As an atheist, I have sometimes argued that Jesus didn’t really fast for 40 days and nights in the desert, that the bible exaggerates. But now I believe that Jesus did in fact fast for 40 days and 40 nights. I don’t know why He did it, but maybe I’ll have a better understanding when I get further into my own fast.
Today was long. Many of you may not know this, but I teach and tutor math at a community college. Today I started my day on campus at 9AM and didn’t leave until 8PM, and I was either lecturing or tutoring for the entire time. It is exhausting work, but it is also fun and worthwhile. However, it can be stressful, especially if you don’t have a meal to look forward to at the end of the day. There were times today when I wanted to cry, not because the day was bad, but because I didn’t know when my next pleasurable moment would be.
Do I depend so much on food for my happiness? Maybe that’s the first thing that has to get burned off in this desert.
An ex-girlfriend called me today and left a message. I would have taken her call if I could have. It’s complicated, and I won’t share details now, but we recently became friends again after many years, that is until she discovered that I’m an atheist. So she hasn’t communicated with me since then, for a couple of months. But today she calls. She didn’t say why in the message, but I think it might have been because of my 40-day fast. She is Christian, and I hope she is supportive. Maybe she knows that the first few days will be the hardest, until enough baggage has gotten burned off in the heat of the desert.
I’m not hungry. And I’m not going through caffeine withdrawal, because I went through the last of those many years ago. I’m feeling pretty good, physically anyway. No overwhelming cravings. There’s a part of me that would like to report something bad today. But nothing bad has happened yet, except for the feeling that, without food, I will get depressed. Focus on other things…
Jesus was reportedly tempted in the desert. The bible says it was the devil who tempted Jesus. What if it wasn’t the devil? What if it was Jesus’s own human weaknesses? He was reportedly a man, after all. I’ve been tempted today by food. Maybe Jesus’s great strength was that He didn’t succumb to the temptations. He was an example for the rest of us. It seems to us that it was so easy for Him. Isn’t it always that way, that a great man makes it look easy? The bible reports it matter-of-factly, that Jesus went into the desert, fasted 40 days and 40 nights, then came out. He didn’t blog about it, describing in detail his every difficulty. They didn’t have blogs back then, but I suspect that Jesus wouldn’t have blogged about His experience even if there had been blogs. One of the things that makes Jesus great is that He lived simply, without fanfare, and yet now, 2000 years later, a billion people on the planet believe He was God.
As an atheist, I don’t believe that Jesus was God. But I can still believe that He was a great man, perhaps the greatest, and that He continues to inspire many of us to achieve our own modest successes.
So I will focus on the image in my mind of Jesus in the desert…