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3.The Temptation of Christ (Hebrews 2:10-18, 4:15-16)

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Hebrews 2:10 For it was fitting for him, for whom and through whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through sufferings. 2:11 For indeed he who makes holy and those being made holy all have the same origin, and so he is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters, 2:12 saying, “I will proclaim your name to my brothers; in the midst of the assembly I will praise you.” 2:13 Again he says,“I will be confident in him,” and again, “Here I am, with the children God has given me.” 2:14 Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, he likewise shared in their humanity, so that through death he could destroy the one who holds the power of death (that is, the devil), 2:15 and set free those who were held in slavery all their lives by their fear of death. 2:16 For surely his concern is not for angels, but he is concerned for Abraham’s descendants. 2:17 Therefore he had to be made like his brothers and sisters in every respect, so that he could become a merciful and faithful high priest in things relating to God, to make atonement for the sins of the people. 2:18 For since he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are tempted. NET

Hebrews 4:15-16 For we do not have a high priest incapable of sympathizing with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in every way just as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and find grace whenever we need help. NET

Last week we looked at the humanity of Christ and the mystery of His incarnation. Today we look at a distinct aspect of His humanity: Temptation. As we see His temptations, we realize He is a truly unique savior who can identify with the afflicted.


Through our several international moves, I have come to consider one mark of a settled home—the ability to make chocolate chip cookies. Once our kitchen has all the appliances and requisite ingredients, baking cookies brings a much needed sense of family stability. After our move to Singapore, my daughter Kathryn was my assistant baker during this crucial batch. Now, I’m all for a good finger-licking during the batter making stage, but some limitations must be set for two year olds! I promised her a beater full of dough from the mixer if she could resist sticking her fingers in the batter. All seemed smooth with the teaching experiment, until Kathryn suddenly jumped up down from the stool, bolted to her room, and plopped down on her bed with her blankie. “It’s TOO HARD! I can’t do it, mommy!”, she lamented, as I tried to console her. My pep-talk remained unconvincing the face of such grave temptation.

There are many days I feel like Kathryn on the inside. Waves of anxiety or discouragement wash over me, tempting me to fear or lose hope. Can Jesus identify with me? Did He ever struggle against fear or failure? Was He ever tempted to doubt His Father’s goodness and care? Did he experience real temptations, or did He have some kind of super-resistant strength unavailable to the rest of us?

Suggested Study Timeline:

Day 1: Read the whole book of Hebrews (You can do it!) 

Day 2: Read Hebrews 1:5-2:18 to grasp context of Christ’s superiority over angels

Day 3: Read Hebrews 3:12-14; 5:11-6:2; 10:26-36 to grasp the audience’s temptations

Day 4: Read the background info and answer the “discussion” questions

Day 5: Read passages detailing Christ’s temptation in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11; Luke 4:1-13);and in the garden (Matthew 26:36-46).

Day 6: Answer the “application” questions

Day 7: Spend time in prayer and worship

Background for the book of Hebrews:

The book of Hebrews is perhaps the most unique ‘letter’ of the New Testament, as the date and author are unknown. Scholars disagree regarding the author, proposing Paul, Barnabas, Priscilla & Aquilla, or Apollos. The audience is assumed to be Jewish, because of the title, and the many Old Testament references. More Old Testament references are quoted in Hebrews than any other New Testament book. Hebrews encourages readers not to return to the Law, because the promises of Christ as far superior. The book outlines the supremacy of Christ over the angels, over Moses, and over the former priesthood. The book includes many warnings of increasing severity to encourage the believers toward maturity spurred on by Christ’s example1.

Context of Hebrews 2:10-18

This section comes in the author’s larger discussion (1:5-2:18) of Christ’s superiority over the angels. He offers 3 proofs: 1) The Scriptures demonstrate it (1:5-14); 2) His sovereignty demonstrates it (2:5-9); and 3) His offer of salvation demonstrates it (2:10-18).

Context of Hebrews 4:15-16

In these verses, the author discusses Christ’s superiority to the former priesthood. He argues that Christ is over Aaron because He has a better position than Aaron.

Old Testament quotes in the New Testament

Hebrews is FULL of Old Testament quotes! Hebrews provides an excellent example that Christ is the point of all the Scriptures, but this is not unique to Hebrews. In John 5:39, Jesus tells the hard-hearted Pharisees, “You study the scriptures thoroughly because you think in them you possess eternal life, and it is these same scriptures that testify about me….” (At the time, the Scriptures were comprised of only the Old Testament.) We see this again in Luke 24:27 as Jesus was walking with the men of Emmaus after His resurrection. “Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things written about himself in all the scriptures.” Sometimes the Old Testament reference alone seems obscure, but when the New Testament reflects back upon it, it makes perfect sense. It requires a bit more work, but taking time to understand the Old Testament references will help unlock hidden imagery. A simple way to start is to ask yourself, Who was writing this Old Testament passage? What did it mean to his audience? It will make the passage rich with meaning!

