Bread Alone: The Temptations of Christ Pt. I

You have sustained wounds that make you hunger for sustenance somewhere deep inside — God is the bread of life who feeds that hunger.

Matthew 4:1-4 Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, He was hungry. The tempter came to Him and said, “If You are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” But Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” 

We’re now in the season of Lent. This is traditionally the time that we give up something to imitate Jesus as he fasted in the desert before he began his ministry. 

Now, why fast at all? This is God said about fasting: “Is such the fast I desire, a day for men to starve their bodies? Is it bowing the head like a bulrush and lying in sackcloth and ashes? Do you call that a fast, a day when Adonai is favorable? – No, this is the fast I desire: To unlock the fetters of wickedness, and untie the cords of the yoke to let the oppressed go free; to break off every yoke. It is to share your bread with the hungry, and to take the wretched poor into your home; when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to ignore your own kin.” 

These were the words of Isaiah. And indeed Jesus came to do all those things – to unlock the fetters of wickedness, to break off every yoke, etc. His ministry was the true fast God desired. And yet before he started this ministry, he fasted. 

So the question is not just, why do we do this fast of Lent for 40 days, but why did Jesus? Moses was on Mt. Sinai for 40 days. Elijah was 40 days on Mt. Horeb. God sent 40 days of rain in the flood. Jonah gave Ninevah 40 days to repent. And so, Jesus was 40 days in the desert.  

The Bible says that after he was baptized, the Spirit drove him into the wilderness, and he fasted – then he got real hungry. That’s when the Devil tempted him. 

So there is a lesson here – temptation comes with hunger, when we most long to be filled with sustenance. The Devil says, “If you’re truly the Son of God, turn these stones into bread.” But Jesus quotes scripture at him, and says “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” 

Now, that’s easier said than done, isn’t it? Now I’m not the Son of God, neither are you — you’ve never turned stones into bread, and I don’t think you’ve ever been temped to! But I’m sure you have struggled with other temptations in your life.  

Like with Jesus, these temptations come only when we’re starving, when we’re hungry – spiritually starving. There are parts of us that are spiritually malnourished – where all our old trauma, old pain, old fears live. These are the parts of us that are hungry – but not for “bread alone”. For the word of God.  

I don’t care how good your childhood was – there’s bits and pieces from your childhood that made you who you are, and some of those bits and pieces hurt real bad. And life doesn’t get any easier as you grow up. Everyone has gone through life and taken hits, you have sustained wounds that make you hunger for sustenance somewhere deep inside. 

God is the bread of life who feeds that hunger. Jesus said, “I am the bread of life, whoever comes to me will never be hungry.” It’s true – but that doesn’t mean those things that cause us pain and suffering will end. They will keep on keeping on, that’s life – but they will feed us. 

The Psalmist said, “My tears have been my food day and night, while people say to me all day long, ‘Where is your God?’” In times of adversity, when your faith is being tried, the tears you shed will not be tears that make you go hungry – faithful tears feed your soul, and make you whole. When you’re praying for your breakthrough, and it doesn’t seem to be coming soon, you’re going to pray on your knees as low as you can go, and you’re going to shed tears.  

What you are hungry for may seem to be delayed – but what’s really going to satiate your hunger is God Himself. God knows your need – He will take care of you because you are His child. He will satiate your hunger if you accept his will and live by His word – when you’re praying for your needs, don’t just pray for your needs to be met – pray that God meets you in your need

Jesus fasted because his hunger made him more reliant on God. When you’re well-fed, you don’t say, “God, feed me.” When you pray “Give us this day our daily bread”, you usually have some food in your belly. Watch how the taste of those words changes in your mouth when you’re on an empty stomach.  

Our God is the Bread of Life – he knows we’re hungry. We humans have been a hungry race from the beginning. Adam and Eve were hungry, so they ate the Fruit of the Tree of Knowledge. That changed their destinies, and all of ours, forever.  

Isaac was hungry and asked his son Esau to hunt some good meat for him – but while Esau was out on the hunt, his brother Jacob slaughtered and cooked up some goats from the yard and got the blessing that Isaac would have given to Esau – that changed their destinies, and all of ours. 

When God was sending his final plague on the Egyptian people in the time of Moses, he ordered his people to cover their doorposts with the blood of a lamb, and have a feast inside while the angel of death passed through the city. The firstborn of the Egyptians were slain while the Hebrews were saved, and not just saved, but feasting in luxuryThis changed their destiny, and all of ours. 

And after this, when they were free, they were 40 years in the wilderness before they reached the Promised Land, just like Jesus was 40 days in the wilderness before he came to proclaim the Good News that the Kingdom of God was at hand. Jesus gets baptized, and prepares for his ministry with a fast – and do we remember how his ministry ends? With a feast. The Passover feast. 

Just like this, God prepares us with fasting for the feast He is preparing us for. And he is preparing us for a heavenly feast, one which will keep us well fed and satiate our deepest spiritual hunger. Jesus says, “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone?” Just like that, God has bread for his children – so ask, and it will be given you. 

There is an old Zen saying that a cup that is already full has no room for more wine. And this applies to know-it-alls who can’t learn anything because they think they already know everything! But in the Kingdom of God, we have a cup that overflows – and this cup isn’t the cup of our mind, like the Zen saying, but it’s the cup of our heart & soul, and it overflows with the wine of God’s spirit of love. 

