Mark 2:18-20 (New Living Translation)
Once when John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting, some people came to Jesus and asked, “Why don’t your disciples fast like John’s disciples and the Pharisees do?” Jesus replied, “Do wedding guests fast while celebrating with the groom? Of course not. They can’t fast while the groom is with them. But someday the groom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast.”
John’s disciples fasted in preparation and hope for the coming Messiah. The Pharisees fasted as a method of keeping the Law. Fasting was an important part of the Jewish tradition, so it’s understandable that both groups would wonder why Jesus’ followers didn’t share this practice.
Jesus doesn’t answer directly about fasting. Instead he turns the question around (as he so often does), talking instead about a feast. As we looked at a few days ago, a wedding banquet is a metaphor for the coming kingdom of God. Speaking about this divine feast in the present tense, Jesus is telling those listening that the moment is here — because the Messiah is here! Jesus’ disciples didn’t fast because they were too busy rejoicing that the promise had been fulfilled.
But Jesus ends this joyous proclamation in a way that must have mystified everyone listening, including his own disciples: “Someday the groom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast.”
Many people fast during Lent as a way of acknowledging the pain of the final hours of Jesus’ earthly life, and as a reminder of the self-sacrifice and obedience of Jesus on the cross. It can be a powerful experience during these days of preparation for Holy Week and Easter.
Have you ever fasted? Why or why not?