The other day I was reading my Bible (pauses for effect) because I am holy and stuff, and something leapt from the page and lodged in my vast cerebrum. I was perusing the book of Matthew. In it I came across the story of Jesus going into the wilderness right after his baptism. It’s worth noting that I was reading from The Message.
Leave Eugene out of this. I like reading The Message sometimes because of its narrative style. It reads like a story and sometimes the language is just plain entertaining. Focus…
I had just finished chapter three where Jesus was baptized and started chapter four when I saw this:
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.” Matthew 4:1-3 TM
Well, obviously you can see why I was caught off guard by God. I had never thought of it that way before. What? You don’t know what I’m talking about? Right there in black and white, and later with a splash of red, it says that Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wild for a test. Then it says the craziest thing ever. It says he prepared for that test by fasting forty days and forty nights.
I thought going without food or water for that long was part of the test. I remember as a kid in children’s church being taught:
“Jesus fasted for FORTY DAYS AND FORTY NIGHTS. Can you believe it boys and girls? That’s more than a month.”
I guess that the emphasis on the feat of fasting caused my grade-school theology to think that this was the first part of the test. I mean, I sure didn’t want to go without food for a month. Heck, I didn’t want to miss my ants-on-a-log or PB cracker snack for an afternoon, much less a fortnight. But, I was a kid–what did I know?
Fast forward a few years and now I’m legally an adult, regardless of what my family says. I haven’t really given this story much thought but I have noticed some things.
I’ve noticed that when I have to sacrifice my time for something churchy I feel like God should reward me for doing it. I mean, I had other things I could be doing but I denied myself, so I should be compensated. A bigger mansion in heaven or a small financial windfall, that’ll do.
Sometimes I have to give up a little bit of that hard-earned paper. You know, I work hard for my pay and I don’t just toss it about. I’m not Bill Gates so when I sliver off a couple of bills for some God-stuff, I want to know it was worth it. I want to feel like I’m not just giving it away, like it’s an investment.
That’s not really how it worked though. Jesus came to the end of his humanity so that he could rely on his divinity. After nearly starving to death he was tempted with food first, yet he persevered. Maybe my micromanagement of these creature comforts has blinded me to God’s divine intervention in my life.
In our society of affluence Christianity is not immune to the entitlement mentality. I think Jesus was showing me that to reach that place where God is in control I have to push aside what I think I deserve. I must control the man before I can submit the man.
After I submit him then God can finally take His rightful place as Sovereign. I wonder how often I have confused the preparation with the test.
Did you think the fast was part of the test? Do you feel like you deserve a reward for sacrificing wants to do good deeds? Are you confusing the preparation with the test?