So the Holy Spirit descended upon the Lord and made Him full of the Holy Spirit. From then on He was different. He could start His ministry. What was the first ministry that the Lord Jesus carried out after He was baptized in water and the Holy Spirit had come bodily upon Him? We say emphatically that it was the ministry of fasting. It is as if it was so important, so paramount, so pre-eminent for Him that He felt the need to carry it out before He did anything else.
The Lord Jesus considered that the success of His ministry in many areas depended on His forty-day fast, so He more or less might have said to Himself, “I will put first things first. I have been baptized. I have had the Holy Spirit come upon Me in bodily form. Before I do the other things, I must have My forty-day fast.” And He went and had it.
Why The Lord Jesus Fasted
There are many reasons why the Lord Jesus fasted:
1. He fasted as a matter between Him and His Father. The Lord Jesus became truly man. As man, He had to learn obedience through the things that He suffered. The Bible says:
“Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered; and being made perfect he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him” (Hebrews 5: 89).
There is much suffering involved in a forty-day fast. That suffering contributed to what Jesus needed to perfect Himself. He fasted to say to His Father, “I am willing to suffer in any way, including the maximum fast that You permit, in order that I may be perfected for the mission You have set be- fore Me. There is no price that I will be unwilling to pay. I will never accuse You of asking too much.” There is no question that the fast of the Lord Jesus was well pleasing to the Father. Part of the proof of this comes in its total success in all realms. This could not have been possible without the Father’s special enabling. The other part of the proof comes from the angels who were sent to minister to the Lord Jesus after the fast.
2. He fasted as an example to those who would believe in Him. The Bible says of the Lord Jesus:
“Since therefore the children share in the flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same nature, that through death he might destroy him who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong bandage. For surely it is not with angels that he is concerned but with the descendants of Abraham. Therefore he had to be made like his brethren in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make expiation for the sins of the people. For because he himself has suffered and been tempted, he is able to help those who are tempted” (Hebrews 2: 14-18).
The Bible continues:
“For we have not a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4: 15).
The Lord Jesus knew that He would fast. He knew that there would be problems associated with fasts. He, therefore, fasted so as to be like His fasting followers in every respect. Because He fasted for forty days, He experienced all that any fasting saint would ever experience. If you are fasting for seven days, He knows the route and the problems and can be trusted at any moment to help. If your fast is for fifteen, thirty, or forty days, He is again the competent Guide. He knows the problems of each step from personal experience and is a sure Guide. I feel that we can rewrite Hebrews 4: 15 thus: “For we have not a high priest who is unable to sympathise with our weaknesses in fasting, but One who in every respect has been tempted and tried during fasting as we are, yet completed His fast.”
So in order that Jesus might be our competent Guide, He fasted as an example to us. He also fasted as an encouragement to us. Do you see what the implications are? I think they are obvious! If you want to be like Jesus, you must include fasting in your spiritual diet. “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps” (1 Peter 2: 21). One of these steps is fasting. Do not forget to follow in it. We see in the forty-day fast of the Lord Jesus an invitation for believers to fast for up to forty days at a time. We see in the forty days an encouragement that those who follow Him along such a path are doing that which He approves of and can count on Him in all their weaknesses along the way. We see in the forty days the limit placed by the Lord for a normal complete fast, drinking (water only). We see here a warning that those who want to carry out complete fasts of more than forty days are going on a journey where at some point He may not be their Guide, for He is not their Example. We consider that any who want to or carry out fasts of more than forty days want to exalt themselves and not the Lord. They shall be brought down, and it could be by death along the way.
3. He fasted to consecrate Himself to His Father and His Father’s purposes. The Lord was about to start His public ministry. He had consecrated Himself to the Father and His will in heaven. But that was thirty years before. It could be that He felt the need to consecrate Himself to Him afresh and to accept the Father’s will all over. The fast gave Him such an opportunity. He, therefore, put aside all food, and during forty days said anew to His Father what He perhaps was to say on a daily basis: “Lord, not my will but Thine be done.”
4. He fasted for spiritual warfare. I think this is the most important reason why the Lord Jesus fasted. The Gospel of Mark summarized it all as follows:
“The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. And he was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered to him” (Mark 1: 12-13).
