Text: “And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward hungry”– Matthew 4:2
The Lenten season is one of the most important seasons for Christians. It is a season which by the aid of fasting we engage in reflection, seek forgiveness and get healing from our sins. Moreover, it is a season in which we reflect on Jesus death on the cross, why he suffered and died, why the cross and what his death on the cross accomplished for us.
In our text, we read that Jesus fasted for forty days and forty nights. He fasted after his baptism at which a voice from heaven (the voice of God the father) declared his Sonship and his messiahship (Matthew 3:17). What precedes his fasting and what follows show us that he fasted purposely to prepare himself for his ministry. Fasting is a religious practice which has its root in the Scripture. Before Christ the following people also fasted: Moses (Deut 9:9-18); Elijah (1Kings 9:4-8); Ezra (Ezra 10:6-17); Esther (Esther 4:15-17); and Daniel (Daniel 10:1-3). After Christ we have it on record that Paul fasted (Acts 9:1-9) and Church Elders (Acts 13:1-3) Fasting as a religious practice is not to be taken simply as a ritual that is to be observed or a mere ceremony. Jesus warned against this in Matthew 6:16-18 that when we fast should not do as hypocrites by disfiguring our faces and showing off to people for them to see we are fasting. This is simply tokenism, tokenism is when we do little of what is expected of us and show it to people to see in a way for them seeing us doing a very big thing. Prophet Isaiah condemned it in Isaiah 58. The purpose of the Christian fast is to discipline the body and the mind. It is a time when what hampers the body or the soul is totally given up altogether. The purpose of fasting is to bring us nearer to the Lord. To be like Christ is the consummation of the Christian life.
Therefore, fasting calls for self-examination. Every year we set apart 40 day that we may examine ourselves and see where our temptations are assailing us. It is not merely deeds we look at, but our thoughts and feelings. When we note our fault, we are to fight it and get deliverance from it through prayer and self-discipline.
Beloved, we are enjoined to go beyond making fasting mere Christian symbol or done without any effort to make it achieve the purpose for which we fast. We are all to take interest in fasting during this Lenten season, couple it with prayers and focus on Christ vicarious sacrifice with the aim of appropriating its benefits spiritually, if we do not come out better after the Lenten period than we have not gone beyond tokenism in fasting.
Very Revd Adewale Adebiyi Ph.D