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Feasting in the Midst of Fasting

Andrew Russell

Lent is rightly considered a more somber season of the Church year. Mirroring Jesus’s 40 days of temptation in the desert, Christians undergo a time of fasting from a luxury or two. We take time to reflect on our sinfulness and God’s mercy. We pray more, and we mourn the death of our Savior on the cross.

But Lent is not a time for despair. Intricately woven in with our mourning is a great hope of an empty tomb, a walk with Jesus on the road to Emmaus, and a meager meal over a campfire on the shore of the Sea of Tiberius. Lent is, more than anything perhaps, an earnest look to the horizon for that first hint of sunrise. We know it’s going to come. We just have to wait.

I think we would do well to incorporate this expectation into our Lenten fasting. Many of us go without Netflix, chocolate, or wine and pat ourselves on the back for “suffering for the Lord.” We think we’ve accomplished the goal of fasting, but in reality we couldn’t be more off base. If we really want our fast to resemble Jesus’s grappling with Satan in the wilderness, we have to see that Jesus didn’t only fast out there—he also feasted.

He didn’t have any food or drink, sure. But that would have been no help to him in overcoming the attacks of the enemy. No, Jesus feasted on the Word of God out there. Without the distraction of food and drink, without the false sense of self-sufficiency they tend to give human beings, Jesus was forced to rely on his Father alone for nourishment. He clung tightly to his Father’s Word, and feasted in his presence for those forty days. In scarcity, he found abundance.

That’s the goal of Lent for us Christians. Put aside the thing you go to over and over again instead of God. Turn off the screens, put away the Ben and Jerry’s, and feast in his presence and in his Word. Notice that he was with you all along, even when you felt all alone—even when you felt like you didn’t need him. Live like Jesus does: not by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.

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