“Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished.” (Matthew 4:1 – 2)
I was curious, so I looked up Jesus and the concept of fasting for 40 days and nights. As with most Google searches, a lot of information (both helpful and unhelpful) was there. I would not put it past the writer of Matthew to access the 40 days as symbolic rather than chronological. But that is not my point, nor I think is it the point of the writer of Matthew. The point is, beloved reader, Jesus’ physical body was in need of nourishment. His spirit/Spirit however . . .
“The tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.'” (Verses 3 – 4)
People have all kinds of relationships to food. And all kinds of relationships to God. Tending to each carefully is part of living an authentic Christian life. There were other points in Jesus’ life and ministry where food, and drink, play important roles. But we are not done reading this passage, and neither was the tempter.
“Then the devil took him to the holy city and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.'” Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'”
(Verses 5 – 7)
I would to look up how that is said in other translations. But I suspect it would be presented with the same sort of wording. But it makes me think about all the people in human history who have dared to do something daring. Or, those who through no fault of their own have been put in precarious situations.
But on the other hand, why shouldn’t we? It is not as if God is going to “fail” the test. There is though, free will that has corresponding consequences. It is best then to travel with God and not act contrary to one’s own fallible human limits.
“Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor; and he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.”
Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! for it is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.'” (Verses 8 – 11)
There are limits then to what Jesus was willing to put with. Target human body frailty, and most humans will rise above their baser desires. Target human sense of safety and security, and most people will stay within sensible limits. But target human awareness of God’s authority, and that might be the breaking point. Jesus did not break.
“Then the devil left him, and suddenly angels came and waited on him.” (Verse 11)
I am very glad for verse 11. When we have been tempted and tortured by the tempter and the devil, and have resisted with all our might and strength, it is good to know that our needs will be ministered to. May you carry out your Lenten journey strong in the Lord God and assured of the Divine’s tender attention and mercies. Selah!