Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry.
Like you and me, Jesus knew what it meant to be hungry for food, thirsty for water, and strengthened by friendship.
Jesus, in the wild, is a real person with real needs. Lest we think for a moment that Jesus was supernaturally better than we are at facing trials and temptations, this little verse is there for our benefit. After fasting for forty days, the Bible wants us to know that Jesus was hungry.
The implication here is that Jesus is like us, and after fasting for forty days, he had needs. His stomach wanted refreshment. His body wanted sustenance. His palate wanted to taste good food (and to bless God for it). Jesus most certainly had his favorite foods, just as you or I would.
I’ve had bread in Israel. And some of that freshly baked bread just melted in my mouth. I was hungry when I had it, and I was deeply satisfied once I had a few bites.
The enemy will not come at us, aiming at our points of strength. He will always be aiming at our points of weakness. For Jesus, it was hunger for food—especially good food.
I love this quote from J. D. Walt on why fasting can reorient us in times when our appetites are leading us along:
We live in an age and in a land where, practically speaking, our god is our stomach. I am convicted deeply by this even as I write it. If I’m honest, I must confess that I feed my stomach far more than I feed my relationship with God. And here’s the mystery—fasting from what feeds my stomach has the effect of feeding my relationship with God. Let’s focus our fasting as an offering of our appetites to God. We can try and try to curb our appetites and fail. So what if we just offered our appetites to God through the act of fasting and see what he can do with them?1
The devil was about to speak to Jesus. As for us, the devil would speak to Jesus in the language of desire, of want, even need. Jesus had mastered his hunger and thirst, and his appetite for the basics we all take for granted every day. Augustine noted that our desires are what make us who we are. As James K. A. Smith put it: “You are what you love.”2
Jesus denied himself food in order to reorder his loves and align them to his will—the Father’s will. He subjugated his bodily desires to his will—the Father’s will.
In fasting, the Spirit helps us train ourselves to offer even our appetites and desires as an offering of worship to our Savior. Like Jesus, the practice of fasting can lead us into deep places of intimacy with God if we will do so in obedience and with wisdom.
Jesus was hungry. Being in need does not mean we are outside of God’s perfect will. In fact, as Jesus demonstrated, being in need can mean we are right in the center of our best life with God.
In Philippians 4:19 we read: “And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.” Can we trust God to meet our needs, and can we practice not being so controlled by our basic needs by practicing fasting?
Lord of the Wild, you demonstrated how fasting can orient us to the Father’s will and help us to align and order our desires according to a higher purpose. Give us the wisdom to know how and when to practice overcoming our will related to our basic desires. Train us to yield our will to yours and draw us closer to your heart in the process. In Jesus’s name, amen.
Have you ever fasted before? If so, was it a meaningful experience?
For the Awakening,
J. D. Walt, Seedbed’s 40-Day Fasting Challenge email, week 5.
James K. A. Smith, You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit (Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press, 2016), 10.