Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterward He was hungry. Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, “If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’ ”
When I read these verses, the picture I see is rather graphic. Jesus has gone for more than one month with no physical sustenance. He also has been in the wilderness without any apparent physical companionship. The assumption is that this time would have been taken up by much prayer along with his fasting in preparation for his great temptation. He is weak, hungry and tired, without a fresh shave or shower. By our comfortable first world standards, he would have looked a mess. The devil tempts him with food, which seems a rather obvious approach. Jesus responds with something cryptic because we know that He cannot eat the words of God, but what He is doing with this statement is correcting a flawed perspective.
Old testament prophecy spoke of the coming king who was to redeem the lost. The Son resided in the heavens with the Father while He delivered these words to his prophets, so the Son was well aware of the work He had come to accomplish. We do not know the prayers He prayed during this fast or any communication from the Father, but we know at a minimum that Jesus was relying on the words of God for his fortitude during this time of testing. When He responds to the devil, He is making it clear that the physical is at the mercy of the divine. Any hunger or exhaustion that Jesus might have felt paled in comparison to the joy of the victory ahead. He had not come to earth to eat, drink and be merry. He came to fulfill God’s will despite the physical cost.
When I think of living according to the word of God as if it is food, I think of relying on the word of God as if life depends on it. If the option is to satisfy hunger and sin, or to stay hungry and honor God, there should be no question. God’s divine plan surely will meet whatever need we could have. What is being accomplished in the spiritual is greater than what is being endured in the physical. There can be no comparison. Jesus is telling us that our dependence on and trust in the very words from God’s mouth will bring life regardless of what we must endure in the physical to honor and obey them. Father, help us take our focus away from that which sustains us physically and place it on that which sustains us spiritually as our life’s source.