“On Your Mark”
Inner Spiritual Reality (Chapter 2 Verses 18-22 )
Both the Pharisees and John the Baptist’s disciples are involved in this questioning it seems (Luke 5.33-38). The Lord does not evade their question about religious practice (v18). But it is with such questions many seek to escape the gospel net. The only fasting demanded by God’s law was on the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 23.27), but it seems that devout people in Israel fasted twice a week (Luke 18.12). Or habitually. This was perhaps one of those days. Now addictions take many forms, these Jews were addicted to their religious observances, practices, the outward form of religion with no inner reality. No doubt John fasted too, and we suppose he taught his disciples to follow his example, but we do not know for sure what he taught them in this regard. But John set a stern example for his followers, they lived in a wicked, and perverse generation, does not that require us to be stricter than perhaps we otherwise need to be? This generation of ours needs such a standard set before it by the Church. Perhaps John and his ministry are a good pattern for ministry today?
The Pharisees’ practice, was twice weekly and part of their religious pretence (Matthew 6.16). And those who did not conform to their religious practices were deeply resented. Including Jesus. It was the outward practice that they thought automatically brought the blessing of God upon them (Isaiah 58.3). This was that which the prophets castigated (Jeremiah 14.10-12). There was no inward reality to it. The practice of Jesus? Well, he does not at this point ask his disciples to fast, but he by no means contravenes the law of God. He was not opposed to fasting (Matthew 6.17), when done for the proper reason and in the proper way. Jesus himself fasted (Matthew 4.2). He never taught his disciples not to fast, on the contrary. Even here (v20) he says there will be a time when it will be appropriate for them to fast. But again you see their question is a gross assumption, and a wrong one. However, they raised the issue, so Jesus goes on to give them clear, specific teaching on the matter of religious fasting, the proper Biblical kind, that is. The difference between Christianity and this Pharisaic cult is eternal, that is obvious from the dialogue between Jesus and these folk. They come up to their own standards very well, but what about God’s standard? The exercise of self- examination is a biblical one (2Corinthians 13.5). And the measure you use in self-examination, is vital (Matthew 5.20).
(© James R Hamilton, written September, 1996)