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Fasting and Feasting

Matthew 9:14-15
Then John's disciples came and asked him, 'How is it that we and the Pharisees fast often, but your disciples do not fast?' Jesus answered, 'How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them? The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast. (NIVUK)

Fasting was a normal part of a godly disciplined life in the days of Jesus. It showed the need to repent for sin, and be utterly dependent in prayer (Esther 4:3,16). However, it easily became a proud religious rite (Matthew 6:16-18). But God wanted repentant people with broken hearts rather than religious people with artificially gloomy faces. Joel 2:12-13 says, "'Even now,' declares the Lord, 'return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.' Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity."

Religious trainees fasted as part of their discipline, but Jesus' disciples did not fast. That attracted criticism. How could they be godly if they spent their time going with Jesus from one meal to another as they talked about God's kingdom with individuals, families and groups of people? Jesus said that nobody fasts at a wedding - it is a celebratory feast. He then likened Himself to a bridegroom surrounded by the men who were rejoicing at his wedding.

The Bible speaks of the church as being the 'bride of Christ' (Ephesians 5:25; Revelation 21:2). Jesus is gathering His very own special people to be His bride. However, in His ministry he repeatedly reminded the disciples that He would not be physically present with them for ever - indeed He would be taken away from them ... hence the reference to their mourning and sadness which became reality for them when He was crucified and buried.

Since His resurrection and ascension, Christ is with us and His Holy Spirit is in us; and we rejoice that we belong to Him. However we are also sad and mourn over our sins - the offence we bring to Him as we disobey His commands. But that will not last for ever. One day we will see Him face to face and will be set free from the habit of sinning: we will be like Him (1 John 3:2). So, until then, we live in the tension of rejoicing that we are loved as His Bride, and yet mourning over our sin. Until we see Him in heaven, spiritual disciplines or repentance and praise are still necessary - not to earn favour with God but to recognise our dependence on Him.

Father God. Thank You for all Your love to us. We can never earn that love. But we are also sorry for the sins which wound our relationship with You. Please help us to continue in the dual spiritual disciplines of repentance and praise. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams