But he answered, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” (Matthew 4:4)
Hours turned to days. Days to weeks. Weeks to a month. No food.
The body began to creak with hunger. His stomach screamed in protest. Forty days of fasting is all a man can achieve without suffering permanent damage. His triumphant baptism seemed like a life ago. But now he wasted away in the wilderness, depleted, waiting. The Spirit led him there, kept him there, “to be tempted by the devil” (Matthew 4:1). The devil would war at full strength; Christ would be skin and bones, a sketch of his former self.
Understandably, “he was hungry” (Matthew 4:2). Satan, seeing him at his weakest, said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread” (Matthew 4:3).
Bread. Adam gave up blessing for a bite, and Esau, being famished, traded his inheritance for a bowl of stew. Why shouldn’t this man, after forty days of throbbing, give up the inheritance for his people? Esau had said to his brother, Jacob, “I am about to die; of what use is a birthright to me?” (Genesis 25:32) — why should not this starving one not give up his mission for that which will spare his life?
He was the Son of God, right? No doubt the devil knew what had transpired at his baptism:
When Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:16–17)
Was that really true? Was he really God’s beloved Son? If so, he wouldn’t mind reassuring himself by turning the stone into that for which his stomach would deeply thank him. Jesus would go on to multiply bread several times — why not do so when the stakes were highest?
“It is written,” came the unfed voice, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4).
Take You at Your Word
The word of God is not just true to us — it is food; it is life. Jesus would have death by starvation before he had death by breaking his Father’s word — if such a sin could have happened.
We see that our Lord did more than take his Father at his word — he hungered for it, starved under it, would not turn one stone into bread or bring one morsel to his lips until his heavenly Father spoke the word. How unlike the people of Israel, who rebelled and wandered the wilderness for forty years, and then died unwilling to learn the lesson that daily provision by heavenly bread should have taught them. But the true Israel of God, Jesus Christ, responded to the devil by quoting the ancient lesson from Deuteronomy and betting his life on it: man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.
Where do you find life? Is the word of God as necessary to you as the food you eat? Does your life still make sense if the word of God proved, in the end, untrue? Our Savior’s food was to heed his Father’s word and do his will. “Rabbi, eat,” his disciples urged on another occasion, but again he proves the lesson: “I have food to eat that you do not know about. . . . My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work” (John 4:31–34).
We take him at his word, we stake everything on his word, and his word abides in us until we, by grace, see him face to face.