Have you ever spent time in the wilderness? I sometimes feel as if I live there, but that is another story. Have you ever been exhausted and “starving” hungry, coming home late from work or some show? Well, I suppose every human has been hungry at one time or another. But have you ever fasted? Lose any weight? And what did you think about during that time of fasting? If you answer anything other than food… well, I won’t doubt you.
Jesus fasted for 40 days in the wilderness, and when the time was over, I am certain that at least in his case, he was thinking of something other than food…
First: The Wilderness
Curious: Last week the common lectionary took us to the mountaintop. It was the transfiguration: all glory and light, the awesome presence of God and speechless disciples. This week, we are down in one of those valleys where Jesus, all alone, is led (thrust, driven) into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit.
But what is a wilderness? It is a place apart. It is a place inhospitable where want lives and temptation thrives. It is a place that one man called “the dark night of the soul.” It is a place where one feels utterly alone, even when one is in the midst of a crowd. It is stone hard and desert dry; and filled with a sense that no one has ever felt what I am feeling… that temptation runs throughout. Nobody knows the trouble I seen…
Jesus fasted in his wilderness experience. (He did not make extra trips to the store for chocolate consolation). And he put his mind where it belonged… Thus he was hungry.
Second: What hunger?
Last week, the mountaintop was energizing, inspirational (though perhaps a bit frightening). This week we see exhaustion and hunger.
“…for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry.” (NIV) No, really? But hungry for what?
Well, look at what he said.
“Man does not live by bread alone (but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God)” That’s the full quote.
Then again: “Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.” (I always liked “The Earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof.” It sort of puts the tempter to his lie about owning it all).
And again: “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.” Or “Thou shall not tempt the Lord your God.”
Do you see? When Jesus came out of his wilderness experience, where he had not eaten in 40 days, his hunger was nevertheless for God, not food. Jesus was hungry for God. That was where his mind and heart were focused.
If you have spent any time in the wilderness, and maybe you are suffering through a wilderness experience even now, Jesus is the example to remember and follow. You are not in the wilderness to think about bread, or wealth, power, success, or anything “mountaintop” miraculous. And none of those things will get you out of the wilderness, I might add. Instead, the wilderness is about you. What are you hungry for?
I would that all people might become hungry for God. “Blessed are you who hunger and thirst now, for you will be satisfied.” Do you see?