Matthew 4:1-4 (the message)
Next Jesus was taken into the wild by the Spirit for the Test. The Devil was ready to give it. Jesus prepared for the test by fasting forty days and forty nights. That left him, of course, in a state of extreme hunger, which the devil took advantage of in the first test: “Since you are God’s Son, speak the word that will turn these stones into loaves of bread.”
Jesus answered by quoting Deuteronomy: “It takes more than bread to stay alive. It takes a steady stream of words from God’s mouth.”
As I read the scripture above this morning I was struck anew that Jesus experienced extreme hunger. Of course if I did not eat for forty days I would be extremely hungry, as well. But this is Jesus.
It can be so hard to grasp that He was fully man and fully God. I remember as a small child truly thinking the crucifixion probably didn’t really hurt him because He was God’s Son. I just had this child-like idea that Jesus was a super-hero, I guess. The reality that Jesus was God’s Son and yet submitted to living in a human body with its limitations is quite mind-boggling. At least for me. So, this morning I paused to ponder God in the flesh extremely hungry. Immediately my thoughts turned inward and I mentally told God I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t fast forty days and then resist the temptation to prove I had the power to turn stones into much wanted and needed bread. Then I sensed the sweetest comfort as Holy Spirit whispered to my heart…That is why I came. To stand in your place. To do for you what you cannot do yourself. To represent you. My righteousness substituted for your unrighteousness.
Plenty of times in my life I have acknowledged what a sinner I am, my imperfections and weakness, and that is why Jesus needed to come. But on a morning such as this, I am washed away by Love. See, I don’t believe God sent Jesus out of pure exasperation with our sin. I believe God sent Jesus out of love, pure and simple. Sin separates us and as my older daughter described recently, “disconnects us from God” (yes, another wow moment for mom). I sense no shame or condemnation this morning from my Father as He reminds and shows me He came in fully human form to stand in the gap for me. I feel loved. I feel encouraged. I feel valued. I feel reassured.
I am so thankful for how far God has brought me. My marriage, once all but dead, now green and blossoming. My sense of worth, once all but non-existent, growing deep roots in the Love of God. My fears of inadequacy, once consuming and dominating me, hushed and leveled by the power of Holy Spirit in my life. My secret dreams, once locked away, coming alive as I am compelled to share what He has done for me. Jesus, Jesus, Jesus…no one else like Him.
Still, I see so clearly the areas of my life where I would like to change. I grow frustrated at times with my slow progress. I am tempted to take on the heaviness of striving…becoming…changing. But then I simply read how Jesus was extremely hungry and I am encouraged. Our God is not One who has distanced Himself from our humanity. Our Creator willingly left the Heavens to live in a human body and experience what is common to man. When I am frustrated or fearful, I speak with One who knew extreme hunger! He understands me. He experienced weariness. He wept, was indignant and knew joy. Yet all the while, His purpose in perfection was to do for me what I cannot do myself. He restores me, re-connects and rescues me.
Jesus…not just the flannel-graph figure from Sunday School. Not just the portrait of a gentle man carrying a sheep. Not even that one page in my Children’s Bible that depicted the man in the middle with a trickle of blood on his brow as He hung on the cross. So much more…He took on the limitations of humanity and prevailed. So He can wag His finger at me now and let the weight of my imperfection crush me? No…so I can lean into Him. Lean on Him. Get lost in the power of His perfection and presence.
Jesus does in me and for me what I can never do myself.
There in lies my hope…my joy…my strength…my rest. He is everything.