Lord God, may my worship, my confession of sin, and my devotion to You prepare me to serve You today.
Read MARK 2:18–22
Jesus Questioned About Fasting
18 Now John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting. Some people came and asked Jesus, “How is it that John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees are fasting, but yours are not?”
19 Jesus answered, “How can the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? They cannot, so long as they have him with them. 20 But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them, and on that day they will fast.
21 “No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. Otherwise, the new piece will pull away from the old, making the tear worse. 22 And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins.”
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.
‘Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: rejoice!’1
The Canadian Broadcasting Company conducted a poll recently, asking the question, ‘What part does religion play in your life?’ If they had called me, I don’t know how I would have answered that question. Actually: ‘none’. I go to church, read my Bible and pray. But I don’t think of that as ‘religion’. What would you have answered?
It’s ironic that the Pharisees criticize Jesus’ disciples for not fasting, when Jesus Himself has fasted for forty days before beginning His ministry. Actually, fasting does not feature highly in the Old Testament. The only required fast was on the Day of Atonement. When fasting is mentioned, it is often to denounce the hypocrisy with which it is carried out. There are examples of people fasting to add leverage to their prayers, thinking that God would be more likely to deliver them from trouble.2 In contrast to this, Isaiah reinterprets ‘fasting’ as providing food, shelter, and clothing to the needy.3 Over time, the practice became one of the hallmarks of the pious Jew. Think of the Pharisee who goes up into the temple to pray.4 In today’s secular culture, I don’t think anybody would be impressed with this display of religiosity. What does impress people is to see Christians who ‘loose the chains of injustice’ etc.5
This is not to say that there’s no place for fasting in the Christian life. Jesus takes it for granted here and in Matthew 6:16 and 17. What’s wrong on this occasion is that His critics have failed to see His ministry for what it is: a time of compassion, healing, forgiveness, release, freedom, and joy. They are like the older brother out in the field, complaining about how hard he works, while his father is celebrating the return of his younger brother, who was lost and is found.6
How can you live with joy and sorrow at the same time?
Eternal God, I need the gift of discernment to know what to keep and what to replace with the new in my Christian walk and life. You are always doing a new thing for a new day.
1 Phil 4:4 2 eg., 1 Kings 21:27; Ps 35:13 3 Isa 58, especially verses 6–9 4 Luke 18:12 5 Isa 58:6 6 Luke 15:25–32