I read this familiar verse this afternoon and the next thing I knew I was hungry. We won’t be eating dinner for another couple of hours, although I could probably push it up a little. My boys rarely object to eating earlier. In the meantime I can smell the pot of beans that I have cooking on the stove and that is just making me even hungrier. Did you ever notice that when you are hungry it’s hard to think about anything but food and being hungry? Yeah, that.
After Jesus was baptized in the Jordan River, the Spirit led him out into the wilderness. It wasn’t the devil (or in this translation the Tempter) who led him into the wilderness, it was the Spirit. This tells us that the wilderness was someplace that Jesus needed to be for a while. He had a lot to process: his baptism, his designation as God’s beloved, his calling to ministry. He needed to be alone and free from everyday distractions so he could think and pray and listen for what God wanted him to do and how to go about doing it.
While Jesus was in the wilderness, he fasted. When you fast, you get eventually get hungry. When you get hungry, you get to the point where it’s hard to think about anything else but hunger and emptiness and “food, marvelous food, wonderful food, magical food, fabulous food, beautiful food, glorious food!” (That last bit was a part of the song “Food, Glorious Food” from the musical Oliver!)
When Jesus got to the point he was ready to sing a song from Oliver!, the Tempter stepped right up and commenced to tempting. Matthew 4:3 says,”The tempter came and said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.’”
I’m guessing that Jesus, as strong as he was, found that idea really tempting. Bread. Freshly baked bread. It smells so good. It tastes so good. It’s so satisfying. It’s …no! Jesus was out there in the wilderness with a purpose and it wasn’t to give in to his own needs and desires no matter how overwhelming those needs and desires might be.
In the next verse, Jesus answered the Tempter saying, “‘It is written,“One does not live by bread alone,but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.'” Jesus focused on God’s word to remind the Tempter, and to remind himself, that while our bodies do need to be fed, we also need the word of God and not just our favorite bits, but every word that comes from God’s mouth.
It’s truly tempting to focus on our favorite verses whether they are verses that inspire us, or comfort us, push us to get up and do something. But there are other verses for us to consider. Some of them we have forgotten. Some of those verses are difficult to understand or tell us things we don’t really want to hear. Sometimes while we consider those verses we are distracted, but the more we wrestle with those verses and what they mean for our lives, the better off we are.