Tempted in Our Place
Every day we pray, 'lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.' We need to pray like this, because one man, Adam, stood before the Serpent, tempted in our place. Yet we can pray with confidence like this, because another man, the Second Adam, Jesus Christ, stood before the Tempter in the wilderness, tempted in our place. And, where Adam had succumbed to temptation for us, Jesus overcame temptation for us.
You see, the temptation of Christ isn't merely an example to give us a few tips to help us overcome temptation. As Martin Luther warned, 'Be sure, moreover, that you do not make Christ into a Moses, as if Christ did nothing more than teach and provide examples as the other saints do, as if the Gospel were simply a textbook of teachings or laws.'
Jesus wasn't tempted in the wilderness merely as our Example, but as our Substitute, our Saviour, and our Victorious Champion. The Lord Jesus 'was led ... by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted' (Matt. 4:1) in our place, that we might not be led into temptation. Where Adam was overcome, the Second Adam overcame for us.
Our Saviour has won the victory over the Tempter for us, and He's not waiting for us to re-fight His battle. Instead, He invites us to enter into the enjoyment of what He has won for us: into His victory in our place, over the Tempter and the power of temptation.
Through our compassionate High Priest, who 'was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin' (Heb. 4:15), we are invited to come in prayer to the Throne of Grace, where He provides 'mercy and ... grace to help in time of need.' We're to come in prayer to the Throne of Grace, clinging to the Crucified Saviour, and crying out through His merit to the Father of Mercy, day and night: 'Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil!'
When temptations come, Jesus, our Crucified and Victorious Saviour, invites us to cling to Him, in all His compassion, His mercy and grace. So we come to Him in unceasing prayer. And we come to Him, to lay hold of Him, the One who has conquered the Tempter for us, in the places He promises to meet with us, the means of grace: in His Word and at His Table.
Jesus was tempted in our place. And Jesus overcame temptation in our place. He did it for us. And only in Him and through His Victory can we overcome temptation.
(If you want this fleshed out a bit more, here's a sermon on Matthew 4:1-11, drawing on James 1, 1 Samuel 17, and Hebrews 4 from last Sunday.)