Being forty days tempted of the devil. And in those days he did eat nothing: and when they were ended, he afterward hungry.…
A great part of the force and power of Christ's example here is lost upon men, through their slipping it aside, by secretly imagining that, after all, His case and theirs are wholly different. They read of His being tempted; and as they do not disbelieve the Scriptures, they admit in a certain way that He was — that is, they never question it. But, practically speaking, and meaning by temptation such temptations as they yield to, they do not believe that He was tempted; they have a secret reserve — " Christ was tempted, as far as He could be tempted; but how could He who was God as well as man be really tempted? What was there in Him to tempt?" By such questions the practical example of our Lord is set aside; and men lose the benefit designed for them in Scripture, in its narrative of these awful struggles of the prince of darkness with the Captain of our salvation.
1. To be truly tempted, Christ must be truly man. Unless His temptations, sufferings, and death were all wrought in appearance only, there must be that nature truly in Him which is capable of these accidents. And this, in its fullest significance, is the doctrine of the Catholic Church. And to the full perception of this truth, it must be noted, that the nature He took was the human nature as it was in His mother; not, as some have fancied, the nature of Adam before his fall; for how should He have obtained that nature from the Virgin Mary, who herself possessed it not? and if He had, how could He have been "in all points tempted like as we are, sin only excepted"? for we know not that in Adam's body were all those sinless infirmities which dwell in ours, and which indeed we acknowledge in our Lord's. Before the fruit of the forbidden tree had poisoned the currents of his blood, we know not that pain, and weariness, and sickness could have invaded that body which from God's hand had come forth " very good," and which, we doubt not, by the fruit of the tree of life was to have been strengthened till it could not taste of death. But the body which Christ assumed was subject, like our own, to those infirmities which have not in them the nature of sin, and yet which sin has brought into our nature. The contrary opinion has arisen from the pious but mistaken fear, lest in allowing that Christ took the very nature of His mother, we should, unawares, allow that He took what was sinful; but the true answer to this apprehension is, that the Eternal Son took to Himself in the womb of the Virgin, not a human person, but humanity — humanity, which, if it had been impersonated in one of us would have been sinful, but which could not be sinful until it was a person, and was never a person till it was in the Christ. "To His own person" (says Hooker) "He assumed a man's nature." The flesh, and the conjunction of the flesh with God, began at one instant. And that which in Him made our nature uncorrupt, was the union of His Deity with our nature.
2. These two natures, though thus conjoined in one person, were not confounded the one with the other; neither was the proper Godhead of the Son diminished by inferior admixture, nor the humanity swollen out of the true limits of its essential properties by the alliance of Deity. To it, indeed, Deity added that infinite worth which made it a fit sacrifice for sin; to it that grace of unction unmeasured, by which it was held up ever without spot of iniquity; but still each nature was separate and unconfused; and thus, in the unity of the Godhead could Christ declare on earth that the Son of Man was in heaven; thus could He truly suffer and die in His human body, though the Godhead is impassable and immortal; thus could He, in His human soul, be "in an agony," though Deity can never suffer; thus could He pray, "Father, not My will, but Thine, be done," while He could declare, "I and My Father are one." Here, then, was the provision made for the reality of His temptation: for in whatever way Satan can approach us from without, by the influences of a spiritual presence, as suggesting to the imagination, and throwing into the mind, that which is at once temptation, and becomes sin as soon as the will has given to it the first beginnings of assent; in this same way are we enforced, by the verity of His human soul, to believe that the Son of God could be approached by Satan. So that to make His exposure to temptation perfect, we must suppose no sinless avenues to its approach, which in us are open, closed in Him. The fiery darts, indeed, found in that most true loyal soul no sinful tendencies on which to fall; they were cast back at once from the confines of His imagination by a will truly in accordance with the will of the Father, and dwelt in beyond measure by the present influence of the Spirit of all grace. So that, with a perfect exposure to temptation, spot of sin there could be clearly none.
(Bishop S. Wilberforce.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Being forty days tempted of the devil. And in those days he did eat nothing: and when they were ended, he afterward hungered.
WEB: for forty days, being tempted by the devil. He ate nothing in those days. Afterward, when they were completed, he was hungry.