MARK 2:18-28 (NIV – UK)
Jesus questioned about fasting
18 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?’
19 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. 20 But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them, and on that day they will fast.
21 ‘No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. Otherwise, the new piece will pull away from the old, making the tear worse. 22 And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins.’
Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath
23 One Sabbath Jesus was going through the cornfields, and as his disciples walked along, they began to pick some ears of corn. 24 The Pharisees said to him, ‘Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?’
25 He answered, ‘Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need?26 In the days of Abiathar the high priest, he entered the house of God and ate the consecrated bread, which is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions.’
27 Then he said to them, ‘The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. 28 So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.’
Fasting for Jesus
John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting as per the religious requirements. Jesus’ disciples aren’t fasting. It looks bad – as if Jesus’ disciples are bing rebellious and disrespectful. So Jesus is asked the question: ‘How is it that John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees are fasting, but yours are not?’ (v. 18).
And Jesus has an answer. Referring to one of his many titles, ‘the Bridegroom’, Jesus points out to us that fasting itself is actually about him. We might think about Lent – perhaps we give something up for Lent? Chocolate? Coffee? Has it become a routine tradition detached from Jesus? True fasting is far from being a religious and ritualistic tradition – far from being a display of piety – fasting is about Jesus: ‘How can the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? They cannot, so long as they have him with them’ (v. 19).
Throughout the Old Testament fasting is associated with reconciliation and coming closer to God. So to fast and deny yourself food is a profound way of saying to Jesus – ‘only you are enough, Jesus, I only need you.’ John’s disciples and the Pharisees hadn’t understood this – but Jesus’ disciples had – they didn’t need to fast at that moment because the one who it was all about was with them – they were orientating their lives towards Jesus.
This sort of idea can be applied widely across different areas in our lives, but it also forces us to ask the question: ‘which direction is my life orientated?’ Fasting is a way of orientating our lives towards Jesus. Are we going through life pursuing our own goals, our own wants and desires and tagging Jesus on the end? Or are we orientating our whole life towards him? Denying ourselves in order to do his will and follow his path?
Question: Do you feel as if Jesus at the centre of your world?