Feasting with God #9
2And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” 4But he answered, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
After Jesus was baptized, he went out into the desert with a very distinct—and very odd—purpose: “to be tempted by the devil” (Matt. 4:1). He had just stepped into his public ministry, had just revealed himself to people as the promised Messiah, and his first public act was to seclude himself in the wilderness and to face temptation.
For forty days and forty night Jesus went without food. Luke says, “And he ate nothing during those days” (4:2). It seems impossible that someone could go so long without food and still survive, let alone walk and talk. And yet Jesus was not only true man, but also true God, and his divine nature, with all the power of the Son of God, could have sustained him through this time. But do not let that detract from the trial Jesus underwent. The Gospel writers tell us that “he was hungry.” And so it was from this angle that the devil made his first attack: “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.”
It would not have been wrong for Jesus to make food for himself in the wilderness, but here the devil is asking for proof of his divinity. To do what the devil said would first of all have been to obey Satan rather than God. And, more than that, it would have demonstrated a lack of trust in God. Jesus knew God’s plan: that he was to come into the wilderness and be tempted, even as all we human beings are tempted, and so earn the perfection that we could not. Later that perfection would become ours when this perfect Jesus would die the punishment for all who were imperfect. On the cross he took what we deserved for every time we listened to the devil and followed the desires of our sinful natures, and he provided for each of us the reward for never obeying the tempter’s voice.
Jesus suffered this bodily hunger as an illustration, to make clear the statement Moses made in Deuteronomy 8:3: “that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.” Jesus, refusing to put his bodily needs over the spiritual needs of the whole human race, demonstrates for us that we, even amidst our temptations and our sufferings and hunger pains, we are safe and secure in the life we have because of the Word of God. It is in that Word, in fact, that the reward Jesus won for us actually comes—when we hear and read and recite and believe the words of Scripture, Christ’s holiness comes into our hearts, and we are fed on that Word and nourished not merely for an earthly life, but for an eternal, heavenly life.
Lord Jesus, thank you for bearing up under temptation when we could not. Thank you for providing perfection where we earned only damnation. Thank you for blessing us with your Word and your works, through which we are saved and come to be sons of God. Bear us up as we continue to face temptations and suffering, and never let your Word be taken from our presence. In your name we pray. Amen.
Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.