“Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert, to be tempted by the devil” (Mt 4:1).
Cardinal Manning comments: “In the temptation in the desert, Jesus tasted of all the bitterness of sin, except only of its guilt. . . . I have taken the temptation of our Divine Saviour as the outset of our present thoughts, because in itself it is sufficient proof of what I affirmed some time ago, namely, that to be tempted is not to sin, and that many who are the most tempted are innocent.” In fact, “the example of our Divine Lord shows us, that One who is sinless may be the subject of temptation.”
“He suffered temptation for our sakes, just as He suffered death for our sakes.” He suffered temptation so that “we may have such a High Priest, not one who cannot have compassion or be touched with a feeling of our infirmities, but one who was tempted in all things like as we are, yet without sin” (Heb 4:15). He suffered temptation so that “out of His own personal experience, the Son of God, incarnate in our humanity, might taste of sin in all its bitterness, in all its penalties, save only that which to Him is impossible, the guilt of sin, that so He might be a Saviour full of sympathy with sinners.”
Thus, there is a clear distinction between temptation and sin. But, Cardinal Manning cautions: “Though it is true that temptation is not sin, nevertheless temptation and sin are very nearly allied—they are very like each other, and they may be easily mistaken; secondly, temptations are the occasions of sin; and thirdly, temptations with great rapidity and with great facility pass into sins. For this cause it is necessary with all accuracy to distinguish between them.”
Quotations from Henry Edward Manning, Sin and Its Consequences, 2d ed. (London: Burns and Oates, 1874).