IN GOD’S PRESENCE
Gracious God, help me to come to you and examine my priorities in the light of all you say about the future.
Read MATTHEW 9:14–17
Jesus Questioned About Fasting
14 Then John’s disciples came and asked him, “How is it that we and the Pharisees fast often, but your disciples do not fast?”
15 Jesus answered, “How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them? The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast.
16 “No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch will pull away from the garment, making the tear worse. 17 Neither do people pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.”
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
ReflectRead 1 Kings 19:11,12, Psalm 46:10 and Psalm 42:1, pausing between each verse to pray and focus on God.
Fasting – giving up something such as food in order to spend time in prayer – provides a unique opportunity to meet with God without distraction. It emphasizes our dependence on God and helps us to focus on him.
The disciples of John the Baptist wanted to know why Jesus’ disciples weren’t fasting (v 14). Jesus explained to them that his disciples had no need to fast – they were daily in the presence of God, even if they didn’t realize it! For them, it was a question of timing which they didn’t yet understand (v 15). He alluded, for the first time in this Gospel, to his forthcoming death, but the disciples did not pick up on it.
Jesus had no problem with fasting in itself (see Matthew 4:2; 6:16– 18). But a new era was coming when the old rules of religion would give way to the joy of God’s kingdom. At that time, wine was kept in leather wineskins – and (like new patches on old clothes, v 16) you never put new wine in old ones because they would burst (v 17). With Jesus’ presence, and his forthcoming resurrection, things were changing. New wineskins were needed for the new wine.
Fasting is still an important way for Christians to focus on God. Why not plan to take some time out for this. If you have a medical condition, please seek expert advice first.
Loving God, often I feel comfortable with the old ways of worship and witness. Keep me fresh in the Spirit, attuned to helpful new ways to share your love.