I continue to learn more and more about fasting each year I participate in Lent. Taking a closer look at the Scripture helps even more to better understand the “Why?”.
Take a look at this account of Jesus’s temptation, which is one of the passages where we derive the significance of the 40 days, as well as take note that there was purpose in the God/man participating in this ritual.
“Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted[a]by the devil. 2 After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3 The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”
4 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’[b]”
This quotation is taken from a larger passage of Deuteronomy where the Israelite’s are being reminded of their journey in the desert.
“Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. 3 He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.” – Deuteronomy 8:2-3
The temptations continue in the passage below:
5 “Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. 6 “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written:
“‘He will command his angels concerning you,
and they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’[c]”
7 Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’[d]”
Again, Jesus quotes Deuteronomy, this time chapter 6, verse 16, which comes soon after a reminder of the 10 commandments.
16 Do not put the Lord your God to the test as you did at Massah.17 Be sure to keep the commands of the Lord your God and the stipulations and decrees he has given you.” – Deuteronomy 6:16-17
The passage continues: This is the third time Satan attempts to persuade Jesus towards evil.
8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. 9 “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”
10 Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’[e]”11 Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.” – Matthew 4:1- 11
13 “Fear the Lord your God, serve him only and take your oaths in his name. 14 Do not follow other gods, the gods of the peoples around you;15 for the Lord your God, who is among you, is a jealous God and his anger will burn against you, and he will destroy you from the face of the land. – Deuteronomy 6:13-15
I love how Jesus uses Scripture to shoo away Satan! With each temptation, Jesus uses the power of God’s Word to keep the Devil at bay.
While fasting is only mentioned briefly in verse 2, the subsequent encounter with Satan shows how Jesus used the power of God’s Word to respond to temptation. He experienced physical and spiritual hunger and remained faithful as an example to us.
As we approach the season of Lent and you consider what type of fasting you will do, ask yourself, “Why am I giving this up?” or “How will I turn to Jesus if I am tempted?”
This passage helps me to wrestle with these questions and reflect inward on how I can focus on Jesus in this season.