And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil. And he ate nothing during those days. And when they were ended, he was hungry. The devil said to him, if you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” And Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread along.’” (Luke 4:1-4)
If you’ve been fasting all day with us, you’ve probably felt hunger pangs more than once or twice. For some of you, it’s been a dull feeling that’s followed you all day long. What’s the point of fasting, then? Why do we subject ourselves in this kind of way? Why experience the discomfort? Is our suffering somehow redemptive?
Jesus’ answer to the devil is instructive for us. He had gone as long as humanly possible without eating and, in a rather understated way, Luke tells us, “And when they were ended, he was hungry.” The devil attempts to use his hunger to persuade him into turning a stone into bread to satisfy himself. He is playing toward Jesus’ rights, for why should the Son of God go without food? Moreover, he was appealing to him to use his power for his own personal needs and for his own ends. And why not? He was hungry. He had the power. He’d already gone forty days; what difference would it make now?
At the heart of this challenge was a question about how Jesus would go about his ministry, which he was about to begin. How was Jesus going to use the power that he had to accomplish his mission? Was he going to take matters into his own hands? Was he going to use his power at his own discretion and will? Was he going to conquer as was his right as the true king, and exercise his rightful authority? This little question about bread implied so much more, as did the servants question in the Garden to Eve: “Did God really say…?”
But Jesus recognizes the ploy. More than that, he makes a choice. He decides that he is going to rely on his heavenly Father to provide for him the things that he needs instead of taking them for himself. And that decision was based on a principle, a principle espoused in Deuteronomy 8:3 which Jesus quotes here. And that is that man’s truest and deepest need is God and his word. He was going to live not according to his own will, but that of his Father. And he was going to trust that in doing so, he would be provided for. He was revealing that his appetite was not first for physical food, but first for God’s spiritual provision.
What if we hungered for God’s word the way we hunger for food? What if we hungered and thirsted for righteousness and justice like our hunger for bread? What if there was a dull ache in our bellies until we spent time in prayer or until we sung praises to God or until we listened to God’s word preached? What if we hungered for God the way we hunger for food?
As you continue your fast, when you feel those hunger pangs, pray that God would make you hunger after him the way you hunger for bread. For man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.