Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” – Mat 4:3
I’ve read this verse so many times but just recently I stopped to think about it a little more; and the thought occurred to me: ‘What’s wrong with turning stones into bread?’
As far as I can think of, there is no commandment that says, “Thou shalt not turn stones into bread.” So what’s the deal here? Why did Satan think it was a good idea to tempt Jesus in this way? And why did Jesus feel the need to resist this temptation?
The first suggestion to why this was wrong was because Jesus was fasting.
Was the devil tempting Jesus to break his fast early? While this is a possibility, the scriptures seem to indicate that Jesus was done fasting before the devil tempted Him with this:
And in those days He ate nothing, and afterward, when they had ended, He was hungry. And the devil said to Him… -Luke 4:2-3
If you’ll notice, the bible says that afterward, when the fasting had ended, Jesus was hungry.
In all actuality, it wouldn’t have been much of a temptation for Jesus to eat during the normal part of His fast. After about three days of fasting, the hunger pains cease. And from what I have read, after about ten days, fasting becomes quite pleasant. In Richard Foster’s book, Celebration of Discipline, he describes a lengthy fast:
By the sixth or seventh day you will begin to feel stronger and more alert. Hunger pains will continue to diminish until by the ninth or tenth day they are only a minor irritation. The body will have eliminated the bulk of toxins and you will feel good. Your sense of concentration will be sharpened and you will feel as if you could continue fasting indefinitely. Physically this is the most enjoyable part of the fast.
Anywhere between twenty-one and forty days or longer, depending on the individual, hunger pains will return. This is the first stage of starvation and the pains signal that the body has used up its reserves and is beginning to draw on the living tissue. The fast should be broken at this time. – Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster, pg 59.
So, considering this, since the bible says that Jesus was hungry, He was probably entering into the first stage of starvation.
During the fast, the temptation to eat would not have been so great because Jesus was feeling good. But now, when starvation was setting in, food was looking really good. Jesus really wanted to eat. And Jesus really needed to eat. If He didn’t eat soon, there would be some serious damage done to His body, and He would begin to die.
According to the gospel of Luke, Jesus was being tempted for the entire forty days. The devil was throwing everything he had at Jesus, but it wasn’t working. But now the devil notices that Jesus is hungry. Jesus is in the wilderness somewhere. There’s no food around. The devil sees an opportunity, so he seeks to exploit it:
If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become bread. – Mt 4:3
But what was the devil thinking here? What was he hoping to accomplish? He was convinced that it would serve his purposes for Jesus to command stones into bread, but why?
It is agreed that Jesus could have turned the stones into bread if He had so desired. Just a short while later He turned water into wine. So the temptation was real. With just a command His stomach would have been satisfied.
This makes me think of Jesus’ trial before His accusers. At just a command He could have summoned twelve legions of angels to deliver Him, but He would not. Here was a similar situation.
It seems as though the devil’s goal here was to pressure Jesus into using the power given to Him by God for Himself. If the devil could get him started down this road, then he knew He would have Him.
Jesus had just been declared by a Voice from Heaven to be the Son of God, and He was anointed with the Holy Spirit which came down from heaven. Would He now use that position and power to feed His own stomach? Never. He wasn’t anointed to serve Himself. He was anointed to serve the people that God had sent Him to:
The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord. – Lk 4:18
See the purpose of His anointing? It was to serve the poor, the heart-broken, to set free those in bondage, to heal the blind, to save the oppressed, and to declare the time of the Lord’s favor. But the devil’s temptations were for Jesus to serve Himself. First with the bread, then with pride, then with all the kingdoms of this world.
Isn’t this the message behind all temptation: SERVE YOURSELF.
This temptation of the devil is very sly. Satan knew that he wouldn’t be able to tempt the Son of God with the temptations that he would use on ordinary men. Instead, the devil subtly seeks to undermine Jesus’ faith in the provision of God: “The forty days are over, don’t you want something to eat? You’ll die if you don’t have something to eat. What good will you be to God if you are dead? – that is–if you really are the Son of God…”
“If you really are the Son of God you could take these stones, turn them into bread, and provide for yourself.”
Yet Jesus confounds the devil with His response:
“ It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. ’” – Mat 4:4
In other words: “My Father has already provided for me. His Word sustains me at every moment. I have bread that you don’t know about.”
The devil had no response to this. Instead, he moved on to another temptation.
In light of this we can learn an important truth: the gifts of God upon our lives are not for ourselves but for those around us. It’s a great temptation to use our gifts to serve ourselves, but we must resist it. We must serve one another as Jesus demonstrated to us when He washed His disicples’ feet. Our personal needs will be met by God Himself, as He has promised:
“Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” – Matthew 6:31-33
And we can see that God was indeed faithful to provide for Jesus by sending angels to minister (their job – Heb 1:14) to His needs (Mat 4:11).
Let us use our gifts to minister to others. We will not only find a great blessing in this, but we will also see the faithfulness of God in meeting our own needs. Amen.
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2 thoughts on “What’s Wrong with Turning Stones into Bread?”
Hey I just wanted to let you know that you can shoot me an email if you would like to. I subscribed to your blog. I saw where you and your wife lost an infant back in May. I cannot begin to express my sympathy for you and your whole family. I can’t say that I know it is hard because I have never lost a child, as a matter of a fact I have never even been pregnant. I can say that I can not imagine the pain you all must be feeling. I am so sorry. I will keep you,your wife, and your children in prayer. If you ever need any other prayers, enail me and I promise I will start praying rght away. Give Katrina abd your kids a sympathetic hug from me and tell them I am praying for them!
I was talking to my nephew earlier while reading this blog and I when I told him about Jesus washing his disciples feet he asked why. I know God will nett our needs but in particular why did he wash their feet.