Not By Bread Alone
Not by Bread Alone
Matthew 4:1-11 T Lent 1
“Since God permits you to hunger and you still continue to live, you ought indeed grasp the thought that God nourishes you without bread through His Word.” That quote comes from Martin Luther. And He illuminates a key point of this text: to be fooled into thinking bread alone nourishes you means you’ve fallen prey to whims of the devil. Afterall, that’s his goal. He wants to get God’s people to believe that the most important nourishment one could receive is food.
It’s no coincidence that from our Old Testament reading that Satan tempts Adam and Eve with what? FOOD! Not just any food, but food that had a command attached to it. God had said to Adam, “of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” But of course, Satan’s temptation to Eve is the same song and dance he did to Jesus, and the same song and dance with which we are tempted today. He tempts us to question the validity of God’s Word – “Did God really say?”
You see, bread alone wasn’t the problem with Adam and Eve. They had plenty of food! Heck, they had the tree of life! Every plant of the garden was good for food for them! There was no reason for them to desire fruit from this other tree that the Lord hadn’t given them to eat! They’re given dominion over the earth and the animals. The earth grows abundantly and has no lack. And thus, in the fullness of the blessings with which God has given them, they also have NO LACK!
Yet, they wanted more. So, they fell into temptation. They were deceived by their temptations. But the devil didn’t tempt them because of the novelty of the fruit. He tempted them to forego their trust in their Creator’s command. They ultimately showed themselves to be nourished by bread alone. Because the Word of God showed empty from their hearts through their actions.
You may hear temptations of the same kind today. Did God actually say, “marriage is between a man and a woman?” “Did God actually say that husband is to have headship over his wife?” “Did God actually say that ALL have fallen short of His glory?” “Did God actually say that you are saved by His grace, and by nothing we do?” “Did God actually say that he gives us His name and every good godly benefit attached to His name in baptism?” “Did God actually say that His body and blood are given through THIS bread and wine?”
This is how the serpent continues to tempt God’s creation. He’s a false messenger with a lie. He tries to get us to insert words and faulty reasoning between God’s own commands, sending us down roads of doubting His clear words. He tries to get us to buy into the notion that we do live by bread alone. And that God’s Word is in some sense malleable and changeable to my preferences and circumstances – to make God’s direction in my life a little bit more palatable given my context. That is to say, our weak, frail flesh wants to choose the path of least resistance and most comforts when confronted with the foe’s schemes.
We’re no different than Adam and Eve. We’re duped and fall into temptation. We buy into the lie that we live by bread alone. That we aren’t really nourished by the Word of God. Our flesh is weak. Truly, we deserve to be kicked out of the Garden, just as Adam and Eve were. For we are dust, and to dust we shall return.
Thanks be to God that we have an intercessor, a high priest, someone who stands in our stead before the Father in heaven, who is able to sympathize with our weakness. He, Christ Jesus our Lord, has been tempted in every respect as we are, yet He remains sinless. And so, we can draw near to God’s throne of grace with confidence that He does indeed give us grace and mercy in our times of need and our times of help!
Adam and Eve, nor you or I have conquered the temptations of our old evil foe. But Christ has. Christ didn’t fall for his old tricks, because Christ truly does live not by bread alone. He fasted for 40 days and nights in the wilderness. Through His actions, He showed what truly gives Him sustenance for His earthly journey. That He, as Jesus, is the Word of God made flesh, who seeks to be the man that Adam couldn’t be. He seeks to be the obedient child to the Father, to whom He gives honor, respect, and love – because we in our weakness fall short of God’s will for us, despite the abundant blessings He’s given us.
Christ doesn’t live by bread alone, but by the Word that comes out from His father’s mouth. If you notice in Satan’s temptations of Jesus, He tempts Jesus in much the same way – “Did God really say?” Those weren’t his exact words, but the doubts and effects it insinuates is the same – turn those stones into bread, because that’s the sustenance you REALLY need right now. Never mind the fact that the Holy Spirit led you out here to fast – you have the power – why don’t you just end your hunger now? Throw yourself off this temple – doesn’t the Scriptures say that God’s angels will save you? Why don’t you just go ahead and do it and see if the Word of God is true! Bow down to me, and I’ll give you the kingdoms of the world! You can have all earthly power and glory!
Jesus made Himself weak in His fasting. But God’s clear words were enough to dispel the doubt Satan sowed. His fasting surely made Him hungry, full of doubt, and powerless. But in His weakness, Jesus still honored the clear words from His Father. His hunger pangs couldn’t lead Him to bow down to the enemy. His trust in the Father remained unshaken, even though in His weakness, Satan tried to lead Jesus to test the validity of God’s Word. But if you notice, Jesus didn’t try to debate Satan’s clearly falsely exegeted and ripped out of context bible passage. Rather, Jesus went to the clear word of God. Finally, even though Jesus surely felt powerless from His lack of food, He was surely powerful for He clung to God’s Word when tempted with the power of earthly kingdoms. He not only showed us that we can’t live by bread alone and live eternally before God in heaven, He showed us that only when we live in and through Christ’s victory over Satan can we live.
Lent is one of those times that the Church corporately draws near to God’s throne of Grace for help. So yes, we engage in some sort of Lenten fast to focus our attention on the fact that we don’t live by bread alone. Rather, we live by every word that comes from the mouth of God. And in times of temptation, we, like Jesus, feed on the clear words of Scripture for our comfort, clarity, and guidance.
Now, more than just bread can cloud us from hearing God’s word. And so, our Lenten fasts can include anything that could distract us from not living by the nourishment of the word. This could exchanging your habit of watching TV after dinner to reading God’s Word and doing devotions with your family. It could scrolling on your phone first thing in the morning and last thing before bed and using that time to pray with your spouse or individually, instead. It could include giving up a certain food that you find particularly satisfying, so as to remember that God seeks to give you nourishment of satisfaction of your sins through His Son.
These fasts don’t earn favor before God. He doesn’t look upon your fasts with gladness. But He does enjoy seeing His children curbing their sinful flesh and desires, so that they may be nourished by His Word instead. Our Father loves to talk to us. And we’d do good to talk back to Him in prayer.
And so, we draw near to His throne of grace. For through the forgiveness, grace and mercy given through Christ, through His all-availing sacrifice of His body and blood on the cross, given to us in bread and wine, we are brought back to fellowship with Him because His Word and promises ARE good, sure, and trustworthy. And by them, we’re fed life eternal.