After His baptism and before the start of His ministry on earth, the incarnate Son of God walked into the wilderness, no food or drink in hand. He fasted forty days and forty nights, Scripture tells us, and then “the tempter approached him” (Matthew 4:3). Hungry and thirsty and holding no tangible thing of value, Jesus was tempted to take hold of power, to test the Father’s love for Him, to make for Himself a feast of bread to satiate His languishing body. When His human weakness was met with temptation, how did He respond? Using the words of Scripture, He turned to the Father.
Instead of reaching out for what the world would say He needed, Jesus clung to what He couldn’t live without: “He answered, ‘It is written: Man must not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God’” (Matthew 4:4). Rather than yielding to the devil’s enticements, Jesus yielded Himself to the Father and glorified Him: “Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him” (v.10).
Our culture views empty-handedness as the lowliest of conditions. We are trained to find our worth in usefulness and status, and to seek joy in our possessions. On the off chance we look down to find our hands empty, we quickly scoop up something to hold on to—some bit of work or wealth, some duty or distraction to busy our bodies and entertain our minds. But this hands-full gospel is not the message of Jesus.
Lent is a season where we once again remember that our hope and strength are found in nothing but the cross of Christ. By engaging in daily Scripture reading, prayer, confession, and repentance in these weeks leading up to the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, we retrain our hearts to embrace the salvation we cannot earn. We came empty-handed when we first gave our lives to Him, and we have nothing of our own as we return to Him now—only what He has freely and graciously given us.
This forty-day walk into the wilderness will bring us face to face with the depth of our lack, our human frailty, and our sin. But it will bring us to the cross, where our High Priest, who modeled perfect dependence on the Father, will show us the cost of our forgiveness in the marks on His body, even as He invites us to receive mercy.
Lent is an invitation to put down everything we have picked up in order to take hold of the only One who can truly satisfy our heart’s deepest longings. It is a call to turn back, and experience a season of refreshing for our souls (Acts 3:19). Come with open hands, and freely receive (Isaiah 55).
Written by Amanda Bible Williams