James said, “Pure and undefiled religion” involves “visiting” (1:27).
When I was a youngster growing up in the church, I used to think that visiting meant just that – visiting. You went to somebody’s house, you knocked on their door, you went inside and chatted with them for twenty minutes or so, you prayed with them, and then you left. In actuality, the word rendered “visit” in James’ epistle means, “to inspect, to look upon in order to help or benefit.”1
Ponder that definition for just a moment. God’s idea of pure and undefiled religion involves studying the needs of others and then doing what we can to help them. Real visitation means examining their circumstances and serving them with the goal of alleviating their distress.
Now turn in your Bible to Matthew chapter 4.
We could correctly say that Jesus was in a type of distress, could we not? He had been in the wilderness without physical sustenance for more than a month (3:1; cf. Mark 1:12-13). And following His baptism, at the very beginning of His ministry, during this period of prolonged and intense fasting, Jesus had company.
It was the devil. Diabolos–the slanderer, the accuser, the one who was and is consistently opposed to God. Satan–the adversary, the one who resists.
The Tempter came to visit Jesus, but his religion (Acts 26:5; Col. 2:18; Jas. 1:26-27) was anything but pure and undefiled (cf. James 3:13-18), and he came to the Lord, not to assuage His suffering, but to amplify it (cf. Gen. 3:1ff; Job 1-2; 1 John 2:15-17).2
Now watch his nefarious methodology (2 Cor. 2:11). He approached Jesus when the Lord was in an extremely weakened state.
Now don’t forget that that Jesus was fully human while on earth (John 1:14). He was flesh and bone (Luke 24:39). He was born (Luke 2:7). He grew (Luke 2:40, 52). He got tired (Mark 4:38; 6:31; John 4:6). He got thirsty (John 19:28). He got hungry (Mat. 4:2). He experienced physical weakness and fatigue (Mat. 4:11; Luke 23:26).
Matthew says that after forty days, “He (Jesus) was hungry” (v. 2). He suffered want. He was famished. He craved food. Most of use are hungry after four hours without sustenance; Jesus was literally starving after forty days.3
You may be thinking, “Mike, how is that information relevant to me?” The answer is, because after forty days of fasting, Jesus’ body was severely depleted – and at this critical moment when there were no more organic resources for Him to draw upon, the devil THEN came to visit.
Think about that long and hard. WHEN are you most tempted? WHEN are you most inclined to succumb to the devil’s allurements? Isn’t it often times when you’re already in a weakened state? Isn’t it often at a time when you’ve been doing without? You’ve lost a dear loved one and you hunger for their touch and presence. Your marriage is being torn asunder and neither you nor your spouse has rendered conjugal rights for months on end (cf. 1 Cor. 7:2-5). You’ve lost your job and you’ve been without a regular paycheck for longer than you can remember.
Pick the pain. Isn’t during these kinds of times that you give yourself the right to sin? “After all,” you think, “I NEED this…” (whatever “this” happens to be). Maybe its alcohol, maybe it’s illegal or prescription drugs, maybe its porn, maybe it’s illicit sex, etc. Since your legitimate needs aren’t being met, you seek to fulfill them, in desperation, in ungodly ways.
That’s exactly what Jesus was grappling with after His fast. He was hungry in a way most of us can’t comprehend. His body was devoid of any and all of the nutrients His body required to sustain itself, and THAT’s when the devil knocked on His door.
He appealed to Jesus to fulfill his needs by means of His own miraculous hand. “IF you are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread” (Mat. 4:3). “Since You’re obviously hungry Jesus, why not satiate your legitimate longing by means of a quick miracle? IF you really are the Son and can work supernatural signs, then prove it by turning stones into your Own personal happy meal.
Here are a few thoughts I glean from this encounter: