There is a point to fasting apart from the fact that Christ himself did it. Christ fasted for a reason. There was a point to his fasting. He did it because it is one of the spiritual disciplines, and it helped him to overcome the “Lust of the flesh”. Remember that Christ was tempted too.
The spiritual disciplines are not a Catholic or sola scriptura thing. Jesus talks about almsgiving, prayer and fasting in Matthew 6 as part of the Sermon on the Mount. Almsgiving, prayer and fasting are called the “Spiritual disciplines” and they are given to us to help us against the three temptations to sin recorded in Johns first letter.
***For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh *and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life, is not of the Father but is of the world. (1 John 2:16)
Almsgiving and the “Lust of the Eyes”
Thus, when you give alms, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by men. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. (Matthew 6:2-5)
Almsgiving helps us fight against the “Lust of the eyes”, our craving for material goods. Giving to the poor and needy helps us remember that we really don’t need everything that we think we need, but should be content with food, clothing and the other necessities of life.
The next time you find yourself lusting after a new Harley Davidson motorcycle or a five hundred dollar golf club, try dropping a few hundred bucks at the homeless shelter or go buy a few bags of groceries for the family with the out of work father down the street. You’ll forget about that motorcycle real fast.
Prayer and the “Pride of Life”
And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by men. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. (Matthew 6:5-6)
Prayer is the primary means by which we remain humble and fight the “Pride of life”, the desire for power and prestige. As a creature, constant intimate contact with our creator, in the privacy of our own hearts, keeps us aware of our proper place in creation - above the rocks and trees and animals but below the angels - so that we remain humble. That’s why Catholics kneel when we pray, in the quiet of our homes or in the adoration chapel instead of standing on the street corner, to help be humble.
Fasting and the “Lust of the Flesh”
And when you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by men. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by men but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. (Matthew 6:16-18)
When we deny our body that which it desires but does not need in order to live, we teach ourselves to fight our urges. We learn to rely on God instead of immediately obeying every primitive urge. Fasting is a spiritual discipline which helps us deny ourselves and fight the “Lust of the flesh”, especially sexual temptation. We learn to delay gratification for something better later on, and we learn that what society tells us we need is not necissarily what we really need.
The spiritual disciplines of prayer, almsgiving and fasting help us fight the three sins of the pride of life, the lust of the eyes, and the lust of the flesh. Jesus went out to the wilderness where he fasted and prayed, and while he was there he was tempted. His fasting and prayer had a point, and it was to help him overcome the temptations which were put before him by the devil.
**The tempter approached and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become loaves of bread.” **(Matthew 4:3)
That’s the lust of the flesh. The devil tempts Jesus with food.
***Then the devil took him up to a very high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in their magnificence, and he said to him, “All these I shall give to you, if you will prostrate yourself and worship me.” *(Matthew 4:8)
That’s the lust of the eyes and the pride of life right there - ruler and owner of all the worlds kingdoms.
And that’s the point of fasting. It is a spiritual discipline which teaches us to fight the “Lust of the flesh”, especially sexual temptation.