Jesus Was Fasting When He Overcame Temptation

The Temptations of Christ mosaic.
“The Temptations of Christ,” a 12th century mosaic in St. Mark’s Basilica (Venice, Italy)

I’ve made a point to type up a handful of articles on fasting, because my perception is that it is an underutilized weapon in the battle for sexual integrity, and general efforts that people make to get free from various addictions, bad habits, and impulsive behaviors. For example, in Fasting To Break Pornography Addiction And Control Lustful Behavior (4 Powerful Benefits), I elaborated on 1-) Fasting is training in self-control; 2-) Fasting is training in will-power; 3-) Fasting is an aid to processing unresolved emotions and trauma; and 4-) Fasting is a tool to build a stronger relationship with God. Jesus said to his followers, “when” you fast, not “if” (Matthew 6:16), and so fasting is something that Christians should be doing anyway. People who struggle with impulse control, spiritual and non-spiritual alike, may want to research the potential benefits of fasting in this regard.

“Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed  go free, and to break every yoke?”

Isaiah 58:6

Fasting To Overcome Temptation?

Today, I want to highlight a simple, yet profound observation taken from the Gospel of Matthew’s account of Jesus’s temptation. As you may recall, Jesus was tempted in the desert by the devil after he had fasted for forty days. With regards to fasting, many people focus on the fact that Jesus was in a state of weakness. This is an apt observation, after all, as the text highlights that “[Jesus] was hungry” (v. 3), before the tempter proceeded to tempt him.

However, Jesus was not only tempted in a fasted state, but he overcame temptation in a fasted state. When we fast humbly, our flesh dies (desires, emotions, pride, vanity), and our spirit grows (values, will, intention, love for God and others). Jesus’s flesh may have been weak in that moment, which the tempter saw as an opportunity, but his mind and spirit were strong, which the tempter could not see. As for after the fast, both Matthew and Mark recount that Jesus began his ministry. Clearly, this was an empowering experienced that launched Jesus into the public sphere.

Jesus’s flesh may have been weak in that moment, which the tempter saw as a an opportunity, but his mind and spirit were strong, which the tempter could not see.

Fasting for 40 days like Jesus may get us killed. However, I have found that fasting for one day, or even skipping a meal, especially if I do it on multiple occasions, can be an important tool in the battle for integrity. Do your research and consult your doctor before undergoing a fasting regime of any length.

I leave you with the inspirational account of Jesus’s temptation, and legendary victory over which, that preceded the launch of his public ministry, as told in chapter 4 of the Gospel of Matthew.

For more, see My 40-Day Fast Freed Me From Drug Addiction and Fasting Can Break The Power of Addiction. For the complete archive of articles, click here.

The Temptation Of Jesus By The Devil (Matthew 4:1-12)

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written,

“‘Man shall not live by bread alone,
    but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written,

“‘He will command his angels concerning you,’

and

“‘On their hands they will bear you up,
    lest you strike your foot against a stone.’”

7 Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” 10 Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written,

“‘You shall worship the Lord your God
    and him only shall you serve.’”

11 Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him.

Jesus Begins His Ministry

Matthew 4:1-11

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