The writer of Hebrews is very clear: Jesus “was tempted in every way, just as we are” (4:15). The only obvious accounts of Jesus being tempted were those when he was in the wilderness, immediately after his baptism at the Jordan River, being tempted by the devil himself (Matt 4:11). However, we must recognize that the whole life of Christ is a life face-to-face with temptations. We must realize that temptations do not only take the more common obvious forms. We face temptations when we wake up in the morning, when we sit idly or busily, when we walk, when we talk, when we minister, when we ride the public transport, when we watch the television, when we go to the mall, when we order food at McDonald’s, when we give, when we plan, when we respond and react to someone or something, when we arrive home from work, when we deal with our spouses and children, up to when we lie down and close our eyes in bed. If Jesus, according to our passage, was tempted like us in every way, then he too experienced the multi-faceted and multi-colored temptations of daily mundane existence.
Temptations can come from the most unexpected avenues. It is true that temptations can come from outside. They can come from the devil, whose tricks and schemes know no limit. They can come from even your friends and colleagues when we are faced with social conformity. They can come from our boyfriends and girlfriends when they are starting to be touchy and endearing. They can come from our family members and loved ones when they begin to become hindrances to our commitment to God and his work. They can come from strangers when their dresses are quite revealing. They can come from children when they are testing our patience. They can come from non-living things, like TVs, billboards, magazines, newspapers, computers, internet, tablets, cell phones, etc. Temptations can come from anybody and anything.
But temptations can also come from within us. Being human itself, with our inherent constitution as psycho-somatic beings, can become avenues of temptation. For example, to be hungry and to thirst are a part of being human. These are good human experiences because they keep us alive. But these basic and inherently good emotions and desires can be corrupted and turned by the devil as avenues of temptations. Hunger and thirst can lead someone to steal, kill, or hurt other people. Even sexual desire is good because it is necessary for the fulfillment of God’s command to Adam and Eve to reproduce offspring (Gen 1:28). But sexual desire can become an avenue not to produce life, but actually to take life and to make the lives of others miserable. Even the experience of love, which is a reflection of God’s own nature in our human constitution, can become the source of jealousy, bitterness, envy, and even to hatred. The ability to think is also a gift of God, but it can become the source of pride, arrogance, and conflict.
So when John wrote that “Jesus Christ has come in the flesh” (1 John 4:2), or when Paul wrote that “God sent his own Son “in the likeness of sinful flesh” (Rom 8:3), it meant that Jesus fully experienced what it meant to be human, and therefore also faced the same temptations that we face daily. The writer of Hebrews wrote that in Jesus Christ, “we have one who has been tempted in every way–– just as we are” (Heb 4:15). But because of this, Jesus truly is able to “empathize with our weaknesses.” Having been tempted like the rest of us, He is able to be merciful. When He was the cross, He prayed, “Father forgive them for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). Instead of condemning us for our sins, because He understands our human weakness, He “is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us” as our High Priest (Rom 8:34).
– Rev. Dick O. Eugenio is the Academic Dean of Asia-Pacific Nazarene Theological Seminary and SDMI Field Coordinator of the Philippine-Micronesia Field.