The disciples of John and of the Pharisees were fasting. Then they came and said to Him, “Why do the disciples of John and of the Pharisees fast, but Your disciples do not fast?”
And Jesus said to them, “Can the friends of the bridegroom fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them they cannot fast. But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast in those days.” (Mark 2:18-20)
Jesus is a revolutionary and he is intentionally creating a crisis in the Jewish religion, worldview, and culture. Jesus is literally challenging the current way of thinking that has governed the Jewish paradigms for cleanliness, exclusivity and ethnicity. Jesus is modeling and teaching a revolutionary concept, intentionally introducing a paradigm shift—a gospel of grace in contrast to Jewish Law, inclusion of sinners in contrast to judgment, intimacy with God in contrast to religious ritual.
Jesus is quizzed about his view of fasting. His response is unexpected. In typical Jesus style, he answers a question with a question. Jesus queries back with the question of intimacy instead of arguing religious code. Jesus refutes neither the importance nor the function of fasting, but rather speaks to the heart of a new paradigm.
Jesus is introducing a new way of thinking about everything we do. A worldview of intimacy with God in contrast to religious ritual is the new work, the new revolution. Rather than arguing the merits of or the style of different discipleship ministries (Jesus’ way or John’s way with fasting), Jesus speaks to the heart of the issue—intimacy.
Jesus metaphorically uses marriage, the relationship between the bride and bridegroom as his backdrop. Jesus is saying, why would fasting to God matter if the relational component isn’t part of it? If fasting, at its basic core, is about our relationship with God, to draw us closer to God, then why would one need to fast, if we are as close to God as is humanely possible, i.e. walking right next to him? Thus, Jesus’ disciples don’t need to fast, for they are as close as they can be at this moment.
But a time is coming when the intimacy of the bridegroom will be gone. The honeymoon will be over. The marriage chamber will be empty. Then is the time for fasting and prayer.
How is your intimacy with Christ these days? Are you as close to him as you once were? Is there distance? Sometimes God would call us to times of prolonged fasting and prayer when our relationship with God isn’t as close as it once was. I have found over the years that fasting is one of the most powerful means God has given us for a close, intimate walk with him.
On the Road,