An excerpt from Bill Wylie-Kellermann’s classic Seasons of Faith and Conscience (1991), on the first temptation of Jesus in the wilderness: If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.
To undertake a lenten discipline, to fast or deny an appetite, is not to inflict some perverse self-punishment or to be justified by a religious act. It is a prayer of freedom: to loosen the bonds and to restore a right relation to the created order. It is so politically loaded because it breaks with the culture precisely at its main method of control.
If in his own fast Jesus is exercising a similar kind of freedom, the tempter manages to come back at a more subtle level. The temptation is to power because more than Jesus’ own needs are at issue. Can there be any doubt that in his aching need he intercedes for all those who are hungry? He bears all who suffer poverty and want. Can there be doubt that he wants justice so bad he can taste it? He hungers after righteousness.
The sharing of bread is intimately entangled with the ministry of Jesus. It is the great sign and metaphor of the kingdom. I have a friend who says if you can read the gospels without getting hungry then you’re not paying attention. The ministry reads like a gigantic floating potluck. From the opening wedding feast to to the feeding of the multitudes, by way of banquet parables or eating with tax collectors and sinners, through the last supper and the resurrection meals. Jesus can be seen with bread in his hands – blessing, breaking, offering, partaking.