So when we think of fasting in this season of Lent, let’s think about this cup of the Kingdom that we have. It’s not a matter of having an empty cup to make room for something we don’t have, that we’re starving for – but it’s about having an overflowing cup that we pour out as a love-offering to the world. God doesn’t want us to fast and starve – he wants to see a fast, a diet even, of love, of sharing, of righting wrongs, easing suffering, and loosening bonds.  

“Man shall not live by bread alone, but by the word of God.” And the word of God and all the Law and the Prophets are summed up in the Golden Rule: to love and treat your neighbor as yourself.  

Oh, I’ve heard so many people asking the question, how can I be more spiritual? How can I find the answer to life – to find enlightenment? How do I shed my ego? I’ve tried so many things, I’ve done yoga, I do meditation, I’ve read books about psychology and spirituality and neuroscience, how do I transcend my ego? I’ve even tried all sorts of fasts – juice fasts, water fasts, different diets! I want to be more healthy, more whole, and a more realized person.  

They always tell me – it’s all about transcending the ego, dissolving the ego. That’s why you meditate, fast, all those things of the spiritual-but-not-religious life, which are actually just as religious as they are spiritual! Some of my spiritual-but-not-religious friends fast more than my religious friends! But it’s all to transcend the ego – to get out of your own head, and to get closer to God. 

But there’s really only one way to transcend your own ego – it’s love. When you allow God to use you as an instrument of His love, that ego of yours is just going to step aside — figuratively speaking. Because I say, and the Bible does too, God loves you. He made you to be who you are, special, unique – a cracked vessel, but a vessel for His love and special purpose. I think he’s a lot more interested in carving you into who you are than leaving you an ego-less uncarved block. He wants to see you blossom into who you truly are – and that happens when you love. 

That’s what it means to pour yourself out. To be who you are in full, to offer yourself fully to others in service. Self-denial and harsh fasting – that’s all old news, not the new good news. St. Paul told us all about that stuff, he said, “Such restrictions indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-prescribed worship, their false humility, and their harsh treatment of the body; but they are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh. 

“Therefore, since you have been raised with Christ, strive for the things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.” 

Here’s a great mystery, folks. Everything we long for is hidden with God, where we already have it. And the greatest promise of God, our resurrection, is hidden with Him. We already have the prize – if we use our spiritual eyes. Paul talked about this over and over, and so did Jesus. He stunned the Sadduccees, who didn’t believe in the Resurrection, when he basically said, it’s already happened.  

What am I saying? That the resurrection already happened? Isn’t the the heresy of Hymenaeus? No, I’m not teaching heresy – I’m applying hermeneutic. Here’s what Jesus himself said: “But concerning the dead rising, have you not read about the burning bush in the Book of Moses, how God told him, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead, but of the living. You are badly mistaken!” 

He was saying to them: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob – they’re alive! That’s why the Sadducees were stunned. And we have even more proof – on the Mount of Transfiguration, who appeared alongside Christ but Moses and Elijah?  

Now, was that the moment of resurrection? Of course not. But what happened was Peter, James, and John beheld a vision. They saw a spiritual reality with their spiritual eyes. They beheld the reality that Jesus spoke about before he raised Lazarus, when he said, “I am the Resurrection.” This is why the great book of the End Times, the Apocalypse, is the book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ— it describes the moment that Jesus, the Resurrection, is revealed  — Jesus is the resurrection! 

And we are raised to life in Jesus, we are resurrected in him. You have more than you know! You have eternal life in Him now, as we speak – the words I am speaking are the very same truth he declared to everyone two thousand years ago, He is the bread of life. Have faith in this truth – and abide in it. What does he ask of all those who believe? That you abide in his word.  

Again, what does his word require of you but to love your neighbor as yourself? That is the fast that he prescribes to you – and you will never hunger. These spiritual truths might seem hidden because they are invisible, and maybe it can be hard to believe. But see with spiritual eyes of faith, just like Peter, James, and John, on the Mount of Transfiguration: they were given eyes to see that Jesus is the Resurrection.  

Skeptics will say they saw an illusion. But what they saw was a vision of a higher reality, and a revelation of the truth – no illusion. Beside the glorious vision of the truth which they saw in the Transfiguration, this entire world is moreso an illusion – it’s constantly changing, we chase after possibilities that flicker in and out of existence in our minds, everything slips between our fingers like the sands of time, we come and we go, and when we die it’s as if we were never here at all – but in Christ, our real life is hidden and it is eternal

So may you go about your spiritual fast of love with rigor and devotion. Not everyone will understand that this spiritual life of yours, this religious life, is such a filling form of sustenance. The world around us often looks everywhere other than Christ to fill their need. But remember the story of Jesus in Samaria, when his disciples tell him, “You need to eat,” and they offer him their food, but he says, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.”  

They wondered what he meant, and he told them, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to finish His work.” 

There’s plenty on the menu in the restaurant of the world. But that’s what’s on the menu in the restaurant of the way, the truth, and the life – to do the will of our Father. Your food is also your fast – and your fast is a great feast.  

May you pour yourself out as a love-offering, and may your love be so great that people see the Resurrection in you just as Peter and James and John saw it on the mountain. 

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