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.” Matthew 9:14-15 NIV
My daughter is getting married this week. We have planned, attended and celebrated with many parties over the last few months. My daughter has had bridal showers and her bridegroom will have a celebration with his friends and groomsmen this week. After the wedding ceremony, we will have a reception – a wonderful party to celebrate my daughter and her bridegroom’s marriage and the beginning of their lives together as a couple. Weddings are full of celebration, food, drink, gifts and happiness that the bride and groom share with their family and friends.
John’s disciples asked Jesus why his disciples do not fast. He answers them using a wedding metaphor. While Jesus is present with his own disciples on earth it is like a bridegroom’s friends being with the bridegroom and partying before and after the wedding. Jesus says there is a time and a place for fasting, but a wedding isn’t it. In the time of the Bible, fasting was a way to express mourning or loss. Fasting and praying was used by the early church as a means of seeking an answer or a direction from God. Jesus says fasting is appropriate during mourning, not during celebration. Devout Pharisees boasted about fasting twice a week, but Jesus instructs his followers, “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you,” Matthew 6:16-18. Jesus goes on to say when the bridegroom is taken from them, – then it will be time to fast.
Jesus tells his followers to value and cultivate an intimate, private, real, and conversational relationship with God. He tells us God wants us to be in relationship with him, not seeking outward approval of men. The bridegroom values his friendships, so they rejoice together. God values our time spent with him, so look for a way to celebrate with God this week, with prayer, singing, or serving.
By Grace Hunter