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12th January: God's Limits (1) -- The Limits of Provision

Man shall not live by bread alone. Matthew 4:4

The first thing that Jesus did when he felt his hour had come to begin his ministry was to submit himself in humility to the baptism of repentance at the hands of his cousin, John the Baptist. It was then that he received his first commendation from his Father: `Thou art my beloved son; with thee I am well pleased' (Lk 3:22). After that he was led out into the wilderness to consider the methods his Father wanted him to adopt. The Tempter was at hand.

After forty days of fasting, Jesus is hungry. He needs food, and the first temptation is to turn stones into bread. Nothing wrong about that, is there? `God is your provider, you need never be hungry, only believe that he can provide for you; where God guides, he provides.'

Jesus rejects the suggestion. He quotes the Scripture: `Man shall not live by bread alone'. He declines to cast his father in the role of Material Provider. Could it be that it was that same spirit of renunciation which had led him to seek baptism, renouncing his divine exemption which he could have claimed, and was it that same spirit which had earned him his Father's audible approval?

How do we, in the light of this first temptation of Jesus, interpret the Father's love and care? Do we present him as one whose duty it is to provide, forgetting that Jesus himself, in his human form, had to go without an answer to the problem of hunger and bodily discomfort? `Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests,' he said, `but the Son of man has nowhere to lay his head' (Mt 8:20). It is true that he pointed to the father's provision for the birds and the lilies of the field. But in the wisdom of God there are limits. Perhaps we must learn the affirmation of the prophet: `Though the fig tree does not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food...yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation' (Hab 3:17-18).

Lord, help me to know and to accept what it means to say:
`Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that
proceeds from the mouth of God'.

Further reading: Mt 4:1-4. De 8:1-6.


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