Thoughts from today’s reading of Matthew 9…
14 Then John’s disciples came and asked him, “How is it that we and the Pharisees fast often, but your disciples do not fast?” 15 Jesus answered, “How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them? The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast. 16 “No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch will pull away from the garment, making the tear worse. 17 Neither do people pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.”
As many of you already know, I am someone who has not missed many meals in my life. My struggle with fasting can attest to that. I’ve been very good at so many of the spiritual disciplines except this particular one. I don’t know what it is, but it wasn’t until recently (at the ripe old age of 47) that I finally began to gain victory in this area of my life – and again, fasting can attest to that as well. What I’ve come to realize in this journey is Jesus’ expectations of us regarding this as well as of all other aspects of life.
It’s worth noting that John’s disciples did not ask Jesus why His disciples weren’t fasting as much as they were. They basically asked Him why they weren’t practicing fasting AT ALL (maybe even in an accusatory manner towards Jesus as well)! As expected, Jesus’s response was amazing. The profoundness of His response can be focused on two statements. His first is in verse 15 – “THEN they will fast” (emphasis mine) and the second at the end of verse 17 – “and both are preserved.”
With these two statements, we can see the expectations with which we are to approach fasting and all disciplines. It was not as important to Jesus that His disciples did not fast. To Him, it was important for them to learn WHY they would fast and for WHOM – which they will eventually discover when the “bridegroom is taken from them” and unto the cross. You see, fasting is a choice that we make to join Jesus on Calvary by denying ourselves (and embracing Him instead) and taking up our own cross daily to follow Him. Jesus’ expectations of us are perfectly aligned to our level of maturity. In other words, new wine (youthful faith) cannot be met with expectations that are for those who are far more mature (old wineskin). In doing so, both will end up leading to failure—in other words, it’s not sustainable. He WANTS us to do well and He is our greatest fan. But He’s realistic as well—perfectly so. And His expectations of us regarding fasting and all else are no different. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t fast or even to wait until we are mature enough to do so. I’m actually pointing out the importance of our maturity and growth so that we CAN… sustain-ably. #desiringGod2017