We must remember that temptation itself is not sin. Martin Luther wrote, “You can’t keep the birds from flying over your head; but, you certainly can keep them from nesting in your hair.”

Let’s look carefully at what Jesus taught about lust in light of Luther’s illustration.

Jesus declared in Matthew 5:27-28: “You have heard it said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

Looking at a man/woman and appreciating his/her beauty is not a sin. Perhaps even a moment’s imagining a sexual encounter is still not a sin. The sin occurs when we mentally and emotionally dwell upon one particular individual while imagining a drawn out sexual experience with him or her. In this case temptation has evolved into lust. The sin occurs in the long, drawn-out visualizing, not in the thought which comes to mind for a fleeting moment.

Did Jesus think about having a sexual relationship? As fully human, He most certainly did. Both Satan and/or His own humanness obviously “flew the bird of the temptation” over His head. However, according to the Hebrews passage mentioned above, Jesus never allowed that bird “to nest in His hair.”

Some imagine that Mary Magdalene was a prostitute who tempted Jesus to have a sexual relationship with her. For example, “The Last Temptation of Christ” by Nikos Kazantzakis postulates that Mary Magdalene, “out of whom Jesus cast seven demons” (Luke 8:2), was His temptress, at least, and more probably, His girlfriend.

I don’t believe that. However, I do believe that whatever lifestyle she lived before meeting Christ was dramatically changed by her spiritual encounter with Him. She became a devoted follower and financial contributor to His ministry who witnessed the crucifixion, prepared His body for burial and was the first to hear the good news of the resurrection!

So far, we have discussed the idea of Jesus having a sinful sexual relationship. Without a doubt, He did not.

Because Jesus was like us, I am certain that He experienced the internal, God-implanted-sexual drive to procreate and thus fulfill His Father’s command to be “fruitful and fill the whole earth.” Therefore, I believe that He must have considered marriage as a viable option.

Dan Brown imagines, in his contemporary novel, The Da Vinci Code, that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene and fathered children by her. He intertwines this concept with the legend of the “Holy Grail”. However, these claims have no basis in biblical truth.

Could Jesus have married if He wanted? Could Jesus have had children if He had married? Some Christians answer “yes” to both questions. Personally, I have difficulty saying “yes” to either question.

I believe that whatever Jesus thought about marriage or children — if He thought about it at all — was quickly dismissed. His mission was to “bring many sons to glory” (Hebrews 2:10), not to marry and procreate. Jesus made it clear that the “Son of Man came to seek and to save those who were lost.” This God-inspired calling far outweighed the distraction and any possible fulfillment He might have gained from having His own wife and children. Would He have liked to be married? Possibly. Were marriage and children God’s will for His life? Certainly not.

Well, Fred, thanks for asking such an intriguing question. I hope my answer gives several thought-provoking and helpful insights to you and others about the sexual life of Jesus.

Love, Roger

Ask RogerDr. Roger Barrier recently retired as senior teaching pastor from Casas Church in Tucson, Arizona. In addition to being an author and sought-after conference speaker, Roger has mentored or taught thousands of pastors, missionaries, and Christian leaders worldwide. Casas Church, where Roger served throughout his thirty-five-year career, is a megachurch known for a well-integrated, multi-generational ministry. The value of including new generations is deeply ingrained throughout Casas to help the church move strongly right through the twenty-first century and beyond. Dr. Barrier holds degrees from Baylor University, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Golden Gate Seminary in Greek, religion, theology, and pastoral care. His popular book, Listening to the Voice of God, published by Bethany House, is in its second printing and is available in Thai and Portuguese. His latest work is, Got Guts? Get Godly! Pray the Prayer God Guarantees to Answer, from Xulon Press. Roger can be found blogging at Preach It, Teach It, the pastoral teaching site founded with his wife, Dr. Julie Barrier.

Publication date: February 29, 2012