That we know of, Jesus only fasted once.

He fasted after he was baptized in the Jordan, after water wrapped him up like a tomb, after a dove descended as if to say Peace itself had come. His fast filled him when he followed that dove into the desert, not to be strengthened for his upcoming ministry, but to be weakened and tempted.

His fast filled him.

Jesus fasted forty days. Days in sand and sun. Forty days in a harsh Palestinian wilderness. Days when a desert rabbit or a rare plant must have looked mighty appetizing. And then the serpent came and offered him food and power.

It’s all very weird. It’s weird because not eating for forty days is not actually good for your body. Doctors don’t recommend it. It’s weird because Jesus was really feeling this hunger. He didn’t have any powers to endure that we don’t all have access to. He wasn’t magically not hungry. Jesus was capable of starving. It’s weird because, what seems like a bad idea to get oneself ready for the marathon turned out to be exactly the thing Jesus did. He doesn’t carbo-load for ministry; he says, “I’m not relying on food; I’m relying on my Father.”

Jesus was hungry and weak, but “food” and “power” could not sway him. And because Jesus was filled in the midst of his fast, because he would not bend to all the things the rest of us think we need, like food and power and self-preservation, the scripture-spewing serpent slithered away, hissing under a rock and waiting for the opportune time, not in the desert, but in a garden called Gethsemane.

The dove could have led Jesus straight from the waters of baptism to the mount of his first great sermon. But it didn’t.

Baptism, it seems, wasn’t the final preparation.

The fast was. The fast that filled him such that he overcame temptation. Such that, though wild animals surrounded him, he neither hunted them nor succumbed to them. He was then and there the Lion of Judah, a wilder force than all the rest.

And foodless, he was filled.

Wild animals may surround. But, also, angels attend. Food lures and power seduces, but there are greater Food and Power even in the fast. And they fill up to overflowing.

Posted by Griffin Paul Jackson


  1. I tend to think this was a lifestyle for Jesus though you are correct in assessing the only intentional mention of a specific fast. Yet when the disciples couldn’t cast the demon out of a man and came to Jesus who quickly took care of the problem. He then said this kind only comes out by prayer and fasting. He didn’t have to go pray and fast to do this. I believe He was fasted and prayed up. Our staff and elders target Thursday as a day of fasting each week where we are putting prayerful focus in strategic directions.

    Healthy practice that doesn’t make God more aware of us. Fasting makes us more aware of God.


    1. Griffin Paul Jackson February 11, 2016 at 6:53 am

      Good word. You’re probably right that fasting was a regular part of Jesus’ life. I think this specific instance paints a particularly important picture of his life and ministry, but, yes, fasting may have been an integral part of many more stories in the gospels and simply isn’t mentioned.

      “Healthy practice that doesn’t make God more aware of us. Fasting makes us more aware of God.” I like that.


  2. Beautifully and powerfully written!


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