with us equips him to be a “merciful and faithful high priest” (v. 17) who “suffered when tempted” and therefore “is able to help those who are being tempted” (v. 18).
Also, in Hebrews 4:14–16, we see that Jesus not only helps us but also sympathizes with our weaknesses because he “has been tempted as we are, yet without sin” (v. 15). When you are tempted, Jesus doesn’t stand over you with condemnation and judgment. He stands beside you with understanding and compassion and readiness to give mercy and grace to help in time of need. Do you see what the writer to the Hebrews is doing? He is appealing to Christ’s incarnation and priestly work in order to encourage tempted and suffering believers.
Finally, we see also in Hebrews 4 that the same one who took our nature, endured temptation, and conquered it on our behalf has now ascended to God in human nature. Our great high priest “has passed through the heavens” (v. 14). He is at the right hand of God, interceding for us (Rom. 8:34). Take heart in knowing that you have a brother on the throne.
Excerpted from With Jesus: Finding Your Place in the Story of Christ, now available for pre-order.