“On Your Mark”
The Spiritual Fast (Chapter 2 Verses 18-22)
The question to fast or not to fast is answered by the conditions which God’s children find themselves in. As with the Lord’s disciples then. If the Pharisees were attending a wedding feast, a reception, while the party was in full swing, would they ask the guests to fast (v19)? Well of course not, it would be crazy. Well his disciples are for the present enjoying a wedding scenario, Jesus himself is the bridegroom. The scene is a happy and joyful one, the groom has his chosen friends around him, so to ask them to fast would be ludicrous. Their condition and circumstances then did not necessitate fasting. But, the future will be different (v20), because the bridegroom will be taken away. The thought is of a violent intrusion to the wedding reception, tragedy strikes. He speaks of his death at the hands of the Jews. Then his followers will fast and will not even need to be told to. Note that Jesus promises no bed of roses for his followers, but rather a pathway of suffering. Hence proper religious fasting? There is no mention of how often, as with prayer, in like manner it is done irregularly in response to circumstances and needs. It is not just the bare practice. It is the tender, sensitive soul’s response to the felt absence of Christ. It is done in awareness of deep spiritual need, in a time of hunger for God. It is done amidst a deep desire for some special blessing.
The practice itself (Matthew 6.16-18). It is, according to Jesus, as much a part of the Christian life as praying, or caring for the needy. It is abstention for a given period of time from food, from marital relations sometimes (1Corinthians 7.5). Abstention from bodily appetites in order to devote oneself to the Lord to seek God’s face. But again the spiritual dimension is the important aspect, it is feeding on Christ, rather than abstention, cultivating the inner life rather than focusing on externals. But more is said, because what has gone before is a small part of a larger matter. Two illustrations are used (v21). The old garment, and wine skins, are what the Pharisees had made out of Judaism. What is required is a complete change, of garments and wine skins, a patched up job is not good enough. So ditch the old, get the new! Jesus is the new! Dump the old-time religious cult of Judaism and get the new wine of the gospel, which is ever new and fresh. Pharisaism has only changed in its name, for modernism, liberalism, neo-evangelicalism, new visions of God, and ideas about life. They are wrong, dead wrong! The doctrine of Christ is changeless.
(© James R Hamilton, written September, 1996)