We all know the story of Jesus going into the desert for forty days, but we do not take sufficient note of the reason for which the Spirit led him there. Luke, in today’s Gospel says he was led there “to be tempted.”
So, apparently, it was integral to his mission on earth, that he be tempted. There are two short passages in “The Letter to the Hebrews” that speak of Jesus being tempted. The first is verse fifteen of Chapter Four of that letter. The second is from verse seven through nine in the next chapter. Let me quote them.
We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who was similarly tempted in every way, yet without sin. (Hebrews, 4:15)
In the days when he was in the flesh, he offered prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered, and when he was made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.(Hebrews 5, 7-9)
The Bible says he was tempted in every way that we are. That means he was tempted to be proud, to be greedy, to be lustful and all the rest. He didn’t give in, but his trials were more than anything to which we are submitted. Think of him in the Garden of Olives, sweating blood in his effort to submit himself to God’s will.
The first major heresy threatening the early Church was Docetism. That heresy got its name from dokein, the Greek word for a mirage. The Docetists, out of reverence for Jesus, were saying that he was so spiritual that his body was only a holy mirage that never had to sweat or experience anything nasty.
Speaking of those Docetists, St John, in his Second Letter, wrote, “Many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus coming in the flesh.” St. John could be worked up over rejecting such people, because he had been with Jesus in the Garden of Olives, when he was going through that heroic struggle by which he completely subdued his self-love by accepting the death by which he saved us.