Friday February 19 – Day 3 – HUNGRY
“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.”
Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” – Matthew 4:1-4 (NIV)
Last night, to celebrate that Emma was home for her Reading Week, we ordered a classic COVID-19 take out dinner from one of our favourite restaurants, “La Spaghett”. Rose-Frances and I had received a gift certificate from my sister and brother (in-law) as a gift a while back and we wanted to use it. I have to admit: the smell coming from the paper take out bags on the drive home was driving me crazy. I was more hungry than I thought. I was so looking forward to this dinner all week, and now, in a few minutes I would be able to satisfy my hunger.
As humans, we can have deep, longing hungers for more than just food. At the heart of it, a hunger for food is a normal desire: our body reminds us that we need to eat in order to survive. However, when the hunger extends to other things such as power, money, pleasure, comfort and success, it can take the focus off of our relationship with God and onto these various desires. As humans we have all experienced being tempted to do things that we shouldn’t do. In the end, as Dumbledore’s character in Harry Potter so aptly said, “It is our choices that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities”. Being human means that we will always know what temptation is and until our dying day we will experience it. The important thing is that we do our best to make the right decision in that moment of trial.
Before the time of temptation in the wilderness, Jesus had just been baptized by John the Baptist when a voice from heaven was heard:
“This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” – Matthew 3:16-17 (NIV)
This was the beginning of Jesus’ ministry and the first thing that Jesus is led to experience is quite astonishing: He is called to take on a 40 day and 40 night on-site training on what it means to be human.
Tempted but with a difference.
Because Jesus was fully God and fully human, He did not experience temptation as we do. This knowledge of what it means to experience sin in human expression would inform His experience, giving Jesus the ability to sympathize with us.
To walk in our shoes.
To have compassion on us.
To understand the hunger in all of us, and still continue to love us.
Fasting for 40 days and 40 nights is not something I would recommend for your Lenten journey, but I would recommend how Jesus responds to the evil one with regards to his hunger: he fights the temptation directly with the Word of God.
“It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
Our hunger during the pandemic seems to shift more to the basic needs of life and yet I believe the one focus that we may have lost is the hunger of scripture to light our way and to encourage us to make the right choices.
This hunger that Jesus speaks of reminds us of how crucial we need to rely on those verses from our youth (or maybe our first days as a new believer in Christ). I am sure your mind can recall your favourite verses that continue to inspire and bring comfort to you. Here are some of mine:
“Let he who is without sin cast the first stone”
“He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did/did not do for one of the least of these, you did/did not do for me.’
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”
My challenge to you on this third day of Lent is this: as Jesus dealt with the temptation of hunger in the wilderness, He called upon the word of the Lord to give Him strength. Take two or three favourite verses and commit them to memory this week. If you find that too difficult, put them on the bathroom mirror or maybe on the dash in the car (this is why I love post it notes!). As believers we sometimes fail to see the power of the Word in giving us strength when we are faced with the challenges of life. At the start of a new week during Lent, replace them with two or three new verses and commit them to memory as well. By doing this, the minute you are faced with struggles you did not prepare for, God’s word will do what it does best: give you God’s strength when you need it most.
Today, as you give thanks for the food that God blesses you with, give thanks for the word of God which has been given to us as a great defensive instrument to help us. To remind us that we are never alone when faced with temptation greater than our own personal strength.
He is good, and His love endures forever.
May your hunger for Jesus only deepen over the course of this season of Lent, and may you experience that deep peace that comes when you are in “that place” with God. Have an amazing Friday, church!