The Time-Traveling Temptation of Christ
Article by Jared C. Wilson
The temptation of Jesus works backward and forward. It works backward because we see in the ways that Satan tempts Jesus the exact same ways he tempted Adam and Eve. If you remember, the serpent led Eve to believe that the forbidden fruit looked good for food. This parallels Satan tempting the hungry Jesus to turn the stones to bread. Then Eve saw that the fruit was “a delight to look at.” This is similar to Satan showing Jesus the dazzling cityscape of all the promised kingdoms. Finally, the serpent promised Eve that by taking the fruit, she could become like God, would become a kind of god herself. We see Satan tempting Jesus to exploit his own deity in Luke 4:9-11.
At each step of the way, the Accuser echoes the temptation of Adam and Eve in his temptation of Jesus. But where Adam and Eve succumbed to temptation, rebelling against God’s will and bringing death into the world, Jesus withstands the temptation, holding to the Father’s will. He thereby brings life into the world for all who will trust in him.
This is where you and I stand each day. Like Adam, we are passive. With Adam, we suffer from indwelling sin. Temptation rises up to meet us each day, in these same three ways. We are tempted to fulfill our appetites with money, with sex, with all kinds of fleeting pleasures, as if they will really satisfy the “rumbling tummies” of our flesh. We are tempted by the things we see, by what dazzles us—we want to look good, powerful, successful, put-together. And we are always tempted to put ourselves at the center of our lives, to exalt ourselves and live like little self-worshiping gods. This is all our fault, but it began thanks to Adam.
But Christ’s temptation works forward. We see in Adam’s fall our own sinfulness, but we see in Jesus’s obedience our righteousness. We are forgiven by his grace. We are filled by his grace. And we can withstand temptation by his grace (1 Cor. 10:13). Through faith, we even receive Christ’s perfect submission to the Father’s will as if it were our own! And at each point of temptation, when we set our minds to the perfect work of Christ, we find the strength to say “No” to the tempter and “Yes” to God’s glory. Unlike Eve, we don’t have to run out of “As it is written’s.”
When we go our own way, we prove we’ve still got Adam in us. But when our accuser comes calling, we can plead Christ’s obedience. Sin is all our fault, but it ends, thanks to Jesus.
Jared C. Wilson is the director of content strategy for Midwestern Seminary, managing editor of For The Church, and author of more than ten books, including Gospel Wakefulness, The Pastor’s Justification, and The Prodigal Church.