Then the disciples of John came to Him, saying, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away…” – Matthew 9:14-15
Scripture reading: John 3:22-36
The people of Israel fasted on the Day of Atonement. Also on other occasions, when the situation demanded it, they would fast and pray. For instance, they fasted for their sins, for their unfaithfulness, and for their longing for the Messiah. When the Lord Jesus had come, however, and manifested Himself as the Messiah, the matter of fasting became an issue between the disciples of John the Baptist and Jesus’ disciples. That’s when Jesus’ disciples had their Bridegroom with them and therefore didn’t fast. His presence, however, at this time was only temporary.
This is the explanation Jesus gives the disciples of John to justify why Jesus’ disciples weren’t fasting while the Bridegroom was with them. This also is His explanation for the fasting in the time following His departure; no, not a fasting as a good work to merit salvation (as some made it to be), but fasting as a longing for His return, or for their sins and weaknesses, and their struggle with temptations. This New Testament fasting, however, differs in practice and meaning. Today we may spend extra time in prayer, or abstain from worldly pleasures for the sake of His kingdom; also the situation of the church in certain times (of persecution) could necessitate a time of fasting and prayer. “Fasting and prayer” have become an expression that doesn’t necessarily mean abstaining from food, but as an expression, it denotes a time of sobriety and prayer. For God’s kingdom, we may have to sacrifice as well, prayerfully in love for our Lord!
Suggestions for prayer
Pray for the persecuted church. Ask for help to abstain from worldly pleasures and worldly conformity, instead, seeking His kingdom.
This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. William den Hollander (Sr.) is minister-emeritus of the Bethel Canadian Reformed Church of Toronto.