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excerpt from 'The Divine Conspiracy' by Dallas willard  (p 216-220)

But Jesus himself knew that when we have learned how to fast ‘in secret’, our bodies and our souls will be directly sustained by the invisible kingdom.  We will not be miserable.  But we certainly will be different.  And our abundant strength and our joy will come in ways a purely physical human existence in ‘the flesh’ does not know.  It will come from those sources that ‘are in secret’.

When Jesus was in his long fast between his baptism and entering public life, he was tempted by Satan to turn stones into loaves of bread that he might eat.  His reply is profoundly important for understanding the kingdom and kingdom living.  He cites a passage from Deuteronomy:  “The human being is not nourished by bread only, but by every word that comes out of God’s mouth’ (Matt 4:4, Deut 8:3).  What we must take care to understand is the phrase ‘every word that comes out of God’s mouth’  ..

Of course Jesus ate normal food, as all of us do and must.  That is the God-appointed normal course, to be received with humility and thankfulness.  But he also knew the direct sustenance of God to his body.  He would have us know it too.  The Gospel account of his meeting with a woman of Samaria (John 4) is one fo the theologically richest passages in all of scripture.  But one of the greatest teachings occurs right at the end of the story and is often overlooked..   the disciples urged Jesus to eat the food they had brought.

His reply teaches us much about fasting and about what happens when we are engaged with the kingdom of the heavens.  He says, ‘I have some food you don’t know about.’   ... ‘My food is to do what the One who sent me wants done and to accomplish his purposes (John 4:34).....

Jesus is often thought to mean that when you do God’s will, or possibly just ‘good things’, you feel better about yourself and life, and perhaps also that those around you will support and encourage you.  Thus the good news from Jesus is reduced in practice to some vaguely hopeful out-look on the human condition.  ....  but if this statement is taken to be true in the sense it was obviously taken by those who initially heard it ..... Jesus indicates that physical nourishment too was available directly from spiritual resources.

The practice of fasting goes together with this teaching about nourishing ourselves on the person of Jesus (John 6:48-51).  It emphasizes the direct availability of God to nourish, sustain, and renew the soul.    It is a testimony to the reality of another world from which Jesus and his Father perpetually intermingle their lives with ours (John 14:23).

David Wanstall, 29/01/2008

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