Mark 1:12-13, “The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. And he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. And he was with the wild animals, and the angels were ministering to him.”
The first event recorded by Mark after Jesus’ baptism is His temptation. Matthew’s gospel includes more details regarding what transpired. There it says that He was “led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after He had fasted forty days and forty nights, He then became hungry. And the temper came…” (Matthew 4:1-3). Three times He was tempted. Three times He responded quoting Scripture. Through it all He never sinned.
Jesus never sinned. Not then, not ever. He “knew no sin” (2 Corinthians 5:21). He never thought a sinful thought, never did a sinful deed, never said a sinful word (Cf. 1 Peter 2:22; Hebrews 4:15). He perfectly fulfilled the Father’s will in every respect. Never before or since has there been anyone like Him. The Devil tempted Adam and Eve and they sinned. Sin entered into man’s existence and every other soul born since has sinned (Romans 3:23). But Jesus never sinned. O Blessed truth!
In his allegory, Pilgrim’s Progress, John Bunyan likened our world to a “Vanity Fair” where travelers are enticed by countless temptations: “Almost five thousand years ago … Beelzebub, Apollyon and Legion, with their companions, perceiving that the pilgrims made their way through this town of Vanity, they contrived here to set up a fair wherein should be sold all sorts of vanity, and that it should last all year long. Therefore, at this fair are all such merchandise sold as houses, lands, trades, places, honor, preferments, titles, countries, kingdoms, lusts, pleasures, and delights of all sorts as whores, bawds, wives, husbands, children, masters, servants, lives, bodies, souls, silver, gold, pearls, precious stones, and what not. And, moreover, at this fair there are at all times to be seen jugglers, cheats, games, plays, fools, apes, knaves and rogues, and that of every kind. Here are to be seen, too, and that for nothing, thefts, murders, adulteries, false swearers…”
John Bunyan wrote also of the temptation of Jesus: “The Prince of Princes Himself went through this town to His own country, and that upon a fair day too; yea, and as I think it was Beelzebub, the chief lord of this fair, that invited Him to buy of his vanities; yea, would have made Him lord of the fair, would He but have done him reverence as He went through the town. Yea, because He was such a person of honor, Beelzebub had Him from street to street, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a little time, that He might, if possible, allure that Blessed One to cheapen and buy some of his vanities; but He had no mind to the merchandise, and therefore left the town without laying out so much as one farthing upon these vanities.”
Jesus knew no sin—He never sinned. He was therefore qualified to be offered up as a substitutionary sacrifice for us as a “lamb unblemished and spotless” (1 Peter 1:19). On the basis of His death and resurrection He provides for the believer salvation from sin in every respect–freedom from its penalty, power, and—in heaven—its presence.
“He was tempted in all things as we are” (Hebrews 4:16). Yet He never sinned. He is therefore able to “sympathize with our weaknesses” and “come to our aid” (Hebrews 2:18). “Jesus knows all about struggles, He will guide till the day is done; There’s not a friend like the lowly Jesus—no not one! No not one!”
Jesus was tempted with the temptations that are “common to man” (1 Corinthians 10:13) –“the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life” (1 John 2:16; Cf. Genesis 3:6). But He, the Word, responded with the word (Matthew 4:4, 7, 10). In this respect He has provided for us a great example. It is as the Word, the sword of the Spirit, is treasured in our hearts, that victory over sin is assured (Cf. Psalm 119:11; Ephesians 6:17)). Indeed, the “young men” of First John were commended because they were strong and overcame the evil one. How were they made strong? The Word of God abided in them (Cf. 1 John 2:14; Cf. Colossians 3:16).
How precious to know that in this world where sin is an ever-present reality–and terrible and tenacious foe–there is One who never sinned and indeed won the victory over our great enemy of our souls (Cf. 1 Corinthians 15:55-57). “Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:24-25).