Empty Stomach, But Full . . .


Have you ever noticed that some people have a great skill at understating things? They may intentionally or unintentionally understate things. During the Apollo 13 mission, astronaut Jack Swigert reported a problem to Mission Control by saying, "Houston, we've had a problem here." Winston Churchill, known for his wit and understatement during the darkest hours of World War II, once said, "We are waiting for the long-promised invasion. So are the fishes." In the film "Monty Python and the Holy Grail," there's a scene where a character loses both arms in a sword fight and nonchalantly remarks, "It's just a flesh wound."

The Bible too has examples of understatement. One that caught my eye recently is from the Gospel of Luke. Luke begins chapter four with these words: Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry. [Luke 4:1-2 (NIV)]. Did you miss Dr. Luke’s understatement? After forty days of not eating, Jesus was hungry. I say that phrase unequivocally qualifies as understatement. Of course he was hungry!

But part of Luke’s purpose in using that understated phrase is to set the stage for the devil’s temptation. Luke 4:3 reads: the devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.” (NIV). What a relevant temptation given Jesus’ physical circumstances of hunger. For many years (a long time ago) I led groups of teens from our church on wilderness camping trips. Those trips involved some days of backpacking. In the wilderness, there were no microwaves or refrigerators to prepare or store food. The teens had to eat and prepare their meals very simply – such as just add boiling water, stir, let it sit, then eat. Inevitably as we would resume hiking, the teens would talk about all the foods they wanted to consume when they returned to civilization. They would discuss their favorite meals for miles. Jesus hadn’t eaten in forty days. He was hungry.

So, what did he do to the devil’s invitation? Luke tells us. Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.’” [Luke 4:4 (NIV)].

Three observations. First, temptations may come to us when we are in a vulnerable state. Recognize that and be extra vigilant. Second, Jesus was full of the Holy Spirit (cf. Luke 4:1). We need the power and wisdom of the Holy Spirit in our lives as Christians to overcome temptation and to become all that God desires of us. Certainly, some of what God desires of us is to show the fruit of the Spirit as outlined in Galatians 5:22-23 (love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control). Jesus relied on the Holy Spirit to remain faithful to his mission. Third, Jesus was full of truth. What did Jesus quote in response to the devil? Scripture. Jesus knew the truth of God’s Word and was able to bring it to bear on his situation. How well-fed on the Scriptures are we? Do we believe God’s Word is true? Do we need to change our intake habits so that we increase our consumption of the Bible? If so, what changes will we make? If the Scriptures were vital to Jesus, how much more should they be vital to us.