Now John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting. Some people came and asked Jesus, “How is it that John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees are fasting, but yours are not?” Jesus answered, “How can the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? They cannot, so long as they have him with them. But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them, and on that day they will fast. Mark 2, verses 18-20.
This is the first time in the book of Mark that Jesus predicts His death. “The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them:” that’s a foreshadowing of the crucifixion. Jesus is saying “be happy all the time but be happy especially now because I’m with you here.” He knew, even then, that we needed Him more than ever.
So why do we fast so often? I mean, Jesus isn’t physically here with us but He is here in ways we simply can’t see with our eyes. So why do we still fast? Fast? Yes, fast. Just like giving up food as a way of devotion, we daily give up Jesus as a monument to anything but Him. In a way, you and I are fasting for idols; we are fasting in our souls to celebrate idolatry.
But…but…but I tithe and I go to church and I sometimes help the poor and I listen to my mother in law and I do all the good things I’m supposed to do (unlike those reprobates in Hollywood, you know). I’m still an idol-worshipper?
You bet your biffy you are.
See, Jesus was with His friends and they were celebrating life. Every day with Him was a celebration of life because He is life; He was then and He is now. They were His disciples: His loyal followers. They had subordinated their lives to His, adopting His ways and learning His path. That made each day a celebration. I’m not going all Pollyanna here: it’s the truth. They were learning to look past the world and all the muck that’s in it in order to be His eyes, ears and arms in a world that desperately needed Him. To do that, they gave up the world, gave up on being fixated on small things or worldly pleasures. This isn’t to say they became perfect; they were flawed men not unlike us (see what happens on Maundy Thursday for the proof of that). But they walked the walk with Jesus.
Tell me: when was the last time you or I gave up being fixated on small things, worldly pleasures, or things other than Jesus? When was the last time we walked His walk, acted as His disciples, fasted for Him? The sad truth is that, if we aren’t following Jesus, we are following something that isn’t Him. And if it isn’t Him, then it’s nothing good. Remember, John 15:5 says “apart from Me you can do nothing.” Nothing means nothing good.
That means we’re following idols if we aren’t following Jesus fully; we fast for the world. I’ll say it again: is it any wonder that Jesus started predicting His death – the action which would make eternity possible for us – so early in His ministry? Even then, even though his friends didn’t know it, Jesus knew how we would constantly fall away from Him despite our best intentions.
Lord, strengthen me to follow only You, to break my fast for the world and to fast only to celebrate You.
Read the whole story again in Mark 2, verses 18-22.