On the other hand, given his critical role in our salvation, was Jesus, like his heavenly Father, sealed righteous and incapable of sinning? Was it impossible any temptation could adversely affect him? Was it pre-determined the pulls and appetites of his human nature would never be able to lead him to sin in his thoughts and deeds?
We will explore three key Biblical passages, out of many, which show the kind of life Jesus experienced during his 33 1/2 years as a human. We will learn that the Lord recognized he could sin and therefore took steps to lessen the possibility that he did so.
Satan the snare
Jesus, starting in the middle of 29 A.D., began to openly teach his disciples that it was necessary he be rejected, suffer, die and be resurrected in Jerusalem (Matthew 16:21, Mark 8:31, Luke 9:22). Peter, upon hearing these words, began to rebuke him by stating these awesome events ought not to happen (Matthew 16:22)! Jesus' corrective response pinpointed the true inspiration behind Peter's comments.
Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense (Greek skandalon, Strong's Concordance #G4625) to Me, because your thoughts are not in accord with the things of God, but the things of men (Matthew 16:23, HBFV throughout).
The Greek word from which we get "offense" in the above verse refers to a movable stick or trigger of a trap that can snare something. It is also used, in relation to humans, to refer to any person or thing that can draw or cause someone to sin (Thayer's Greek Definitions).
How could Jesus be snared or drawn to sin by the devil if he, like his heavenly Father, was impervious to any temptation or lie his adversary could throw at him? Christ's own words admit that Satan was a potential trap for him. This is because the devil, who had sealed himself to be evil, was willing to do anything (e.g. influence Peter) to trip up our Savior and have him sin just one time!
Crying for salvation
The book of Hebrews reveals an amazing fact about Jesus' spiritual life. It records how he sought to deal with the monumental requirements of being mankind's sacrifice for sin and did not take his human nature (Hebrews 2:14 - 18, 4:15) for granted.
Who, in the days of His flesh, offered up both prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears to Him Who was able to save Him from death . . . (Hebrews 5:7).
If Jesus had no possibility of sinning then why did he frequently pray and cry, throughout his entire life, to be saved from eternal death? Why would he constantly pray to be saved if he was guaranteed to live a sinless life in the flesh and his success was 100% assured? After all, God the Father, who possesses perfect character and has never sinned (or ever will, James 1:13), does not need to be "saved" from death or anything else for that matter!
Jesus understood that his human nature was always ready to lead him down the path of sin and death (see Romans 7:18 - 24). Though possessing the Holy Spirit without measure (John 3:34), He knew he had to depend on the wisdom and strength of his Father in order to succeed in his mission. Jesus knew he could not go it alone and understood the very real possibility that he could sin.
Jesus said so!
One of the greatest proofs that Jesus not only could have sinned, but also was fully aware he had the power to do so, took place in the Garden of Gethsemane. We find in the tumultuous events involving his arrest an often overlooked statement that proves sinful options were available to him should he wish not to be tortured and executed.
Judas led a large group composed of Roman soldiers and Jewish security personnel to Gethsemane in order to arrest Jesus (Matthew 26:47, Mark 14:43, John 18:3). Peter, when the group arrived and took Christ into custody, impulsively pulled out his short sword and cut off a servant's ear in an attempt to thwart the arrest. Jesus immediately rebuked him by stating the following.
Don't you realize that I have the power to call upon the Father at this time, and He will furnish Me with more than twelve legions (roughly 12,000) of angels? But how then shall the Scriptures be fulfilled? For this is ordained to be (Matthew 26:53 - 54).
Jesus is clearly asserting he could have chosen to halt his arrest, and the events that were to transpire, but decided not to do so. Such an act, according to his own words, would have nullified a slew of prophecies regarding his role as the Lamb of God destined to suffer, die and be resurrected for our salvation (see our article on Messianic prophecies and prophecies fulfilled when Jesus died).
Jesus would have sinned had he decided to have an angelic army fight for him since such an act would have been contrary to God's will ("for this is ordained to be," Matthew 26:54). Opting not to die at that particular time in world history would have completely disrupted God's precise prophetic timetable regarding our Savior, including Daniel's famous seventy weeks prophecy (Daniel 9:24 - 27). These verses in Daniel, when correctly understood, predicted the Messiah's death would take place in 30 A.D. (Appointed Times of Jesus the Messiah, Appendix C).
The perfection plan
Jesus knew his human nature could deceive him and lead to disobedience. He was fully aware he had to be on guard, at all times, so that he would not commit a single sin either in thought or in deed. The Bible reveals his three-fold plan of action he implemented to insure (as much as possible) he never sinned while human so that he could reconcile us to God. These tactics make no sense whatsoever if it was impossible for him to sin!
1) He never acted based on his own will or judgment.
Jesus understood that, while dwelling in a human body, he was constantly susceptible to the subtle, and usually negative, influences of his human nature. He, therefore, chose to always mimic the judgments and actions of his heavenly Father (John 5:19, 30), who was the only Being in the universe, at that time, who was sealed perfectly righteous and not tempted whatsoever by sin. By imitating his Father, the living standard of righteousness, Jesus decreased the chances he would make a mistake.
2) He prayed as much as possible.
As stated previously, Jesus prayed countless times during his human existence. His heartfelt petitions, full of sadness and tears, sought out God's wisdom and spiritual strength to endure and overcome whatever came his way. His prayers in Gethsemane (Luke 22:42 - 43), where his struggles warranted God sending an angel to strengthen his resolve, is a classic example of Christ never being ashamed to ask for help at any time.
3) He frequently fasted.
Jesus was accustomed to fasting often as a means to draw closer to his Father and diminish the influence of his human nature. He went without food or water for the forty-day period he was tempted directly by the devil (Matthew 4, Luke 4). He did this in order to concentrate his mind on spiritual things.
Jesus' fasting and prayers enabled him to have the faith to cast out even the most powerful and obstinate demons who possessed a person (Matthew 4, Luke 4, Matthew 17:14 - 21, Mark 9:29). The implication, from his own words, is that without taking such measures he would not have the authority (his disciples were unable to cast out such spirits) to free people of the worst devils!
Jesus Christ, while on earth, possessed the Holy Spirit without measure (John 3:34) and was God in the flesh through his begettal by the Father. He also, however, had human nature courtesy of his mother Mary. This situation meant he would have to battle and struggle against the negative pulls of his humanity for his entire physical life.
The teaching that Jesus was not tempted like we are (see Hebrews 2:14, 18, 4:15), and that it was impossible for him to sin, is a heresy of the highest order. It makes a mockery out of his sacrifice and the trials endured on our behalf to reconcile us to God.
Jesus, while human, could have sinned but through the Father's help was able to withstand temptation and live a sinless life. By taking the steps he did, he qualified to be the perfect sacrifice for all sin and our merciful High Priest (Hebrews 2:17, 5:8 - 10). His overcoming of the temptations and struggles of human life makes possible our eternal and glorious salvation (Hebrews 5:9)!