What Makes Fasting Christian?

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August 24, 2018

Mark 2:18-22

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?”

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. But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them, and on that day they will fast.

“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. 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.”

CONSIDER THIS

29. Fasting is not unique to Christianity, but Christian fasting is unique. Why? In today’s text, John’s disciples are fasting, and the Pharisees are fasting. Everybody seems to be fasting except Jesus and his disciples. So what’s the difference? Why weren’t Jesus’ disciples fasting? I think the difference has to do with the Holy Spirit.

Jesus indicated fasting would not be appropriate for his disciples as long as he was with them. Fasting would begin when Jesus ascended into Heaven. My theory? For Jesus, fasting was about cultivating fellowship. As long as he had this face to face fellowship with this followers there would be no need to fast. Fasting would be necessary later to cultivate fellowship with Jesus (despite his physical absence) through the presence of the Holy Spirit.

30. For other religions, fasting seems more to be about faithfulness than fellowship. Why do Muslims fast? Fasting is one of the five pillars of Islam.They do it to be faithful to the requirements of their faith. In Ramadan, the annual Muslim period of fasting, they will forego eating all day long and feast every night. Fasting for John’s disciples and fasting for the Pharisees seems also to be about faithfulness to religious duty. It’s a way to signal you are taking this religion seriously. It seems they surmised Jesus’ disciples were being less than faithful because they weren’t fasting. For Jesus, fasting was not about faithfulness to practice. Fasting was a means to intimate fellowship.

31. Now to this business of wine and wineskins. I have never understood the meaning of these sayings concerning new wine and old wineskins. Only now am I even coming close to possibly approaching an insight. What if fasting for the sake of religious duty and faithfulness is the old wineskin? And what if the new wine is the Holy Spirit? Wouldn’t it make sense that the old wineskins of duty-bound religious fasting could not contain the new wine of the fellowship of the Holy Spirit? Wouldn’t this call for a new kind of fasting; fasting not for the duty of faithfulness to God but for the purpose of fellowship with God? What if fasting is about focusing our attune-ment on the Holy Spirit for the sake of abiding in Jesus.

This notion of fellowship beyond faithfulness also resonates with Jesus’ words to his disciples in the Sermon on the Mount.

But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face so that your fasting will not be noticed by men, but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. Matthew 6:17-18. 

See what I mean? Fasting is about the hidden delights of fellowship over public demonstrations of faithfulness.

Let me test this insight by you now. What do you think?

THE PRAYER

Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me. Thank you that with Jesus there is no secular and sacred; only sacred and desecrated. Give me courage to stand  with the broken in desecrated places and believe for the sacred working of the Spirit. Forgive my worrying about myself becoming unclean. As Jesus is, so I will be. Melt me. Mold me. Fill me. Use me. For the glory of your name, Jesus. Amen.

THE QUESTION

Are you fasting with any regularity? If so, how might this insight about fellowship with the Holy Spirit encourage you? If not, would you like to grow in your fellowship with Jesus in the Holy Spirit? Check out the link below to get started.

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For the Awakening,
J.D. Walt
Sower-in-Chief
seedbed.com

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Farmer. Poet. Theologian. Jurist. Publisher. Seedbed's Sower-in-Chief.

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