Did Jesus have the ability to say "No" to the Father?



When I’m tempted to sin, if it’s impossible for me to do it, then such a temptation is rather easy to overcome.

If Christ was unable to turn the stones into bread, then I really don’t see how His actions (or lack of action) sets much of an example for me. I don’t see much point in the event overall. If He could not have turned the stones into bread, then (quite frankly): “so what?”

I’m not tempted to do things I cannot do (not much, anyway) but I am very much tempted to do things which I can do.


Let me offer another perspective…

Had Christ given into the temptation of the Devil, and had He done what the Devil asked of Him, He would be giving undeniable proof of His divinity. However, as St. Chrysostom writes:

“How does [the Devil] expect to discover by this proposition whether He be the Son of God or not? For to fly through the air is not proper to the Divine nature, for it is not useful to any. If then any were to attempt to fly when challenged to it, he would be acting from ostentation, and would belong rather to the Devil than to God. If it is enough to a wise man to be what he is, and he has no wish to seem what he is not, how much more should the Son of God hold it not necessary to shew what He is; He of whom none can know so much as He is in Himself?”

Because it is not proper to the divine nature for Christ to boldly proclaim His divinity in the ways suggested by the Devil, He was incapable of doing this. Thus, it was not possible for Him to give into the Devil’s temptation, because it would contradict the divine nature. And likewise, being a perfect Man as well, His human will must be fully in accordance with the divine will (as it is with all those in heaven), and as such, He could not sin.

I need to think about this more; I’m open to correction, especially from a priest.


Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. He fasted for forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was hungry. Matt. 4: 1-2


If Jesus didn’t have the ability to say no to the Father than he wasn’t human. Being tempted is a fundamental part of being human and you can’t be tempted if there’s no way you could sin.

However, Jesus was completely free in a way unlike you and me. It’s not so much that Jesus was unable to say no as he was able to say yes. Who in his/her right mind wouldn’t choose to be with the all powerful God for all eternity? Well if anyone is presented with the choice and chooses what they don’t want, it must not have been a choice.

Thus as St. Paul says we’re a slave to sin. And we choose not God because we can’t choose God. We haven’t yet alligned ourselves perfectly with his will:

Romans 7:15-20:

15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good.17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.



I’ve always liked the two very different approaches to this Gospel event: the Eastern and Western.

In the Western approach, the Devil is testing Christ. In the Eastern approach, the Devil is testing his own knowledge.


@semper_catholicus seemed to be making a larger point. Because Christ is perfect Man and incapable of sin, He have had complete dominion of the will over His human body. Thus, although He experienced the sensation of hunger, being fully Man, that hunger in itself could not have become an incentive to give into the temptation presented to Him by the Devil.


Interesting article, but I think the author, Father Ryan Erlenbush, overlooks the Agony in the Garden where Jesus made perfectly clear that His own personal will differed from the will of the Father. He asked for a way out! However He always put His personal will secondary to that of the will of God. And by always DECIDING to do the will of God He maintain that perfect union.


Did Christ’s human will or divine will differ from His Father’s?


He was hungry, but being God, he wasn’t bothered by hunger, so He easily overcame it.

Therefore, He was never really hungry in the first place.

So, again, that takes us back to “so what does it matter anyway?”


I apologize. I misunderstood.

It may have, but these feelings would have been perfectly subordinated.


Exactly the point. You can’t separate His two wills.


Christ became in all ways like us except sin.


Clearly Christ’s human knowledge and Divine knowledge aren’t exactly the same. Why would he have to have only one will? There’s definitely a sense in which all of us have two wills. The spirit warring against the flesh.


I’m not saying Christ had one will. I’m saying that He had two wills which were distinct yet united.


Thank you, I know I am a non-Catholic entering into discussion on a forum I might not belong on but the non-Catholic forum has become very stale!

I just want to add that I believe we are told Christ experienced every temptation that I have ever been faced with and He triumphed and was victorious over each one. I believe these temptations were very real. It gives me strength to remember that in time of testing.


That one really does depend on what one means by the question.

Differ as in “conflict with”? Absolutely not. They are always in harmony with each other.

Differ as in “belonging to one Person”? Then yes. Each divine Person has a Divine Will, again always in perfect harmony.


To the OP, it should be noted that one of the dogmas of the faith is as follows:

“Christ offered Himself on the Cross as a true and proper sacrifice.”


What I mean is “what’s the point of the Temptation Gospel event?”

Obviously, it’s important. We know all kinds of non-important events happened and were never recorded.

So, if it was impossible for Christ to have done what Satan wanted Him to do, what purpose is served in recording it in the Gospel anyway? Indeed, if there’s no possibility of sin, then it’s really not a temptation at all.

It’s hard to convey “tone” in a forum like this. I’m asking the questions seriously, not sarcastically. How can one possibly be tempted to sin if sin itself is impossible?


Hmm…let me think this through. Perhaps it is because temptation is possible where free will exists, but sin is not possible if that free will—and that human nature—are perfect?


I think the whole idea of the “Garden of Eden” makes far more sense if it is taken figuratively rather than literally, and I do view that eating from the tree and disobeying God does represent an awakening from animistic awareness to human awareness. If you look at the detail of the story it is describing an animistic pre-human type of life. A wolf does not care that he is naked. He has no concern about how much work goes into getting a meal. He treats pain and suffering just as something that has to be endured and he gets used to it. He has no thoughts of his future death. His only concern is what he needs or wants right then. He lives in the status quo. A dog who loses a leg does not moan the loss of his leg. He adapts to the new status quo and learn to run and be happy with three legs. The pre-human “Adam” was also living in this dream-like paradise. He had no thoughts of the future and no concept of sin. These were all the things that we refer to as punishments for Adams disobedience, but they were not punishments and nor does the Scripture call them that. They are realizations. I think that is the status of our Adam prior to his receiving a human soul and a conscience to guide him.

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