One intriguing verse for me is Hebrews 4:15 which says, "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin." This high priest is Jesus. The Bible is telling us that Jesus, as a man, was tempted in all ways that we are and yet was able to stand strong against these temptations and did not sin. We therefore can take comfort in the fact that Jesus understands fully what we are going through. And we have Jesus as a model of someone who can withstand the temptations of sin without succumbing to them.
But wait a minute: how was Jesus tempted in every respect? Was he tempted in all the ways that man can be tempted? He wasn't tempted by drugs, was he? He wasn't tempted by bribes or offers of power. So how can we say he was tempted in every respect?
For me, one helpful lecture from Dr Bruce Ware helped to explain what this meant. He said to take a step back and compare the way Satan tempted Adam and the way Satan tempted Jesus. Recall that in the garden of Eden, Satan came to tempt Adam and Eve by asking them to eat the fruit that God had commanded not to eat.
Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.
How did Satan tempt Adam and Eve? He tempted them in three ways.
1) The fruit was good for food. Adam and Eve didn't need that fruit. They had a thousand other fruits and vegetables to eat. God had given them a huge variety to enjoy but now Satan was suggesting that God wasn't meeting their physical needs but the fruit could.
2) The fruit was a delight to the eyes. Now this is not simply that the fruit was good to look at. This was more of covetousness. Like how a Ferrari is a delight to the eyes. What was going on in Adam's and Eve's minds was, "I want that fruit even though God said I can't it. I want it. I'm greedy. I want more than what is mine."
3) The fruit was desirous to make one wise. Eating the fruit held the promise that Adam and Eve could be like God. This temptation spoke to their pride. They could be like God!
We know what happened to Adam and Eve. They sinned. These three sins represented categories of sin that affect everyone: 1) we are more concerned with our physical needs (food, drink, sex, pleasure, etc.) than with God; 2) covetousness is something that affects everyone and 3) we are full of pride and think we can be our own God. We can fit all sin pretty much into these three categories.
Now let's examine how Satan tempted Jesus. In Matthew 4, we read that Jesus was lead into the wilderness by the Spirit and after fasting for 40 days and nights, the devil came to tempt him. Forty days is long time to be deprived of food. Can you imagine how Jesus must have felt physically at that point?
How did Satan tempt him? He said, "If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” (Matthew 4:3). Satan was appealing to Jesus to satisfy his physical needs. Jesus' response is a model for us: being satisfied in God is better than being satisfied by things in this world. Jesus answered, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” (Matthew 4:4). So the score was Jesus 1: Adam 0. What I mean is, Adam failed on that temptation. Rather than taking pleasure in God's command, he decided to get pleasure instead from the fruit.
Then Satan tempted Jesus with the third category of sin: pride. He said, "If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’” (Matthew 4:5–6). In other words, Satan was asking Jesus to prove he was the Son of God. He was appealing to Jesus' pride. Satan was saying, "You're supposed to be God! Prove it!" Jesus did not fall for that but quoted Scripture to deflect the temptation: "Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” (Matthew 4:7). Jesus 2: Adam 0.
Finally, Satan pulled out the second category of temptation. This time he appealed to covetousness. "Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” (Matthew 4:8–9)
Even though the world belongs to the Lord, Satan is the present ruler of the world. He could give it all to Jesus as he was suggesting. In a sense, this was Jesus' mission. He came to take back what belonged to God. And Satan was offering it to him the easy way: worship me, then you wouldn't need to go through the pain of the cross to gain the world back. It was a tempting offer. Satan was offering the world to Jesus.
Once more, Jesus refused to be tempted. He said, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, 'You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’” (Matthew 4:10) Jesus 3: Adam 0.
Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man's obedience the many will be made righteous.
We call Jesus the second Adam. He is the first man to have a righteousness equal to God's. Jesus himself bought us that righteousness with his blood. What Adam failed to do, Jesus did. Thus the writer of Hebrews can refer to Jesus as "one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin." Jesus was tempted in the same categories of sin that we are: physical needs, covetousness and pride. Yet, he did not succumb but led a life without sin.
Jesus, as a man, did not live his life on earth using his divine power. Instead, he deliberately came to live a real human life, as one of us, to experience the limitations and struggles of our life, to undergo the temptations we encounter. But to do this, he could not live truly as a man while also using power that he alone would have as God. To live by his power as God, he would not and could not live as one of us. So instead, as a man, he relied on the Spirit of God to grant him all that he needed to live life faithfully and to carry out everything that the Father sent him to do. In this way, He really is an example to us of how to live for God as people.
1 Peter 2:21
To this you were called, Christ…leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.
I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me…
1 John 2:6
whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.
As a man, empowered by the Spirit, he fulfilled his calling. And before he left he told his disciples the most amazing thing. He said that the Spirit who had been on him would also be on them. What joy for us, to be rid of Adam's nature, and to receive the righteousness of Christ and to live by the same Holy Spirit he relied upon. Thanks be to God!