Jesus Christ is true God and true man. False teachings (known as heresies) about the person of Christ began to appear as early as in the first centuries of the formation of the Church and the spread of Christianity. While the monophysites argued that Christ possessed only one Divine nature, their followers, called monothelites, insisted on the existence of the Savior’s two natures, united by one Divine will. The Orthodox Church, in the person of the Venerable Maximus the Confessor, postulated the presence in Christ of an independent human will and action, without which He could not be considered man in every sense of the word.
The human will of Christ was in complete harmony with the will of God the Father, so that there was no contradiction or conflict between them. Maximus the Confessor introduced the concepts of physical and gnomic will. The former refers to human nature, while the latter is a personal quality that can be described as a “will of choice” (from the Greek γνωμη – choice, intention). It is through the gnomic will that a person chooses between good and evil. The physical will of Christ, due to its divine nature, cannot be inclined towards evil. Despite having the physical ability to commit sin, essential to human nature, Jesus Christ, by virtue of His divine perfection, rejected it.
Why did Satan, who knew this, still tempt Jesus? In the patristic teaching there is the idea that the devil may not have fully understood the mystery of the Divine plan for the salvation of mankind. Nor did he understand the mystery of the Savior’s God-manhood. St John Chrysostom writes that Satan was perplexed and confused by the fact that Jesus, being publicly declared the Son of God “by a voice from heaven” sounding during His Baptism, still felt hunger after a long fast in the wilderness. As a result, the devil knew that Jesus was not an ordinary person, but at the same time, seeing him hungry, he did not believe that He was God and the Son of God. For this reason, he approached Jesus with tempting offerings.
According to the holy fathers, the temptations to which Jesus Christ was subjected, are very important for our salvation. Being similar to us in everything, except sin, Christ experienced temptations during His earthly life and prevailed against them. Thus, on the one hand, He set an example of obedience, following the will of God, and on the other, He became even closer to people, knowing human weaknesses, fears and doubts. The Venerable Ephraim the Syrian writes, “For in His act of willingly descending to (endure) suffering and temptation […] through the likeness of His nature to ours, He helps those suffering from the weakness of the flesh and subjected to temptations. He can help them, having received flesh and knowing the weakness of the flesh”.
Temptations are trials on our path to God. Just as an athlete cannot advance in his sport without regular training and overcoming obstacles, so spiritual growth is impossible without temptations. Overcoming them is a major part of our spiritual life. Christ sets us an example and gives us help in the struggle against temptations. In the words of the Apostle, ” Because he himself was tested by what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested” (Heb. 2:18).
Translated by The Catalogue of Good Deeds