Jesus fasted for forty days and forty nights.
The Devil Tempts Jesus
In Matthew 4:1-11, this section of the chapter is titled “The Temptation of Jesus.” This chapter of the Bible tells a story of Jesus before he began his ministry. He was brought to a desert where he fasted for forty days and forty nights, and was tempted by the devil.
In verse 2, it notes that Jesus was hungry and that is when the devil came to tempt him. The devil tested Jesus’ hunger and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” In response, Jesus quoted Deuteronomy 8:3 which says, “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”
Jesus could have done what the devil asked him to do – as the Messiah, he was able to perform signs, miracles and wonders. But if he obeyed the devil, then Jesus would no longer belong to God. He would fall for the devil – just as Eve was tempted by the serpent – and would no longer be able to carry out the work he was supposed to. Jesus had the Word in his heart, depended on it like it was food, and was able to outwit the devil. After this, Jesus began his ministry.
True Food & Time for Fasting
In John 4:31-34, Jesus continues to explain how the Word, or the work of God, is like food to him. John 4 is the chapter where Jesus meets a Samaritan woman at a well. Worried about Jesus, as it mentions in verse 6 that he was “tired from the journey,” the disciples demand him to eat something.
But what was Jesus’ response?
“I have food to eat that you know nothing about.” The disciples question what this food is or where he got it from (they think Jesus is referring to physical food!). Then, Jesus continues, saying, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.”
We can see that Jesus’ references to food in the Bible goes beyond mere physical food, but is regarding something spiritual. Of course, physical food is still important – we could not survive without it – but the greater of these things is spiritual because it will last for eternity.
Other Biblical Figures Who Fasted
There are many other biblical figures who fasted as well. Moses also fasted for forty days and forty nights when God gave him the Ten Commandments (Exodus 34:28).
Nehemiah also fasted. In Nehemiah 1, Nehemiah breaks down after hearing Jerusalem is in trouble. “For some days,” Nehemiah says, “I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of Heaven” (Nehemiah 1:4).
Daniel and his three friends also fasted from the food and drink that the King of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar, offered them (Daniel 1) because they did not want to defile themselves. God was well pleased with Daniel and his friends who had refused the royal food from Babylon and granted these four men knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning, and Daniel was able to understand visions and dreams (Daniel 1:11-17).
Why Do Believers Fast Today?
Throughout these examples of fasting, we can see that it was done during a time of testing, mourning, or out of reverence for God. Today, Christians follow the same tradition.
There are many stories Christians have regarding times of fasting, when they did so, how long, etc, but many fast for forty days and forty nights to honor Jesus. To Christians, it is like a sacrificial offering to God.
Often believers will fast themselves of people or things that distract them from God as a show of devotion to God, but even in thinking of what can lead people astray from God, then it is also imperative to consider false teachings.
For what did Jesus first say in his response to the disciple’s question of what the signs would be for his second coming? In Matthew 24:4-5, Jesus responds, “Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many.” As these words were spoken as a warning to believers today, then what actions must be taken to heed and obey these commands?
With the large amount of speculation regarding the mysterious called the Bible, there are copious amounts of books filled with commentaries and interpretations attempting to dissect the thoughts of God.
However, as said in 1 Corinthians 2:11, “For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.” Rather than relying upon the ideas of man to explain the higher thoughts of God (Isaiah 55:8-9), the standard for learning and understanding the word must come from the Bible which contains God’s heart and will for humanity.
While fasting is a tradition that is carried out today by various churches and denominations all across the globe, are believers able to understand the reason in which it is done? What is the “food” that God desires us to fast from today?