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Fasting - The Jesus Experience (Week 3 Fasting, Day 5)


“Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.” Matthew 4:1-2 ESV

I’d be the first to tell you that I am not a fan of overhyped spiritual warfare. It is highly likely that Satan isn’t specifically attacking you at this moment, even though that possibility does exist. Additionally, while he definitely lives up to the title of Tempter, we are often quick to downplay our own flesh’s contribution in yielding to temptation when we do fall into sin. Now, don’t get me wrong, there is a very active supernatural realm, and we must be extremely careful not to open the wrong door to the supernatural realm; we must walk through the door (Jesus) provided for us – John 10. The book of Revelation reminds us that the dragon (Satan) and his minions are engaged in a war against the saints. But again, Jesus is responsible for moving powers and principalities out of the way. I can pray in the name of Jesus, but I’m still fully dependent on the Spirit’s ability and power to provide relief, cast out, stop the oppression, etc., of all the sworn enemies of Jesus.

So, given all this, Matthew 4 provides us a narrative of an actual account that encompasses spiritual warring, Holy Spirit, Jesus, the devil, a 40-day fast, the wilderness, and a bit of irony. Let’s unpack a few of these things.

The Bible clearly attributes Jesus’s journey into the wilderness to the Spirit – some Helper he seems to be! Yet, we are provided no record that Jesus resisted this direction. Indeed, his example of submission gives us a simplified model of trusting the Spirit, even if it seems like our own heart’s GPS doesn’t align with the direction or possess the coordinates of where the Spirit is leading.

Oh NO! Not the Wilderness!

As established, Jesus was led into the wilderness. In ancient Judaism, ancient Near Eastern culture, and often in biblical metaphoric language, the wilderness represented chaos. It represented the formless and void scenario of Genesis 1:2. Not much life was present in the wilderness, and little water existed. Thus, it represented the opposite of the Eden paradigm. It was also believed by many to be the habitation of demons and evil. So, why would Jesus be led here? Obviously, the context of Scripture states it was to be tempted by the devil, while on a 40-day fast. In the honest words of most humans, “Oh, Perfect!” But, for Jesus, he would show that the chaos would not conquer him.

A Little Irony With His Feasting

During Jesus’s wilderness experience, there was some great irony involved; it is somewhat comical, though I’m not trying to necessarily interject humor here. Jesus, the Bread of Life, is fasting. How does that make sense? Why does the Son of God need to fast? He’s GOD! Also, it would seem the Spirit has messed this one up. After all, why would he want Jesus to forgo food and be in a weakened physical state, all while being bombarded by the devil? Shouldn’t Jesus be at his strongest here and not his weakest in terms of physical strength? Because, in his weakened state, he might cave to the Tempter; he might blow it for all of humanity. Was this a miscalculation by the Spirit? Hardly!

Additionally, in this narrative, Satan twisted the written Scripture as a way to tempt Jesus to push him into doing things that were sinful and contrary to the context of the Scripture. Indeed, Satan challenged the Word of God with the word of God. OH. THE. IRONY. Yet, Jesus held firm to what was written, which also emphasizes for us the importance of biblical literacy and rightly dividing the word of truth (2 Tim 2:15).

The Strength Through Weakness Model

It is hard to say just how weakened Jesus became in his flesh during his 40-day fast. But, I think it would be safe to say it was probably the weakest moment he ever experienced, except for the cross and Gethsemane. While the devil invoked a lot of irony and assaults, Jesus showcased his humanity. In fact, for Jesus, his two physical weakest events (the cross and Gethsemane and the wilderness temptation) is where Satan was dealt his deepest blows.

Why do we fast? Not because it seems like the model of becoming confident in our own strength or ability, for fasting follows the strength through weakness model. We fast because it reminds us that at our weakest, as our flesh identifies with our crucified Lord, that God glories in showcasing his strength.

Is it a fun process? Not always. Is it chaotic at times? Yes. Do we deal with temptation and spiritual assaults? Definitely, BUT we endure because we know GOD WILL BE GLORIFIED IN THIS!

Activity

Imagine that a four-year-old, who loves chicken nuggets, is presented with the option of going to Chick-fil-a or to a three-star Michelin restaurant that serves the best chicken nuggets on the planet. It would likely take a lot of convincing to help the child that LOVES THEM SOME Chick-fil-a to understand that there is a better option on the table (pun intended). How would you convince this four-year-old that better chicken nuggets exist, especially because they have no frame of reference for a three-star Michelin restaurant? You know their eyes will light up when they try the world’s best chicken nuggets, but how do you explain that to them? Are there things you are missing out on with Jesus because you remain unconvinced of the spiritual blessings available from Him? Well, lucky for you, we do have a frame of reference for experiencing these things. SO GO FOR IT!


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