When the bridegroom is taken away from them, then they will fast in those days.
Luke 5:29-6:11 from the daily reading in the One Year Bible
And Levi gave a big reception for Him in his house; and there was a great crowd of tax collectors and other people who were reclining at the table with them. 30 The Pharisees and their scribes began grumbling at His disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with the tax collectors and sinners?” 31 And Jesus answered and said to them, “It is not those who are well who need a physician, but those who are sick. 32 I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”
33 And they said to Him, “The disciples of John often fast and offer prayers, the disciples of the Pharisees also do the same, but Yours eat and drink.” 34 And Jesus said to them, “You cannot make the attendants of the bridegroom fast while the bridegroom is with them, can you? 35 But the days will come; and when the bridegroom is taken away from them, then they will fast in those days.” 36 And He was also telling them a parable: “No one tears a piece of cloth from a new garment and puts it on an old garment; otherwise he will both tear the new, and the piece from the new will not match the old. 37 And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the new wine will burst the skins and it will be spilled out, and the skins will be ruined. 38 But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins. 39 And no one, after drinking old wine wishes for new; for he says, ‘The old is good enough.’”
6 Now it happened that He was passing through some grainfields on a Sabbath; and His disciples were picking the heads of grain, rubbing them in their hands, and eating the grain. 2 But some of the Pharisees said, “Why do you do what is not lawful on the Sabbath?” 3 And Jesus answering them said, “Have you not even read what David did when he was hungry, he and those who were with him, 4 how he entered the house of God, and took and ate the consecrated bread which is not lawful for any to eat except the priests alone, and gave it to his companions?” 5 And He was saying to them, “The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”
6 On another Sabbath He entered the synagogue and was teaching; and there was a man there whose right hand was withered. 7 The scribes and the Pharisees were watching Him closely to see if He healed on the Sabbath, so that they might find reason to accuse Him. 8 But He knew what they were thinking, and He said to the man with the withered hand, “Get up and come forward!” And he got up and came forward. 9 And Jesus said to them, “I ask you, is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save a life or to destroy it?” 10 After looking around at them all, He said to him, “Stretch out your hand!” And he did so; and his hand was restored. 11 But they themselves were filled with rage, and discussed together what they might do to Jesus.
In today’s text, when asked about why He associated with tax collectors and sinners, Jesus said: “It is not those who are well who need a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” This stands against the false perception that many have today that Jesus would prefer the company of sinners as opposed to those in the church. Over and over, we see in the gospels that Jesus taught regularly in the synagogues and at the temple. The truth is, that as it says in Romans 3:23, all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. To repent is to change both the way we act and the way we think. Jesus calls us all, both those in the church and those outside to change; to become more like Him. There is no one so righteous that they cannot be changed in the presence of God and there is no one so desperately given to sin, that they cannot repent and be redeemed. Just as He did when He was here, Jesus today would teach and minister everywhere He went.
In a similar to it being that Jesus does not need to call the righteous to repent, the text also says: “You cannot make the attendants of the bridegroom fast while the bridegroom is with them, can you? But the days will come; and when the bridegroom is taken away from them, then they will fast in those days.” In Matthew 17:14-21 Jesus also speaks of the need for fasting: When they came to the crowd, a man came up to Jesus, falling on his knees before Him and saying, “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is a lunatic and is very ill; for he often falls into the fire and often into the water. I brought him to Your disciples, and they could not cure him.” And Jesus answered and said, “You unbelieving and perverted generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring him here to Me.” And Jesus rebuked him, and the demon came out of him, and the boy was cured at once. Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not drive it out?” And He said to them, “Because of the littleness of your faith; for truly I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you. But this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.” While Jesus said this kind does not go out except by fasting and prayer, He neither fasted or prayed, but rather rebuked the demon. Often, we miss the true purpose of fasting and prayer. We don’t pray to inform God what needs to be done. In Matthew 6:8 Jesus says: “Your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him.” We don’t fast to prove our righteousness to God so that He will answer our prayer. It is repentance that increases our righteousness in God’s sight. We don’t fast and pray to bend God’s will toward ours. Rather we fast to remove the things in our life that separate us and distract us from seeing and hearing God. We fast and pray to align our will with His. If we are walking completely with Him, then there is no need for us to fast. It is when Jesus has been taken from us by the busyness of our lives that we fast. We pray not to convince God what He should do, but rather to hear from Him what He is doing and what He has already done. In Isaiah 58:5-11 God describes the fast He desires and its benefits for us: Is it a fast that I have chosen, A day for a man to afflict his soul? Is it to bow down his head like a bulrush, And to spread out sackcloth and ashes? Would you call this a fast, And an acceptable day to the Lord? Is this not the fast that I have chosen: To loose the bonds of wickedness, To undo the heavy burdens, To let the oppressed go free, And that you break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, And that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out; When you see the naked, that you cover him, And not hide yourself from your own flesh? Then your light shall break forth like the morning, Your healing shall spring forth speedily, And your righteousness shall go before you; The glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; You shall cry, and He will say, ‘Here I am.’ If you take away the yoke from your midst, The pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness, If you extend your soul to the hungry And satisfy the afflicted soul, Then your light shall dawn in the darkness, And your darkness shall be as the noonday. The Lord will guide you continually. In Matthew 11:29-30 Jesus says: “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” In Matthew 5:14-16 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” That is the fast that God desires, that we walk with Him allowing Him to guide us continually.
Heavenly Father, Lord Jesus Christ; precious Holy Spirit, thank You that as I change the way I think and act, as I walk with You, seeing what Your doing and hearing what Your saying, I can be a vessel of Your light to the world. Amen.