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A Prayer and Fasting Devotional

ThinkstockPhotos-480160802If you are a parent, you probably remember your child’s first trip to the ER. I don’t think my wife and I will ever forget ours because we have had two in the span of two months for our daughter, Ellie. On each occasion, she had seizures that were caused by a dramatic spike in a fever. During a seizure, the whole body tenses up due to your brain firing off extreme signals. Even the lungs become tense or stiff, restricting airflow and decreasing oxygen levels throughout the body. Ellie clearly was not breathing much and began to turn a pale and blue color. I had my hand on her back and could only feel very small movements of her lungs. I could hear very faint breaths come out of her mouth. At times, we thought we might be saying goodbye to our daughter. Something was clearly wrong. It was visible.

In a way, the biblical narrative is depicting life in this world as Ellie’s lungs during her seizure. This fallen world is like lungs that are seizing. Lungs that are caught in great tension, restricting them from taking big, deep breaths of air. Therefore, the world can only operate off of short and shallow breaths. For those looking on, like Brittany and I at our daughter’s bedside, the effects of it are clear; the marks of death are all around. But we who are in this world, like Ellie, are somewhat paralyzed by it, and go along as if short and shallow breaths are normal. At our worst, we run from all danger, hide from anything that looks like death, and pretend as if our slice of the world is getting better.

This is the powerful and deceptive reign of sin and death that Scripture depicts beginning in Genesis 3 and is the context for the rest of the narrative. We see Adam and Eve taking and eating from the only tree God had said not to eat from. In so doing, they abdicated their purpose to reflect God, and instead submitted themselves to the reign of another. Adam and Eve’s “taking and eating” was rebellion. Not because they wanted to be like God, as the serpent tempted them, but because of the means they took: outside of the worship of the wisdom of the Creator God. To be like God is to live in the image of God. This is precisely the purpose, calling, and vocation for mankind. They were to “be fruitful, multiply, fill, subdue, have dominion” over the whole created order. They were to “work and keep” all God created as good on behalf of him. In others words, to be like him. But they listened to the serpent.

Like a stream cannot rise above its source, the created cannot rise above its Creator. Genesis 4 depicts a failed attempt at a reversal of power, and we see enmity, frustration, and even murder enter the picture. God tells Cain, “Sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.” What did Cain do? He took and ate. He abdicated and is now formed by sin. Genesis 6 goes on to depict the width of this cosmic mess: “Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence. And God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt.” The reign of sin is anti-God, anti-creation, and anti-human. This is the undoing of God’s good creation order. This cosmic mess is not the way it is supposed to be.

In Luke 4:5-8, Jesus encounters a similar, yet worse, situation than that of Adam and Eve when he endures his 40-day fast in the wilderness. Satan presents a similar offer to Jesus as he did to Adam and Eve, offering a shortcut to having the authority and glory like God’s. Does Jesus take and eat like Adam and Eve? Does Jesus abdicate? Does he submit himself to sin for his own desire to rule in perceptible glory? No! He upholds his identity as the image of the invisible God. He reflects him perfectly by obeying and delighting in him. He takes the long road of obedience that leads to great suffering and even death as evil comes crashing upon him.

Therefore, Jesus’ call is to take and eat of him. It’s a call to partake of his life, his new creation, to submit to him, and to be conformed to his life. This is the undoing of the reign of sin and the undoing of sin’s formation of us. May this fast be one in which we embrace his offer to take and eat (and drink) of him, transforming us more and more into what he is and what we were always called to be.

Jon Yeager
Ministry Fellow at Harvard