“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15, ESV)
James 1:13 (ESV): Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one.
Merriam-Webster definition 2B: “to cause to be strongly inclined.”
EBC: “The verb peirastheis (‘tempted’) sometimes means ‘tested,’ and here it might conceivably apply to the sufferings simply as trials to be endured. But the verb is more often used in the sense of tempt.'” Leon Morris, Hebrews, 30.
To the contrary, NASB renders the verb almost equally either “test” or “tempt” in all of its occurrences in the NT. The meaning seems split. Further, “tempt” is used most clearly when in reference to humans (cf. epistles). It is therefore, not semantically nor contextually sound to use “tempt” in reference to our Lord, Jesus Christ.
TNTC: “For a solution to this difficulty we must note that temptation in itself is not sinful.” Donald Guthrie, Hebrews, 126.
This may be true, however, temptation does connote, in the vast majority of uses, some sort of desire towards something (cf. M-W definition above). That is, I cannot be tempted to jump off a cliff if someone invites me to do it. That is not generally understood as temptation since I have zero inclination towards it.
The problem is not that the translation “tempt” connotes sin. Rather, it is that is connotes an inclination (though refused) toward sin. This is something repugnant to both the human and divine natures of Christ, the second Adam. Now, Christ “could” have sinned. But this possibility is in the same sense that I “can” jump off a cliff at the invitation of a mad man, though I am in my right mind.
Therefore, Jesus was tested as we are, yet, without being tempted.
If this makes us think that He cannot truly relate to us, we are highlighting our own experience of sin, rather than God’s. We think He must feel inclined toward sin because my inclination is so fierce. If I feel this way, how can He not? However, this is to emphasize our own “innocent” inclination rather than to understand the true depravity of sin itself. When seen properly, sin is wholly without enticement. Sin is a deprivation of all things good. It is literally the opposite of good. We should not, therefore, seek to understand Jesus in a way that comports with our experience. Rather, we should see our experience of sin as completely and categorically off. It is the inclination toward death, misery, filth and hatred.
Christ can sympathize with us because He experienced all of our physical weaknesses. But He, never for a moment, saw sin through our rose colored glasses. The fecal stench of sin never smelled like mom’s cookies.