According to the Bible, the only person Jesus actually encountered during His fast was the devil. There is no mention of the Father being present, even though it is obvious that He was there. The Holy Spirit was certainly there and, afterwards, the angels that came to minister to the Lord Jesus. Satan was fully present. He timed Jesus and wrestled with Him in many ways. He was bent on victory, and he laboured for it. He could have won through pressure and persistence if he had had to deal with one who was less than the Son of God. Although he attacked and attacked, he failed. Jesus was fully armed before He went to the wilderness, and there, during the forty days, He launched mighty offensives against the kingdom of Satan. The attack was serious. It was sharp, persistent, and effective. He attacked the devil’s methods, strategy, and headquarters. He did it so well that Satan had to come to see what could be done. He came. He tried to put on a fight, but by fasting Jesus knocked him out completely. It is interesting to note that the devil only came in, in full force, at the end of the fast. He was coming to a Jesus who, though weak in the physical body because of the days of fasting, was very alert and strong in the Spirit. He had moved, through the fast, to new spiritual horizons and was therefore better able to handle enemy attacks. What would have happened if the devil had come to a Jesus who had, through lack of discipline or rationalization of Bible truth, sought every reason to escape the ministry of fasting? I do not want to answer the question, but I think the answer is obvious. I firmly believe that the key application of the ministry is in spiritual warfare against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, and against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places, because these are Satan’s hosts, and fasting is used by the Lord to overthrow them, even though the fasting believer may not understand how and where this is being done. We know that prayer is a principal weapon in spiritual warfare. It would seem to me that the spiritual potential of fasting is at least equal to, if not far greater than, that of prayer. There is a point that can be reached in prayer where the battle is so fierce that words are unnecessary! The interceding one only knows groans, tears, and sweat. He knows how very far-reaching the contribution he is making is. He also knows that he is pouring himself out in a total way. This could go on for minutes, hours, or days. I think that a serious long fast begins the battle at this plane. The preliminary battle that needs talking is over. War of great importance in silence is in progress. The fasting saint, by pouring himself out with the fast, gives God the material that He needs to put down His Enemy and ours. The fasting saint, by fasting, stands beside his Master, the Lord of glory, and makes the sword of fasting available to our winning Lord. If there are no fasts stocked up in the “bank of fasting” and no real fasting people at work at the actual moment, then the Lord will be like the captain whose armour bearer has escaped at a crucial moment in the battle. The Lord is, thereby, compelled to “fail,” and He allows it to be so!
5. The last reason why the Lord fasted had to do with His own ministry. Before the fast it was said that He was full of the Holy Spirit (Luke 4: 1).
After the fast the Bible says that He “returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee” (Luke 4: 11).
So He went into the fast full of the Holy Spirit and during the forty days of fasting in the power of the Holy Spirit with which He was full, He went through warfare and victory over Satan in power for further ministry. It is as if the power with which He was clothed was transformed into power for further ministry. Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, went into the fast. Nothing was heard about the power of the Holy Spirit. During the fast, transformation and releases took place that ensured that there were immediate reports about His positive deeds. A report went of Him from Galilee throughout the surrounding country. It was a report of power flowing out in mighty deeds, and it caused Him to receive glory from all. During the fast He knew agony and suffering. Because He endured it and finished the fast to the satisfaction of the Father, His public ministry received public acclaim. Something is released of spiritual power in a believer after a fast, especially after a long fast of forty days, that is not easy to put into words. After the fast and even during the fast, there is greater release in prayer. There is authority to address God and to come into His presence. There is greater faith to ask the Lord for big things for His glory. Faith is generated, and doubt recedes. I have often found that this special authority in prayer begins on the second day of the fast and increases as the fast continues. Even when the body is so tired that prayer sessions are no longer long and continuous, the short prayers prayed are powerful cries to God that are full of weight and rarely go unanswered. The power of prayer remains mighty with the end of the fast; so that it is possible for a believer to change his entire position in all the areas. Power to hate sin, the world, the works of the flesh, et etcetera, is unquestionably released and should be capitalized upon. If that is done, then each believer, like his Lord, can also in a real way “return in the power of the Spirit,” to the call of God in his life. Is that not wonderful? I believe it is. We said from the beginning that the Lord Jesus was full of the Holy Spirit when He went into the fast. He was not a man who waited until He was at the end of Him self spiritually before He began to fast. That is something for all the saints to learn. They should try to go into the fast in top form, and, in that way, they will get the best out of it. Because the fasting saint comes before the Lord, he should do all to bring Him his best. He should put on his best spiritual apparel: a pure and surrendered heart, filled with all the fullness of God.