“During that time the devil came and said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become loaves of bread.’
But Jesus told him, ‘No! The Scriptures say, ‘People do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’’”
Lent is about acknowledging that God is our source of life.
By the end of his 40 days alone in the desert, Jesus had probably gone through “50 shades of hungry,” wherein he had experienced the range of human emotion. I think it’s safe to presume that he was at a point of physical desperation. I, myself, reach desperation after fasting for a day, let alone forty.
As those forty days went by, however, Jesus was not merely experiencing bodily hardship, he was spending time alone with his Father. In laying down what was his normal physical sustenance, he found the true source of life, and it was far beyond our physical realm. Don’t be fooled, friends—God is very much concerned with our physical condition and our bodily needs. In fact he himself came and inhabited a physical body, fully human, and can fully identify with us in that. But his power, and the reality of his kingdom, is so far beyond what we can see and understand with our limited capacity. Our true source is not something we can see or touch, but God himself.
“I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”
In order for Jesus to say to the crowds “I am the bread of life,” he had to first get away with his father and experience God as his life and bread. God is the same one who produced manna in the desert out of nothing. If we’ll listen closely, we’ll see that all along he’s been telling us that he is our bread–all the nourishment we’ll ever need. In order to offer himself as the bread of life, Jesus had to intimately know his father as his bread, the one from whom all life and sustenance springs.
In order to fully grasp the all-encompassing, sustaining power of our God, we must put aside the physical things on which we’re now relying. The desert—Lent, in our modern case—is a way of doing this. And we must understand that fasting is not a form of self-punishment, when in fact it is quite the opposite. If our souls are thirsty, perhaps it’s because we have been filling up on things other than the divine. We must allow ourselves the opportunity to be nourished in the truest way—at the very core of our beings—our spirit.
By the very words that come from the mouth of God we were created, and by the words from that same mouth we will be sustained.
As we approach Lent, let’s put aside all notions of asceticism for asceticism’s sake. Let’s embrace the wilderness as Jesus did, allowing the Spirit of God to lead him there and sustain him through it. Let’s repent of our dependence on anything other than the God who holds all things together and sustains our life. Let’s lean into it as a time of refreshing for our thirsty souls.
May our focus be not on what we are “giving up for Lent,” but on fully entrusting ourselves to God, who is our source, the giver of all good gifts, and the sustainer of our very lives.