The Hunger.
WHILE, on the one hand, we do not conceive that the individual features of the account of the Temptation are to be literally taken, the principles which triumph so gloriously in its course bear the evident stamp of that wisdom which every where shines forth from the life of Christ. Its veracity is undeniably confirmed by the period which it occupies between the baptism of Christ and his entrance on his public ministry; the silent, solitary preparation was a natural transition from the one to the other. We conclude, from both these considerations together, that the account contains not only an ideal, but also a historical truth, conveyed, however, under a symbolical form. [115]

The easiest part of our task is to ascertain the import of the several parts of the Temptation, and to this we now address ourselves. We shall find in them the principles which guided Jesus through his whole Messianic calling -- principles directly opposed to the notions prevalent among the Jews in regard to the Messiah.

The first temptation was as follows: [116] After Jesus had fasted for a long time, he suffered the pangs of hunger. As no food was to be had in the desert, the suggestion was made to him, "If thou art really the Messiah, the Son of God, this need cannot embarrass thee. Thou canst help thyself readily by a miracle; thou canst change the stones of the desert into bread." Jesus rejected this challenge with the words, "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God" (what is produced by God's creative word) To apprehend these words rightly, we must recall their original connexion in Deuteronomy (viii., 3), viz., that the Jews were fed in the wilderness with manna, in order to learn that the power of God could sustain human life by other means than ordinary food. They longed for the bread and flesh of Egypt, but were to be taught submission to the will of God, who was pleased to supply their wants with a different food. Applying this thought to Christ's circumstances, we interpret his reply to the tempter as follows: "Far be it from me to prescribe to God the mode in which he shall provide me sustenance. Rather will I trust his omnipotent creative power, which can find means to satisfy my hunger, even in the desert, though it may not be with man's usual food."

The principle involved in the reply was, that he had no wish to free himself from the sense of human weakness and dependence; that he would work no miracle for that purpose. He would work no miracle to satisfy his own will; no miracle where the momentary want might be supplied, though by natural means such as might offend the sensual appetite. In self-denial he would follow God, submitting to His will, and trusting that His mighty power would help in the time of need, in the way that His wisdom might see fit. On this same principle Christ acted when he suffered his apostles to satisfy their hunger with the corn which they had plucked, rather than do a miracle to provide them better food. On this same principle he acted when he gave himself to the Jewish officers sent to apprehend him, [117] rather than seek deliverance by a Divine interposition. Of the same kind, too, was his trial when he hung upon the cross, and they that passed by said, "If he be the King of Israel, let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him." [118]


[116] Matt., iv., 2-4.

[117] Matt., xxvi., 53.

[118] Ib., xxvii., 42.

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