“‘But the days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast’” (Matthew 9:15).
Fasting is meaningless if done merely from habit and if it doesn’t derive from a deep concern over some spiritual need. And as we saw yesterday, even the best and most foundational spiritual practices, if not done with sincere motives and right purposes, are only hypocritical and pretentious.
Jesus was obviously referring to His crucifixion when He said He would be taken away from the disciples. From that time on, it would be fitting to fast and mourn. Fasting naturally comes from a broken and mourning heart, but if it is performed as a shallow, mechanical ritual only, it is displeasing to God.
Jesus’ emphasis on internal matters such as forgiveness shows us that fasting must be held in the proper context of what’s truly important. It also demonstrates that He brought us radically different teachings and practices from those of traditional Judaism or any other religious traditions—Catholicism, liberal Protestantism, any sects and cults—that can stress externalism, ritualism, or any man-centered habits. When we fast, Jesus wants us to do so in light of His new covenant—not the old with its forms and shadows—and in a way that increases our compassion for others, causes us to be more humble and sacrificial, and gives Him all the praise and glory.
Are there ways to fast besides abstaining from food? In what other ways could you experience the spiritual benefits of fasting—the clarity of communication with God, the taming of selfish desires, the renewal of priorities?
From Daily Readings from the Life of Christ, Vol. 1, John MacArthur. Copyright © 2008. Used by permission of Moody Publishers, Chicago, IL 60610