As we live in this world we must understand that there are many temptations to sin in the world. Jesus was well aware of this for he knew that temptations to sin are sure to come and in this section even said it was necessary that temptations come.
Everyone in this world suffers temptation. It is how they respond to temptation that is important. If we are to suffer temptation then it is important that we understand a little about what it is and how it occurs.
Temptation occurs in this way. “…but each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin; and sin when it is full-grown brings forth death.” (James 1:14-15) Temptation is external to a person, but it is the internal issues of human passion and desire that allow temptation to bring forth sin. If we are tempted we are at a decision point to resist the temptation or to succumb to it, which leads to sin.
Jesus was aware of how this felt for he too was tempted while on the earth. It is written of him, “For because he himself has suffered and been tempted, he is able to help those who are tempted.” (Hebrews 2:18) So when we are tempted we have an advocate to help us and we can look to Jesus for support in the time of temptation. He understands our plight for he has been tempted in every way that we men and women are tempted, plus a few others. He was tempted by Satan in the wilderness to prove he was the Son of God, he was tempted through his hunger, and he was tempted with power and many other things as well.
In overcoming temptation we can go to Jesus. We can also appeal for salvation from temptation at the time of the temptation by walking in the Spirit. We see that in Jesus we have a great high priest who can help us in our time of need. The bible says, “For we have not 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. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:15-16)
We also receive help in temptation as Paul wrote, “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your strength, but with the temptation will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13) The way of escape at the time of temptation is to walk in the Spirit. It is to go to the Lord in prayer to seek strength to overcome the temptation. Paul in this verse echoes Jesus words for he says that we need to be able to endure temptation. That is, we must still go through the temptation and endure it, but that through God we will not be tempted beyond what we can bear.
Jesus describes how important it is to overcome temptations to sin. He indicates the kind of drastic steps that might be considered if temptation were out of control in a person’s life. A thief who could not resist the temptation to steal might consider cutting off their hands to prevent them from stealing. A person tempted through anger to kick out at another and harm them might consider cutting off a foot to stop them. Now while these may seem drastic, and they are, they illustrate how important it is not to succumb to temptation. Jesus is not telling us to cut off our hands or feet or to pluck out our eyes, but we must take drastic steps and measures to overcome temptation. If we fall snare to temptation and fall back into sin, then the temptation will rob us of our eternal salvation and life with Christ. That is why it is essential that we be prepared to punish every disobedience of our own and to take the most severe steps to fight against temptation. Our eternal salvation may be at stake.
People will tempt us. Satan will use other people to put temptations in our way. Jesus bemoans these people saying, “…woe to the man by whom the temptation comes.” (Verse 7) It is bad enough that we need to go through temptations, but it will be worse for the person bringing the temptation. And we need to be on our guard to ensure we do not put a temptation in the way of others. Peter was used of Satan to try to tempt the Lord Jesus as we see in Matthew 16:21-23. What should we do if we land in such a place? Repent and turn to the Lord for his forgiveness, support and help.
Temptations are necessary and must come to test us and strengthen us. But we need to learn how to resist temptations through the power of walking in the spirit and with the help of the Lord Jesus, knowing that he has already been through these things, but without sin.