Man Shall Not Live on Bread Alone : Matthew Chapter 4

Man shall not live on bread alone
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Jesus’ knowledge of Hebrew scripture was exceptional; he had studied it all his life and was often addressed as Rabbi (teacher). Understanding the fundamental truth in the words of Moses and the Prophets, he swiftly put Satan in his place when he suggested Jesus prove himself in the desert by acquiring a quick fix of bread to eat.

Today, Satan still has ways to try and persuade us to seek quick fixes for whatever we lack. However, by his life and teachings, Jesus provides us with the perfect example for achieving all that will offer us real peace, joy, and meaning in our lives.

The Baptism of Jesus

After Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist in the River Jordan, the Holy Spirit descended upon him, and a voice was heard from heaven saying, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17).

This led to a time when the Holy Spirit guided Jesus in the wilderness. After 40 days of fasting, the devil saw Jesus physically weakened and taunted him by saying, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread” (Matthew 4:3). He said this because he wanted Jesus to prove himself and worship him instead of God.

Man Shall not Live on Bread alone

Jesus simply quoted the words of Moses recorded in Deuteronomy 8:3 in reply, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God’ (Matthew 4:4).

Both Moses and Jesus meant that people need more than the simple necessities to keep them alive. People need to be fed mentally and spiritually, have the five senses nourished, and live with a purpose in their lives.

Jesus Is the Bread of Life

The 40 days Jesus spent in the desert has echoes of the Israelites wandering in the wilderness for 40 years, led by a pillar of fire and cloud provided by God, as well as Manna (a type of food from heaven) to sustain them physically.

Although the Israelites were guided by God and kept alive by the Manna, they all eventually died. However, Jesus said that all those who believe in him would have eternal life and receive the Holy Spirit to live within them as a constant companion to guide and nourish them (John 3:15John 7:39).

John’s gospel also records Jesus saying, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty” (6:25).

Jesus represents the Manna that God fed to the Israelites, and we experience Him today in the Holy Communion, worship, song, prayer, meditation, Bible study, Christian fellowship, and God’s creation that surrounds us every moment of the day and night.

In turn, we seek those who hunger for meaning, joy, comfort, and hope; then, by demonstrating Christ’s love and kindness, we offer nourishment, and the Church can ultimately lead them to experience Jesus as the Bread of Life.

Deuteronomy and the Disciples

Jesus addressed the question put to him by the devil with the words of Moses and quoted him three times from the Book of Deuteronomy during his trial in the desert.

This highlights how his Jewish credentials shone throughout his ministry and gave him credibility with many Jewish people of the day.

The depth of knowledge that Jesus had of the law of Moses demonstrated his heritage as a sincere Israelite and his understanding of the bigger picture.

All 12 of Jesus’ disciples were of Jewish descent and would have undoubtedly been influenced by his knowledge of Hebrew scripture.

It is recorded in Deuteronomy that God spoke to Moses and said, in a time to come, He would raise up another prophet (like Moses) from the tribe of the Israelites, and this second prophet would do all that God commanded.

Jesus claimed he was the prophet God spoke of, and his disciples believed him (Deuteronomy 18:17).

What Does This Mean for Us Today?

1. The Holy Spirit will guide and protects us. 

Jesus allowed himself to be led and fed by the Holy Spirit in the desert for 40 days. Dark forces provoked him three times to prove who he was, but the Holy Spirit supported him, and when his trial ended, the angels came and administered to him. So too, the Holy Spirit will lead and feed us through our trials and tribulations, and when we release our will and surrender to Jesus, our difficulties will eventually decline, and we will find peace in God.

2. The bread of Christ.

One of the most profound ways Christians are nourished today is when receiving Holy Communion because as we do this, we are strengthened and sustained by the Holy Spirit. In turn, we share Christ’s love and kindness with others seeking hope as we guide them towards the treasures that Jesus offers all who believe in him.

3. Importance of the original disciples.

Without the faith of the original disciples, who recognized the depth of Jesus’ knowledge of Hebrew scripture and understanding of the fullness of God’s plans, Christianity as we know it today could not have been born.

4. Finding our identity in Christ.

Satan challenged Jesus to prove who he was by turning stones into bread. But Jesus did not need to prove anything. He knew who he was because at his baptism 40 days earlier, when the Holy Spirit anointed him, God the Father acknowledged his son, who he loved and was well pleased. Jesus was grounded in his identity as the chosen one and did not need to dance to anyone else’s tune.

Each one of us who is baptized in water and with fire has the gift of the Holy Spirit dwelling within our souls, and God loves us and is pleased with us too. So, we also don’t need to prove ourselves to anyone; we are validated by God the Father. This confirmation of God’s love is not based on anything we did or did not do. It is based on God’s love for each of us individually.

This means we can live our lives knowing that our identity is sacred. We do not need to become stressed by the trials of life because we can live and rest in the knowledge that we are God’s unique and individual creation — who live not on bread alone but by every good thing provided for us by our Father in Heaven.

(First published in

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