Discussion Questions: Grasping the Meaning

1. In Hebrews 2:10, in what sense was Christ ‘perfected’2?

2. This same word ‘perfected’ is used in the following verses. What info does their context provide about the meaning of this word?

  • Hebrews 5:8-9
  • Hebrews 7:28
  • Hebrews 10:14
  • Hebrews 11:40

3. Why is Christ not ashamed to call us brothers? (or sisters? )

4. What is the context of the Old Testament quotes in vs. 12 & 13, reflected in Psalms 22:22, and Isaiah 8:17-18?

  • Psalms 22:22
  • Isaiah 8:17-18

5. What reasons do Hebrews 2:14, 15, 17 give why Christ became flesh and blood?

6. In 2:16, why does the author refer to Abraham?

7. What does it mean, “He himself suffered when he was tempted”? In what way/sense was He tempted? (Ponder the scenes in Matthew 4:1-11; Luke 22:39-45; Matthew 26:36-56.)

8. What are other sources of temptation mentioned in the following verses? Which of these temptations do you tend to struggle with?

  • 1 Corinthians 7:5-7
  • 1 Corinthians 10:6-13
  • 2 Corinthians 11:3
  • Galatians 6:1-5
  • James 1:12-16
  • 1 Timothy 6:9-10

9. According to Hebrews 2:18 and 4:15, why is He able, and how does He aid the tempted?

Application Questions: Grasping the Heart

  1. If God, theoretically, found another way for us to be saved without Christ becoming human and dying for us, how would this affect your relationship with God as you struggle against sin?
  2. Do you think it was theoretically possible for Christ to sin? What would your answer imply about His ability to identify with temptation? If Christ could sin and did—even just one little time, (besides not being a perfect Savior), would that be a comfort to you3?
  3. In what way/sense has Christ experienced my temptations? Did He experience temptation in the same sense that we do? What stories from His life can you think of that give us clues to the degree of His struggle against temptations? (See Hebrews 12:3-4.)
  4. What (current or ongoing) temptations do you experience in the face of trials? What remedies other than Christ do you run to in your struggles?
  5. What do you think are some of God’s purposes in allowing us to face temptation? (See Hebrews 12; also James 1:2-4.)
  6. How might your reflections on Christ’s identification with our temptations affect the way you would cry out to Him in the midst of struggle? What would you say differently after this study?
  7. Once we have identified areas of personal temptation, we may tend to feel alone or embarrassed to share our weaknesses. Yet, the Bible exhorts us to “confess your sins to one another and pray for one another so that you may be healed.” (James 5:16). God intends the believing community around us to be part of our growth process! Take some time to share and encourage one another with the temptations you are currently facing.
  8. Share with one another what truths have been most meaningful to you. Spend a moment writing down the insights you have heard from others during this study that have enriched your own perspective.
  9. What about this aspect of Christ’s humanity has made Him appear more glorious or beautiful to you this week? Write a prayer praising Christ for His identification with your temptations and asking His help in your current struggles. Ask Him for a specific way He would have you apply this lesson.

Group prayer requests for the week

Lord Jesus,

We can only come to you because you stood fast in temptation. You are beautiful in your willingness to bear shame and injustice without retaliation. Please help us! We struggle and fight and surrender to you and know your help only by your merciful faithfulness. We have nothing within ourselves that can know victory apart from your intervention. Help us to look to You in every battle. We are floored by your unfathomable condescension—that that you are not ashamed to call us your siblings. You are a beautiful Savior!


1John D. Hannah, The Book of Hebrews, Class Notes (Fort Collins, CO: Institute of Biblical Studies, June 2005).

2 Sometimes when you don’t know what it means, it helps to ask, “What cant it mean?” We know it can’t mean anything that contradicts the rest of Scripture. The word “perfected” comes from teleoo, which means “complete, accomplish, or consummate.” New Exhaustive Strongs Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary, in Biblesoft Electronic Database [CD-ROM] (International Bible Translators, 1994).

3 Sometimes we think that someone cannot identify with us unless they have experienced our exact circumstances. Sometimes we only tend to listen to those who share a similar past and struggles. Yet Christ never sinned like we do. Does Christ need to have sinned in order to identify with sinners? Dr. John Hannah once told a story about a woman who approached him after a lecture. He related how he formerly believed that Christ was incapable of sin. The woman asked, “If Christ did not truly struggle against sin, then how can He be a help to me?” After pondering her question, he changed his mind—now believing that it was possible for Christ to sin, yet He did not.

Related Topics: Character of God, Temptation

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