There’s a moment in the life of Jesus when he is asked by some bright spark, why He doesn’t expect His disciples to fast like so many of the other Rabbis expected of their followers. Although Jesus talks about fasting, and He Himself practiced it, it obviously wasn’t as prioritized as other groups of their day. The story is in Mark 2:18-20
Jesus response with an analogy, “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]
In other words, gorging yourself on MacDonalds 10 minutes before arriving at your sister’s wedding reception is not a good idea. Especially if you were so full that you couldn’t eat another bite during the actual wedding feast when everyone else was eating and celebrating [and for free]. Typically, once everything is in full swing, no one fasts during a wedding feast. The bridge and groom are there, that is why everyone has come, so everyone is eating. That is what Jesus is saying, no one fasts when you have everything you need, when your whole purpose is fulfilled. At that point His disciples have everything they need right here with them. “I’m the bridegroom,” Jesus says, “I’m here!” What more could they ask for? What could be more important? What could be more filling? What could be more satisfying? What do they have to fast for? But when the bridegroom leaves then they will fast once again.
There is a lesson here for us. Sometimes we live as though our wedding feast is still in the here and now. Because we have so much available to us; so many options of things that we can pursue as our purpose and fulfillment, we hardly notice our lack. We have so much to feed on, so many things that promise to fill us and satisfy us, so many bridegrooms promising us a feast, that we forget that it is Jesus that is the true bread of life!
Fasting can still be a useful reminder, to our minds, bodies, hearts and motivations, that our real satisfaction is not to be found in the here and now. We cannot find our satisfaction in the Created world. We need to look to the Creator.
If we buy into the lie that we have everything that we need in the here and now we will forget the desperate importance of seeking Jesus. Fasting helps remind us of our focus, and helps us focus on seeking Jesus.