STUDENT POST: Why Jesus Could Die for Us

Editor’s note: This post is part of a series featuring outstanding excerpts from student papers at the BibleMesh Institute, which offers affordable online training for local churches, schools, and ministries. The author’s name has been withheld for privacy and security purposes. He serves as a missionary in Southeast Asia.

Every person is subject to temptation and the sin that develops from it. Southeast Asians are fully aware that sin exists, though many will not self-identify as sinners. In and around many temples, one can find murals that depict acts of sinfulness that will result in one’s sure damnation. But what Southeast Asians do not have is a way to trade sin for righteousness without treading the karmic cycle. I want to employ this biblical narrative as a means to show the stark contrasts between the deceptive beliefs they’ve been brought up with and what the truth of Christ teaches. Jesus’ victory over temptation qualified Him as the perfect substitute because He is the person we could not be.

Shortly after Jesus was baptized, the Bible tells us He was led by the Holy Spirit into the desert wilderness. It was there that, for forty days, His character was tested. For forty days, He fasted and prayed. Jesus spent this time alone preparing to launch headfirst into His earthly ministry. Just like someone might inwardly prepare their mind, spirit, and emotions for a major soccer match, Jesus was preparing Himself for His role as Savior.

Unlike other men, Jesus was not sinful. However, this time in the wilderness would be a true test of His character. It was during this time alone in the wilderness that Jesus encountered the devil. The devil has one goal: destruction. The devil will lie and contort God’s Word in order to tempt man to give in to his destructive temptations, and that is exactly what he did with Jesus.

The devil falsified what the Word of God said in order to tempt Jesus. First, the devil tempted Jesus to act independently from God the Father. The devil knew Jesus was powerful and divine, so he tempted Jesus to turn stones into bread, knowing how hungry He must have been. Next, the devil tempted Jesus to test God’s faithfulness. The devil did this by taking Jesus to a high place and declaring that God would protect Him if He leapt from it. Last, the devil tempted Jesus by telling Him that he would give Him all the kingdoms of the world if He would just bow down and worship him.

In the face of all these temptations, Jesus resisted. He did so with composure, and He correctly combatted the devil’s false use of God’s Word with truth. He showed the devil what Scripture actually said and modeled its appropriate meaning in the presence of bold temptation.

One reason Jesus was able to obey God perfectly was that He correctly cited Scripture to combat the lies of His enemy. This would be a tricky task for most, as the devil decontextualized the Scriptures he presented to Jesus. This is a favorite tool of his, and it is one that spelled defeat for mankind in the Garden of Eden.  However, it was not to the devil’s advantage against Jesus, for Jesus is the perfect Son of God, from whom those exact Scriptures came. And yet, “we must not think that Jesus used his divine powers to overcome the enemy, because that is just what the enemy wanted Him to do! Jesus used the spiritual resources that are available to us today: the power of the Holy Spirit of God and the power of the Word of God.”[1]

This true story from the Bible shows us how Jesus was able to identify with sinful man. Jesus identified Himself with sinners in need of the Holy Spirit’s power, even though sin didn’t reign over Him. Because He faced temptation as a human without faltering, He was called to go to the cross on our behalf, obeying what we are supposed to obey.

Why does man so often fail to use God’s Word to reinforce his stance against the schemes of the enemy? Going again to the scene in the Garden, we relate to the couple who allowed themselves to be duped by the devil. They had God’s Word still echoing in their ears, but they did not employ it. Yet even more than the importance of correctly using Scripture when we face the wiles of the enemy, my goal in relaying this narrative to Southeast Asians is for them to see an absolute Ruler who substituted Himself for us and was capable of doing so because he understands us. The story of Jesus’ temptation shows not only His willingness, but His sovereign ability to be the perfected Adam whom we need to repair the deeds of the first Adam.

[1] Warren W. Wiersbe, The Wiersbe Bible Commentary: New Testament (Colorado Springs, Colorado: David C. Cook, 2007), 16.