The Council of Ephesus (431 AD) teaches that Jesus is fully divine and fully human. Being fully divine, He has power over death and over nature – He brought Lazarus back to life (Jn 11:38-44) and calmed the storm (Mt 8:23-27). Being fully human, he was born a human baby and had human emotions. He slept, ate, suffered and died. Being fully human though, did he sin?
The Second Vatican Council (1962-65), declared the following:
“He Who is ‘the image of the invisible God’ (Col. 1:15), is Himself the perfect man. To the sons of Adam He restores the divine likeness which had been disfigured from the first sin onward. Since human nature as He assumed it was not annulled, by that very fact it has been raised up to a divine dignity in our respect too. For by His incarnation the Son of God has united Himself in some fashion with every man. He worked with human hands, He thought with a human mind, acted by human choice and loved with a human heart. Born of the Virgin Mary, He has truly been made one of us, like us in all things except sin.”
(Taken from Paragraph 22, Gaudium et Spes, the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, promulgated by Pope Paul VI on 7 December 1965)
In other words, Jesus assumes human nature and is like us in “all things except sin”. Mt 4:1-11 and Lk 4:1-13 recall how Jesus, like us, was tempted by the devil. However, unlike us, he did not succumbed to the temptations. In one episode, the devil “took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendour” (Mt 4:8). This is a telling episode on how the Jesus-devil encounter actually occurred. We know that a mountain so high that one can see all the kingdoms of the world does not actually exist. Hence, rather than a person-to-person encounter with the devil, these temptations of Jesus are most likely an inner struggle with temptations, much like many of us do in our day-to-day lives.
Thus, the human Jesus was tempted like us, had human struggles like us, but did not sin. How is this possible, you might ask. The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains it this way, “Christ’s human nature belongs, as his own, to the divine person of the Son of God, who assumed it. Everything that Christ is and does in this nature derives from ‘one of the Trinity’. The Son of God therefore communicates to his humanity his own personal mode of existence in the Trinity. In his soul as in his body, Christ thus expresses humanly the divine ways of the Trinity” (CCC 470). In other words, the divine Jesus communicates to the human Jesus the perfection that is predestined for all humanity. On this point, let us recall that our first parents were in fact created in the image and likeness of God (Gen 1:26), in other words, perfect. In one moment of defiance, Adam and Eve defied God and succumbed to temptation. From that point on, our spiritual vision was darkened by sins and is vulnerable to repeated falls to temptations. This is why Gaudium et Spes teaches that Jesus is “the perfect man”, and that ”to the sons of Adam He restores the divine likeness which had been disfigured from the first sin onward”.
Jesus, by being born a human, showed us how perfect we were meant to be. Being the unblemished Lamb, his suffering and death paid for all our sins. This is reason why we acknowledge Jesus as our Saviour. Conversely, if Jesus has sinned, by his own accord, he would have been subject to death and decay like us. In fact, he would be in need of salvation himself and hence cannot be our Saviour. Thankfully, Jesus is indeed sinless, and his death brought us everlasting life – the way we were meant to be when God created our first parents. Alleluia!