"14 Then the disciples of John came to him, saying, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” 15 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 from them, and then they will fast. 16 No one puts a piece of un-shrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch tears away from the garment, and a worse tear is made. 17 Neither is new wine put into old wineskins. If it is, the skins burst and the wine is spilled and the skins are destroyed. But new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved.”
During my quiet time a few days ago I read this passage of Scripture. It is a segment I have read numerous times before, but on this occasion several concepts seized my attention. There are many Scriptures on fasting: how to, when, for what reasons, etc. They are all wonderful and encouraging. Yet, this passage has something that most of the others do not. It communicates a sense of longing.
I love the reply Jesus gives to the questioners, “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them?” The obvious answer to this question is, “No! Why would they mourn while he is with them?” Jesus places Himself as the beloved Bridegroom in this analogy. He was with His disciples, living and teaching them. They had no reason to fast in expectation of His coming! God was with them! In the same way, we will have no reason to fast when we are in heaven.
Jesus continues by teaching, “The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.” The Bridegroom, Jesus, was taken away a short time later. Those that either 1) were left behind or 2) have become believers through testimonies since the Bridegroom was taken away (ME!), have a need to fast in response to their longing for the Bridegroom to return!
What a reason to fast! God, I am not eating today because I long for your return as a bride longs for her bridegroom. I groan with hunger pains because I miss You. I long for heaven. I long to know You as fully as You can be known on earth.
Those basic, obvious thoughts on the passage lead me to introspection. Do I long for the return of Jesus with such passion and desire? Am I willing to lay aside personal needs, like food, to show love for my Savior and cultivate expectancy for His return? Do I desire His return? Why or why not?
"7 Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. 8 You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. 9 Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door. 10 As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11 Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful. 12 But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your “yes” be yes and your “no” be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation."
James encourages believers to be patient as we wait for the coming of the Lord. The question I had for myself was, am I displaying impatience as I wait for the coming of the Lord? Am I so anxious that I am impatient? The honest answer is no. In my waiting, though, can I hasten the day of Christ's return? Is there something I can do to see my Savior face to face? There are two options: 1) I die. 2) Jesus returns. God knows which will come first. Still, I ask, when will the end come? When will all the wrongs be punished? When will righteousness reign? When will we sin, Satan and death be destroyed?
"And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come."
The end will come when the gospel of the kingdom is proclaimed throught the whole world. So, not only do I fast as a way to display my excitement for the return of Jesus, He has given me a mission to join!
"1 The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,because the Lord has anointed meto bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,to proclaim liberty to the captives,and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; 2 to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor,and the day of vengeance of our God;to comfort all who mourn;3 to grant to those who mourn in Zion—to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes,the oil of gladness instead of mourning,the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit;that they may be called oaks of righteousness,the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified. 4 They shall build up the ancient ruins;they shall raise up the former devastations;they shall repair the ruined cities,the devastations of many generations."