John’s disciples have come to Jesus right after the feast at Matthew’s house. They’ve noted that while they were fasting, Jesus and His group were having a party. Seeking enlightenment about the discrepancy, they ask Jesus about it. He replies, “How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them?”
Jesus’ question is sometimes used as a reason to never practice fasting. After all, Jesus specifically said that His disciples would fast when He was taken from them, and we know that time is over. He rose from the grave. He appeared to His disciples again, and He promised, “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Indeed, His Word promises that He pours Himself into each believer through the Holy Spirit; “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever—the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.”
These precious statements affirm that Jesus is with us by His Spirit. For Jesus and the Spirit are One just as Jesus and the Father are One. Somehow, omnipresent God is always with us and in us in a way and manner which we cannot understand. It is therefore logical to ask that if the bridegroom is with us, why should we fast? Yet while it is absolutely true that omnipresent God is always with us and in us in a way and manner which we cannot understand, it is also true that He is with us in a way we sometimes cannot even perceive.
The pace of modern life, the business of work and tyranny of the urgent can often drown out His voice. Some seasons, the clouds of grief hide His presence. Regularly, our own sin hides His face from our prayers. What a grief it is that He seems so distant! What anguish of spirit to walk through the desert, seemingly alone! But it is these seasons of mourning – short or long – that must drive us to fast. They are the built-in snooze alarms of our lives, sounding off every time the dullness of the world or the appearance of evil threatens to cloud over our eyes of faith. They call us to stop – to interrupt our normal routine, so that we can come before the Lord in repentance for ourselves, in repentance for others and in sorrowfulness of spirit.
Fasting is an expression of lament. Though it is not often practiced in our days, the Scripture is full of lament. It is a very legitimate, even necessary practice. A practice that is always fruitful, because praise God, “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”
It is because God answers the heartfelt cries of His people that fasting is useful. Not because it is a magic key to unlock answers to prayer (it is not), but because it resets the eyes of our hearts on Him who does answer prayer.
Father, open my eyes to the reality that Christ’s righteousness is mine. May I, despite my struggles with sin, rejoice that Jesus represents me to You. Though I mourn over my sins, may I not be disheartened. Help me to look to Jesus, and not my own performance, as a basis of my acceptance.Erwin Lutzer
After looking at yourself through the lens of God’s Word, set your eyes on Jesus.