In the last chapter, we saw Jesus being baptized in the Jordan, or being immersed in a mikvah. We saw that John’s preaching and Jesus’ baptism most probably took place in the fall, during the days of teshuvah (repentance). Teshuvah in Hebrew culture begins at the new moon of the 6th biblical month.
Now it just so happens that there are 40 days from the new moon of the 6th biblical month to the Day of Atonement, then a few days after Atonement, a week of joyful feasting at Tabernacles begins, when every male was required to go to Jerusalem and rejoice before the Lord his God for the goodness He had poured out on His people for that year (Lev 23:39-40). So I do not think that Jesus spent Tabernacles fasting in the wilderness — I think he spent the 40 days before Atonement fasting in the wilderness, during the days of teshuvah.
Fasting is a tool to aid in repentance, in subduing the flesh, and drawing near to God. Jesus didn’t need to repent of anything, and we suppose His flesh was already subdued to His will and that He was already near to God. But in obedience to the Spirit, He fasted above other men (for the Torah only commands a fast on the Day of Atonement itself, Lev 23:26-32) and endured extreme temptation from the devil. I believe He had to be tested, to show forth that He was the Lamb Without Blemish.
The enemy tempted Jesus in the three ways He tempts every person (1 Joh 2:16):
- The lust of the flesh (turn these stones into bread);
- The lust of the eyes (I will give you all the glory of these kingdoms);
- The pride of life (throw yourself down and the angels will catch you).
The enemy is a one trick pony. This is how he tempted Eve:
“So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food [the lust of the flesh], that it was pleasant to the eyes [the lust of the eyes], and a tree desirable to make one wise [the pride of life], she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate.” Gen 3:6
Jesus overcame temptation by knowing the Word of God, by knowing what the will of God is which is revealed in the Word, and by using the Word of God as a weapon which shuts the mouth of the enemy. The Word of God is living and active, and power is intrinsic within it, not only to shut the mouth of the enemy, but to turn the desire of our heart from the flesh to the Spirit. Jesus showed us the way to overcome temptation, if there is a besetting temptation that we struggle with in our lives.
I keep a 3×5 file box with Scriptures written on index cards, filed under different topics. While some of them are topics I am constantly in prayer about with the Lord (such as my children and grandchildren), others are topics in which I need to wield the Word as a sword to overcome my besetting weaknesses. I keep the box on my desk, and also, if necessary, a packet of cards in my purse. When I am under assault, I do not trust myself to remember everything I need to say or do. I can grab my cards, and begin speaking the Word of God to my temptation until it passes, just as Jesus showed us to do.
This is what we are called to do, when we are tempted: resist the devil as Jesus did, so that he will flee from us (Jam 4:7). We are followers of Him, right? Overcome the sin that so easily besets us, and walk in His ways. 🙂