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
The Italianate Terraces of the Powerscourt Gardens connect the regal house with the lake nestled below. The stonework was compelling. Each terrace intricately designed. Carefully placed stones created interesting designs that hundreds of feet passed over daily. Each colour of stone had to be placed in exactly the correct location for the picture to be created.
Jesus went into the desert. He left beauty and community for the arid and barren. He was going with a purpose. He was meant to face temptation – to be presented with the same soul disturbing and robbing possibilities that I encounter daily.
He fasted for forty days and nights. The people of Israel wandered in the desert for forty years. Jesus was providing restitution for those years. One day for each year the people wandered. One day for the wasted time caused by deliberately disobeying God’s plan to lead His people into a land full of challenge and possibility. In the face of hard times, God’s people opted for comfort and instead were faced with forty years of His provision and discomfort and death.
Sometimes the Bible states the obvious quietly. Other times it shouts it from the rafters. This is one of those quiet moments. Jesus was hungry at the end of those forty days. If I had been Matthew recording these events, there would have been multiple exclamation marks that would have finished that sentence. Jesus was hungry!!!!!!! No kidding. I am so quick to satisfy my desires. Hunger – there’s something in the cupboard that’s a quick snack. Wanting that particular item of clothing, jewelry or something else – spend without hesitation. I seek to satiate the craving quickly and easily.
Jesus was hungry and Satan knew it. Jesus human-ness shows through. He experienced the same physical weaknesses, the same physical needs my body has. Satan offers the instant gratification. He knows Jesus has power. He knows Jesus can turn the ordinary into the extraordinary. He knows that Jesus can turn little into much. He knows that if Jesus will just give in, Satan himself will have victory and power. Satan knows that if he can just get Jesus to cave and bypass the cross, he will have won. The first temptation is bread but there is a bigger prize to be had. Start small, work up to the big guns.
Satan goes after me with the same tactics. Get her to cave on something small and work your way up to something demoralizing. Something that will instill defeat and discouragement. Something that will indicate that he hasn’t lost ground. Something where he can claim a minor victory because he has plans to move up to the big ticket items in my life.
Jesus responses are different altogether. In His weakened state, He resists the small. He resists the hunger. He resists the possibility of taking care of the immediate needs His rumbling stomach announced. He draws from deep reserves of relationship with the Father. He states His identity as the Son of God. “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” Jesus does not attempt to deal with His foe on His own accord, but draws strength, sustenance and endurance from the all powerful Word of God. He states His need to be reliant, not on the vices of a hungry stomach, but on the life giving and sustaining words of the mouth of God.
Every word that comes from the mouth of God is full of life. It is full of the possibilities that God has for me. It is full of God’s reminders that as a daughter of the King, my identity is tied up in His. Too often my identity is tied up in half-truths, apologies, accusations and even deliberately believed lies. In those moments, Satan willingly moves in. He is interested in reclaiming the space he used to have. However, when my identity is securely fastened to the life giving words of the mouth of God, then I am imbued with life, hope, victory, joy and peace. Satan is the one who constantly works to steal, kill and destroy. Jesus promises to and does bring life. Life that is abundant and full. The plans He has for me are far bigger than anything I could possibly imagine.
This Advent season, I choose to believe the life affirming words of the Mouth of God. He is the Maker of the stones, the supplier of my needs, the One who has come to give me the abundant life I crave. I pray for ears attuned to His voice so that I will obediently stand in the authority I have as a child of God.