Cross Words: Jesus understands temptation

By Isaiah Pauley

Christmas is a time to celebrate the coming of God into our world. Theologians call it the incarnation. It’s a fancy word representing both the humanity and divinity of Christ. God in human flesh. And while it may seem complicated to grasp, Christmas cannot happen without it.

The Bible says, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14 ESV).

The incarnation is God putting Himself in our shoes. It’s Him being born to a virgin. As a helpless baby. In a dirty manger. In a little town called Bethlehem. The Bible describes Jesus as “… the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation” (Col. 1:15 ESV). And Christmas is a time we worship God for His coming to earth in the person of Jesus Christ.

By the Christmas story, we know that Jesus understands what it’s like to be human. As Dorothy L. Sayers writes, “If Christ was only man, then He is entirely irrelevant to any thought about God; if He is only God, then He is entirely irrelevant to any experience of human life.” But Scripture makes it clear that Jesus came as both fully God and fully man.

For the next four weeks, I’m writing about this beautiful truth. Because of the incarnation, Jesus understands the plight of humanity. He understands temptation. Rejection. Suffering. And grief. He has been there.

The topics of temptation, rejection, suffering, and grief seem disconnected from the joy of Christmas. But Christmas is more than a cute baby surrounded by cuddly animals. Christmas is about the coming of our Savior. And because of that, we find comfort in knowing that Jesus understands the struggles of humanity.

Let’s see how Jesus understands temptation.

In Matthew 4, Jesus is tempted by the devil himself. After fasting for forty days and forty nights, Jesus is hungry. “And the tempter came and said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread’” (v. 3 ESV). Not only does Jesus understand temptation, He understands hunger.

The Bible continues, “But he answered, ‘It is written, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God”’” (v. 4 ESV).

But that is only the first of three temptations. In verses 5 and 6, the devil tempts Jesus to jump from the pinnacle of the temple. In verses 8 and 9, the devil tempts Jesus to bow down and worship him for the glory of the world.

Jesus understands the battle you and I face each and every day against the enemy. “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Eph. 6:12 ESV). Jesus understands what it’s like to be tempted at points of human weakness. He understands being attacked in places of vulnerability. And that should comfort our weary hearts.

I don’t know about you, but I face temptation on a daily basis. I’m tempted to trust more in myself than God. I’m tempted to find pleasure in this world rather than God. I’m tempted to ignore what God has called me to do as His child. I often fail. It’s called sin. But Jesus handles His temptation differently.

Each time Jesus is tempted by the devil, He responds with God’s Word. After His first temptation, Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 8:3. After his second temptation, Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 6:16. And after being tempted a third time, Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 6:13.

Matthew 4:11 concludes, “Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him” (ESV).

How often do we complain about our struggle against sin as if God is unaware? How often do we blame God for our wrestling with temptation? The Bible clearly says that God tempts no one (see James 1:13).

As you face temptation, keep a few things in mind. First, Jesus understands temptation. God is aware of the battle you face. Secondly, face your temptation with the Word of God. This is your sword (see Eph. 6:17). And thirdly, understand that Jesus is greater than all temptation and sin (see Rom. 6).

No matter what kind of temptation we face, we can find rest in the arms of a Savior who understands. Why? Because He came as a baby on that day we call Christmas.

By Isaiah Pauley

Isaiah Pauley is the Minister of Worship for Faith Baptist Church in Mason, W.Va. Find more at

Isaiah Pauley is the Minister of Worship for Faith Baptist Church in Mason, W.Va. Find more at