The gospels record Jesus fasting for 40 days before undergoing an intense confrontation with Satan (Matthew 4:1-11 Matthew 4:1-11 1 Then was Jesus led up of the spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil.
2 And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungered.
3 And when the tempter came to him, he said, If you be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.
4 But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.
5 Then the devil takes him up into the holy city, and sets him on a pinnacle of the temple,
6 And said to him, If you be the Son of God, cast yourself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning you: and in their hands they shall bear you up, lest at any time you dash your foot against a stone.
7 Jesus said to him, It is written again, You shall not tempt the Lord your God.
8 Again, the devil takes him up into an exceeding high mountain, and shows him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them;
9 And said to him, All these things will I give you, if you will fall down and worship me.
10 Then said Jesus to him, Get you hence, Satan: for it is written, You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.
11 Then the devil leaves him, and, behold, angels came and ministered to him.
American King James Version×; Luke 4:1-13 Luke 4:1-13 1 And Jesus being full of the Holy Ghost returned from Jordan, and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, 2 Being forty days tempted of the devil. And in those days he did eat nothing: and when they were ended, he afterward hungry. 3 And the devil said to him, If you be the Son of God, command this stone that it be made bread. 4 And Jesus answered him, saying, It is written, That man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God. 5 And the devil, taking him up into an high mountain, showed to him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. 6 And the devil said to him, All this power will I give you, and the glory of them: for that is delivered to me; and to whomsoever I will I give it. 7 If you therefore will worship me, all shall be yours. 8 And Jesus answered and said to him, Get you behind me, Satan: for it is written, You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve. 9 And he brought him to Jerusalem, and set him on a pinnacle of the temple, and said to him, If you be the Son of God, cast yourself down from hence: 10 For it is written, He shall give his angels charge over you, to keep you: 11 And in their hands they shall bear you up, lest at any time you dash your foot against a stone. 12 And Jesus answering said to him, It is said, You shall not tempt the Lord your God. 13 And when the devil had ended all the temptation, he departed from him for a season.
American King James Version×). Jesus’ own words reveal that the purpose of His fasting was to draw near to God for help. When Satan tempted Him with the idea of turning stones into bread, He quoted Deuteronomy 8:3 Deuteronomy 8:3And he humbled you, and suffered you to hunger, and fed you with manna, which you knew not, neither did your fathers know; that he might make you know that man does not live by bread only, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD does man live.
American King James Version×, which says, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” By fasting, giving up physical food and water, Jesus demonstrated His faith in the fact that true nourishment comes from God. In doing so, He acknowledged God as the sole source of His strength rather than relying on Himself, and this set an example for His followers throughout the ages, including us today.
Acts 27:9 Acts 27:9Now when much time was spent, and when sailing was now dangerous, because the fast was now already past, Paul admonished them,
American King James Version×indicates that the disciples continued to recognize and observe the Day of Atonement, the annual holy day which was a fast day (Leviticus 23:27 Leviticus 23:27Also on the tenth day of this seventh month there shall be a day of atonement: it shall be an holy convocation to you; and you shall afflict your souls, and offer an offering made by fire to the LORD.
American King James Version×). We in the United Church of God continue the biblical practice of fasting on the Day of Atonement each year according to God’s command (read our free resource God’s Holy Day Plan for more information).
On one occasion, Jesus was questioned about why His disciples did not regularly fast, since the Pharisees, the disciples of John, and other devout religious people of the day commonly fasted. Jesus confirmed that His disciples were not fasting while He was with them, but He also said that they would fast after His death (Luke 5:33-35 Luke 5:33-35 33 And they said to him, Why do the disciples of John fast often, and make prayers, and likewise the disciples of the Pharisees; but your eat and drink?
34 And he said to them, Can you make the children of the bridal chamber fast, while the bridegroom is with them?
35 But the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken away from them, and then shall they fast in those days.
American King James Version×). This firmly establishes that fasting should be an ongoing practice for followers of Jesus Christ today.
Given the understanding that fasting draws a person closer to God for help, and considering the substantial physical stresses that Jesus faced on a daily basis, it would not be surprising if Jesus fasted regularly, even though it is not recorded. As disciples of Jesus Christ, fasting is a spiritual tool that we can and should use to strengthen our relationship with God. Just as Jesus fasted to prepare for and ultimately win His spiritual battle with Satan, we can also draw near to God, acknowledge that victory comes by His power rather than our own, and learn to better overcome sin in our lives. For a more in-depth understanding, please see Fasting: A Spiritual Power Tool !