Did Jesus ever want to sin?
The basic idea in the various forms of the Hebrew and Greek words behind our word tempt is to attempt something. You can still see that notion in some NT texts that have no religious significance; texts such as Acts 17:7 where Paul and his companions tried to enter Bithynia and in 9:26 where Paul tried to join himself with fellow-disciples and in 26:21 where some Jews made the attempt to kill Paul. In Deuteronomy 3:24 we have the word used in two senses. God wants to know if any other god had made the attempt (tried) to rescue another nation for himself by trials. And on the illustrations go.
But the basic idea doesn't show in most texts and the prominent idea is testing or subjecting to a trial. Often it is Israel that puts God to the test (tempts him) as in passages like Exodus 17:2, 7 and sometimes it is God who puts his elect to the test (tempts them) as we can see from Genesis 22:1 and Deuteronomy 8:2 and in Exodus 16:4 where God tests (tempts) them to see if they will obey his instructions.
In comparing how the same words are used we learn the difference in meaning depends on motivation and purpose. Israel puts God to the test when their hearts are evil and that spirit gives the testing its moral quality. Their rescue from Egypt, Gods keeping his word to Abraham and his children all that is forgotten and distrust and ingratitude lead them to test God. You come across a lot of this in the Gospels when people come to test (tempt) Jesus.
The words are never used of God testing the non-elect and this suggests a specifically covenantal quality and though this does not mean that God doesn't put the non-elect to the test, it does mean that OT texts relate peculiarly to the elect. Gods testing of Abraham or his elect nation doesn't rise out of spite or some wicked motive. Its what loving parents often do with their children, its what good coaches do with athletes or what good teachers do with students. The aim of testing (tempting) is not to produce failure but the reverse. This pure purpose to bring about blessing (to someone somewhere) gives the temptation its moral quality.
Some might have been tempted and fallen into evil and wanted to justify their fall, to excuse themselves and claim it was Gods doing, but James 1:13-17 will not allow that. James makes several assertions.
1) He says God cannot be tempted with evil.
2) He says God doesnt tempt anyone (to do evil).
3) He says a man is tempted (to evil) by his inner workings.
In saying that God cannot be tempted James isn't denying that Israel tempted God; he is saying there is nothing in God himself that can respond to an opportunity to sin. This not only says something about the inexpressible holiness of God, it underscores the next point.
God is so far removed from sin because of his own nature, he can never approve of it; his spirit is forever set against sin. This means that no one should think that God wanted him to sin, that God thought or thinks that it is a good thing for the man to sin. God knows we will sin when put to the test and he will use even our sin to further his blessed purposes but the sinful choice is our choice and not his and it is not to our credit that he is able to use our evil to bring good.
We who are sinful have been shaped by sinning and when the occasion presents itself outside us and we are seduced by it into sinning its because we have it in us to sin when the opportunity becomes available.
This should lead us to understand that our being tempted and Jesus being tempted are the same but different.
Satan is presented as tempting Jesus to do evil and as tempting us to do evil. The aim is the same and the satanic motive is the same but the inner workings of temptation are not the same because in us there is the moral capacity to want to do evil and this was absent in Jesus. To be willing to do evil or to want to do it is already a moral defect (compare Matthew 5:28 and texts like it). There was nothing of that in Jesus so when the invitation (temptation) to sin came to him it didn't come to him out of his sinful willingness (see again James 1:14).
The perfect holiness of the Christ was gained by ceaseless adoration of his Holy Father and the practice of righteousness. This one was so healthy that the sinful virus could find no place in him as it initially found and now finds in us.
Temptation, for us, is a complex combination of our inner make-up and the thing outside us so that in our experience temptation includes our capacity to be attracted by the evil and then carrying it out. When we resist temptation we have by Gods grace said no both to the offer outside us and no to the inner attraction we feel for what is offered. In such a case we not only say no to the act we say no to the sinful bias that is now a part of us.
But even that needs further development. Its untrue to say that a temptation is not really a temptation unless we find the offer appealing, that we would like to do it. Praise God there are hosts of people among us who have so outgrown specific evils that when the offer is made to them they hardly take notice of it. They have become so inwardly shaped and strengthened that the offer which continues to be real is rightly dismissed as no temptation at all.
We should take great comfort in that! It means that by God's grace there are some things to which we can say a resounding no and what's more, were expected to do just that; see Titus 2:11-12! [That strengthening grace from God is extended to us in so many ways, family, friends, experiences, honourable acquaintances, good response and many more. But never by magic.]
[In saying that Jesus was tempted as we have been tempted were not to conclude that there were times when he wanted to do evil. To want to do evil is evil! This would mean that the temptations that came Jesus' way were not beaten by a sheer act of conscious willing; they were beaten by the set of his heart, the vision of his soul and the practice of righteousness. This would mean that there were opportunities to sin that he hardly noticed and that when the screws were turned and the pressure of circumstances became a very great burden he called on his training and the discipline of his soul and his unswerving loyalty to his Holy Father and his purposes.
Its important to say that the set of Jesus heart was made up of innumerable small decisions to do what is right when it was easy to do what was right. He didn't come into our human life with an already existing inner armour. He grew in wisdom and stature and in favour with God. See Luke 2:40, 52.]