Now in many ways the example of Christ may be made a comfort and encouragement to us at this season of the year.
And, first of all, it will be well to insist on the circumstance, that our Lord did thus retire from the world, as confirming to us the like duty, as far as we can observe it. This He did specially in the instance before us, before His entering upon His own ministry; but it is not the only instance recorded. Before He chose His Apostles, He observed the same preparation. "It came to pass in those days that He went out into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God." [Luke vi. 12.] Prayer through the night was a self-chastisement of the same kind as fasting. On another occasion, after sending away the multitudes, "He went up into a mountain apart to pray;" [Matt. xiv. 22.] and on this occasion also, He seems to have remained there through great part of the night. Again, amid the excitement caused by His miracles, "In the morning, rising up a great while before day, He went out and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed." [Mark i. 35.] Considering that our Lord is the pattern of human nature in its perfection, surely we cannot doubt that such instances of strict devotion are intended for our imitation, if we would be perfect.
But the duty is placed beyond doubt by finding similar instances in the case of the most eminent of His servants. St. Paul, in the Epistle for this day, mentions among other sufferings, that he and his brethren were "in watchings, in fastings," and in a later chapter, that he was "in fastings often." St. Peter retired to Joppa, to the house of one Simon, a tanner, on the sea-shore, and there fasted and prayed. Moses and Elijah both were supported through miraculous fasts, of the same length as our Lord's. Moses, indeed, at two separate times; as he tells us himself, "Thus I fell down before the Lord, as at the first, forty days and forty nights; I did neither eat bread, nor drink water." [Deut. ix. 18.] Elijah, having been fed by an Angel, "went in the strength of that meat forty days and forty nights." [1 Kings xix. 8.] Daniel, again, "set his face unto the Lord his God, to seek by prayer and supplications, with fasting, and sack-cloth, and ashes." Again, at another time, he says, "In those days, I Daniel was mourning three full weeks. I ate no pleasant bread, neither came flesh nor wine in my mouth, neither did I anoint myself at all, till three whole weeks were fulfilled." [Dan. ix. 3; x. 2, 3.] These are instances of fastings after the similitude of Christ.