And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in that day.” – Mark 2:19-20
Mark records a time where the Pharisees and the disciples of John the Baptist were engaged in a fast, a short-term abstention from food, but Jesus’ disciples were not. Some people asked Jesus why this was so, and he replied with a brief illustration about wedding guests and a groom. In this illustration, Jesus is the groom and his followers are the guests. He said as long as the groom is present, there’s no reason to fast; but when the groom leaves, then there will be reason.
Throughout the Bible fasting was practiced for a variety of reasons including, but not limited to, being a part of a religious ritual, sorrow over sin, and in combination with prayer in the face of difficult circumstances.
In Mark 2, Jesus says that it is also right to fast because of our present separation from him. In one sense, because Jesus is God the Son and is everywhere-present, we are never separated from him. The Holy Spirit dwelling within us, God in us, is even called the Spirit of Christ by Paul in Romans 8. So, Jesus’ promise in Matthew 28:20 is true: he is with us always.
Yet, in another sense, we do not experience Jesus physically and face-to-face like his first disciples did 2000 years ago and like we will for all of eternity to come. In this way, our present experience of Jesus is incomplete. This is why, with Jesus’ return and our eternity with him in mind, Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 13:12, “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.”
Jesus desires that we be filled with joy, but even the deepest joys today lack in comparison to the perfect joy of eternity. So, we wait and we long for the day that the Bridegroom returns.
Here, fasting has a place. We take moments and sometimes days to abstain from food that we might deepen our dependence on God through prayer and his word. We also take these moments to remember that we’ve not yet seen the fullness of our salvation, and things are not yet the way they will be when our hope is fully realized. But that day is coming and then we will fast no more.
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