Today we will think about another aspect of Jesus' time in the desert: fasting.
Matthew 4: 2 says, "And after fasting 40 days and 40 nights, he was hungry." Luke 4: 2 says, "for 40 days, ... and he ate nothing in those days, after which he was hungry." Obviously, in the time Jesus spent in the desert, he fasted the food. Therefore, he was hungry. Therefore, the devil's first temptation was for Jesus to use his power as the Son of God to turn a stone into bread.
Jesus knew that fasting is a very powerful spiritual war weapon. In critical moments, of great transcendence or of hard need, fasting helps us concentrate our whole being in seeking God, in finding His strength, His will, His divine help for difficult situations. A fast to seek God, and not simply religious penance, is a spiritual tool that concentrates prayer more, supports it with greater authority, makes it more effective and helps us achieve victory.
Jesus knew all this. Upon entering a time of strong temptation for the devil, and before beginning His new ministry of preaching the good news accompanied by miracles, healings and deliverances, He knew that he needed the spiritual strength and authority that only a prolonged period of fasting and prayer I could grant him. And that's why he fasted the food for 40 days and 40 nights.
But at that time in the desert, Jesus fasted other things as well. He fasted His comfort: where he rested, and bathed - where he cooled and slept? He fasted His security: Mark's gospel says that he "was with the beasts" (1:13). He fasted the company of family and friends: he was only 40 days, without the encouragement and support they could have provided.
Fasting, then, is not a simple abstinence from food for a short or long period of time. It can also be a renunciation of bad habits, unacceptable behaviors, hurtful words, even ways of thinking or feeling that do not please God. Fasting can be from attitudes of the heart, attitudes of pessimism and complaints, anger and bitterness, or selfishness.
Fasting is also not a personal denial simply for complying with the external gesture. It must be practiced with the purpose of getting closer to God, seeking His truth, His strength, His direction, and His help.
Fasting, although given at a specific time as "a sacrifice delivered," must also be part of "a life of sacrifice." In Isaiah 58, God through the prophet explained to the people of Israel the difference between the fast that he offered, and the true fast that He wanted:
“… Behold, on the day of your fast you seek your own taste, and oppress all your workers. Behold, for strife and debate you fast and to hurt with your fist wickedly ... Is such a fast that I chose, that by day man afflicts his soul, that he bows his head like a reed, and makes a sackcloth and ash bed? Will you call this fasting, and a pleasant day for Jehovah? ”
With the external expressions of fasting - not eating, the head bowed, the bed of sackcloth and ash - with these expressions the people did. But at the same time they lived selfish lives, oppressing and fighting with violence between them. God wanted to teach them a better way: the "sacrifice" of a fast is of no use, it is not accepted before Him, if it is not accompanied by "a life of sacrifice."
“Isn't it rather the fast that I chose, unleashing the bonds of impiety, letting go of the burdens of oppression, and letting the broken go free, and that you break every yoke? Isn't it that you break your bread with the hungry, and the wandering poor hostels at home; that when you see the naked, cover it, and do not hide from your brother? … Then you will call, and Jehovah will hear you; you will cry, and he will say: Here I am. If you remove the yoke, the threatening finger, and the speaking of vanity from among you, and if you give your bread to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul, in the darkness your light will be born, and your darkness will be like noon. ”
Do we want to be heard by God? Do we want to live in light and salvation, justice and glory? Then we have to fast not only a few meals, but also our selfishness, our injustices, our contests, our violence. We have to live holy lives, living in and offering freedom, sharing with those in need, free from judgment and vanity. To live like this, thus offering our fasts, this is acceptable and pleasant before God.
Beloved: let's take some time in prayer to ask God if there is anything in our lives, besides food, that He wants us to fast these days. May He teach us and help us fast as He has chosen, as He pleases; so that our voice is heard on high (vs. 4,5); and so that “Jehovah will always shepherd you, and in the droughts he will satisfy your soul, and give vigor to your bones; and you will be like an irrigation garden, and as a spring of waters, whose waters are never lacking. ”(v.11)