He had not eaten for forty days and nights. His body starved, physically weak, he reclined on the barren earth of the mountainside, under a dead tree by the mouth of the cave where he spent his nights. His body emaciated, the shape of his bones clearly visible under his skin, his bowels had ceased to move and were it not for a cool pool of water recessed in one of the inner corridors of the cave, he would be dead of thirst, if not starvation. So how long do you think you could last without food?
The duration of survival without food is greatly influenced by factors such as body weight, genetic variation, other health considerations and, most importantly, the presence or absence of hydration. At the age of 74, and already slight of build, Mahatma Gandhi, survived 21 days of total starvation, only allowing himself sips of water. Well-documented studies report survivals of other hunger strikers for 28, 36, 38 and 40 days.
Such starvation as Jesus endured brings with it weakness and a monumental sense of exhaustion. Humanly speaking, Jesus was in no shape to be dealing with Satan, who thought of himself as Lucifer, angel and star of light. The deck was stacked. The field of battle was tilted heavily in Satan's favor. The Son of Man, drained of energy and effort; Satan at his zenith.
It is said that Martin Luther, the great reformer, considered the epistle of James to be an "epistle of straw." Yet we find in this little epistle the simple but powerful truth . . .
. . . which is exactly what Jesus did. Somewhere, somehow, in his emaciated condition, he summoned enough strength from his Father to resist this monstrous creature three times.
The last words we read are . . . "the devil left him, and angels came and attended him." A Personal Story
The story is told of a servant of God, a man, -- like the rest of us -- a disciple with feet of clay, who lay in the operating room of a large hospital. His surgery had gone south. This was now the third time the surgeons had him back in the operating room on an emergency basis, in the space of a little over a week. He was dying. He tells the story like this . . .
"I was in intense pain; pain the like of which I had never felt before. Medical professionals often ask, 'On a scale of 1-10, where is your level of pain?' The abdominal pain I was experiencing was off the charts. I couldn't imagine that pain could be this terrible.
"Everything was dark. I guess I was hallucinating, but I saw a valley which I thought was maybe the "Valley of the Shadow of Death," from Psalm 23. The walls of this valley were moving, each wall in an opposite direction. There were teardrop-shaped eyes in each wall, moving in the direction of their respective walls. The eyes were accusatory, making me feel guilty and ashamed. Frightened and helpless, I felt an evil presence, its hands wrapped around my ankles pulling me down, down . . . I cried, 'No! No! . . . there . . . there is now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.' Instantly, the hands around my ankles released and I was lifted by my arms into the presence of Jesus."
The Incredible Power of the Written Word
The writer of the epistle to the Hebrews speaks of this power . . .
"For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. -- Hebrews 4:12
Jesus used this power of the Scripture in the wilderness when he was tempted by Satan -- in the weakest possible condition a human can experience.
Shortly after my conversion to Christ, a dear man of God took me under his wing and taught me how to memorize Scripture. I can't begin to tell you now, 60 years later, how that has helped when I faced daunting experiences; experiences that I could never face had the power of Scripture not been in my heart.