Could Jesus have sinned?

In Hebrews, we are told that Jesus was tempted in every way, but without sin.[1] This raises the question, “Was it actually possible for Jesus to sin?” If we say “Yes Jesus could have sinned” then that seems to help show the reality of the temptation. However, it raises questions about what would then have happened. In effect, there would be a split in the Godhead, and The Son would in effect be rebelling against himself. If we say “No, he couldn’t” then it gets rid of that problem but leaves us with a new dilemma. Now, it suggests that the temptation wasn’t so real after all.

It is important at this point that we don’t split Jesus’ humanity off from his divinity. We should not mix the two together like flour and butter to create a new pastry like substance (part human and part divine).  Nor, should we separate them out to create a situation where Jesus might have had two personalities at war with each other.

So, how do we resolve this?

My personal view is that Jesus could not have sinned. This would be impossible for him to do as God. I think we struggle with that because we see sin as powerful and almost inevitable.  The temptation therefore must have been its attraction and how much sense it made.

However, think of it this way.  When Satan turns up to tempt Jesus, the high point of his temptation is when he shows Jesus the kingdoms of The World and says “These can be yours if you bow to me.” Hold on, one second. Satan at this point is offering Jesus something he has no authority to give but also, he is trying to give him something that he already had. Jesus is the true king, the ruler of the nations. The temptation is in fact, ludicrous.

Now, go back in time to the Garden of Eden. Satan offers to make Adam and Eve like God if they eat from the tree. The correct response should have been

  1. You are not the creator, you cannot make us like God
  2. We have already been made in his image and likeness. He has given us life. We would forfeit the very things you claim to offer by submitting to you.

Sin is foolish (a big theme in the Proverbs) and yet we fall into it every time.  For Jesus, sin is not  a logical possibility. Does that then mean that his temptation was not real? No, I think we can see the reality of it. The reality is not in the plausibility of him falling. Rather, it is in the real experience of the very methods used to tempt us.  Elsewhere in Hebrews we are also told that we are not to despise discipline. We experience suffering and struggle in order to be tested by God for our good so we can be proved, can grow and he proves his love to us. Satan uses the same circumstances in order to try to draw us away from our trust in God. 

Jesus experienced real hunger, tiredness, real suffering. Yet none of those things could tear him away from his Father. We learn through the same circumstances that although we can let God down, suffering and trial will not tear God’s love away from us.

Afternoon Tea discussion on this question from 22-06-2020

[1] Hebrews 4:15

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