We should put a book mark at Matthew 4:3. It is the moment when Satan says to Jesus, “Your stomach is sunken and growling; you should make yourself some bread to quench your hunger and stop the endless hunger pains.”
Okay. Not an exact translation of Satan’s conversation with Jesus. But we can well imagine the interaction between the two. Jesus, alone, sitting under a tree, weakened by hunger, when Satan walks up with a plausible solution. “You’re the son of God. Solve your hunger with a miracle. What’s wrong with that?”
Indeed. That’s what we all do. Go to the pantry. Visit the local grocery store. Whip up a batch of homemade bread. But this is more complicated than that. Satan is asking Jesus to become self-sufficient. To bypass God. To make a trial easier than it should be. “You have the power. Use it.”
However, more was at stake than a convenient abracadabra. The Wilderness was meant to be powerlessness. It was to be totally vulnerable and dependent on God. The Wilderness was a journey into weakness. To make stones in to bread would be to overpower weakness with authority and to bypass God.
Quite a different negotiation than when Jesus turned fish and bread into a meal for thousands. Here it was to show God’s power and compassion. Hungry crowds of people having their needs supplied miraculously by God.
Different also than the Passover meal that Jesus served to his disciples in an upper room. This time bread was a metaphor. A symbol of his physical body. A body that would be broken, figuratively speaking, as the bread was broken and served to all that the table. You can be sure that Jesus’ disciples would never be able to look at bread as they formerly had.
Lent invites us to sit alone with Jesus in the Wilderness. In this case breadless. It is life that is simple and reduced to its barest minimums. It is to rely on God to quench our hunger. After this Jesus blessed the crowds when they hunger and thirst for righteousness. Later he met their hunger with fish and bread. No complex French sauces.
Lent invites us into hunger and simplicity. No one sated on media, entertainment, and distraction will find Christ’s invitation attractive, but those who feel the hunger pains of spiritual searching welcome it and gladly wander into the wilderness with Jesus.
Christ of solitude. We accept your invitation. Please help us to fend away the things that promise to delight our taste buds. That will distract and entertain us. That will end the pains and end our hunger for you. We pray. Amen.