"He was famished," Luke 4:2.
From time to time we will say, “I’m starving” as an expression for how great our hunger is. Typically this happens after we have gone a few hours without eating. Intentionally fasting for an entire day, that almost never happens. Fasting routinely, has basically disappeared as a Christian habit. When we read the story of Jesus fasting for 40 days it seems absurd to us.
The 40 days in the wilderness comes directly after Jesus’ baptism. Jesus is called beloved and then the Spirit leads him to the harsh climate. Passing through the water and going into the wilderness is intended to remind us of the splitting of the Red Sea and the 40 years that the Israelites spent in exile. This tells us that Jesus is the fulfillment of the old covenant and that Jesus is a prophet like Moses.
Although there are many deep theological truths that we can mine from this passage, one practical application will not leave me alone: Christians should be people who fast.
Our world trains us to be consumers. We are marketed to any time we are in front of a screen, when we walk or drive around town, when we open a magazine or newspaper, when we get our receipt from the grocery store. Ads are everywhere.
Ads are almost all saying the same thing, “You need our product.” Many of them work with the assumption of scarcity. Beauty products assume we are not pretty enough. Fast Food companies assume we are not intentional enough with our lives so we need to eat fast. (They might also assume that they can cook better than we can). Entertainment assumes that we are not fulfilled enough so we need to be distracted. They all try to get us to get more.
Fasting is a protest against consumerism. It says, “What God has given me is enough.” It directs us to rely on God for all things.
When tempted by bread, Jesus told the Tempter “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” Jesus’ fasting forced him to rely on God, to find his strength in God.
I hope you have chosen something to fast this Lent so that you might learn the joy of trusting in God more and more.