A Walk through the Book of Luke
March 6, 2023
Jesus is questioned about fasting
“What did you give up for lent?”
I was brought up in the Catholic faith. I can remember two areas of fasting my family adhered to during the Lenten season. First of all, we did not eat meat on Fridays. This fasting included chicken. So, on Fridays during lent, we ate a lot of fish and things like lentil pasta for dinner.
The second type of fasting we did was give up something we enjoyed for the six weeks of Lent. I can’t recall what I used to give up, but for some, it was sweets; for others, it was bread of any kind or even alcohol consumption.
I no longer fast during lent. I will explain my reasons for not fasting later in this devotion.
In today’s reading, Jesus is questioned about fasting.
The following discussion occurred between Jesus, observers, and disciples of John (The Baptist).
“They said to him, “John’s disciples often fast and pray, and so do the disciples of the Pharisees, but yours go on eating and drinking.”
Jesus answered, “Can you make the friends of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; in those days, they will fast.”
He told them this parable: “No one tears a piece out of a new garment to patch an old one. Otherwise, they will have torn the new garment, and the patch from the new will not match the old. And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the new wine will burst the skins; the wine will run out, and the wineskins will be ruined. No, new wine must be poured into new wineskins. And no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for they say, ‘The old is better.'”
Jesus was being questioned by John’s disciples. Incredibly they referenced the Pharisees because they like John (The Baptist), and his followers fasted. But, those questioning Jesus said while they all fasted, Jesus’ disciples kept eating and drinking.
First of all, the Old Testament only required people to fast once a year. That was on the day of atonement (Yom Kippur). Yet, the Pharisees said it was required that you fast twice a week. Fasting means you abstain from eating and, at times, even drinking. Therefore, doing this twice a week could not be a healthy thing to do.
I gave up fasting many years ago. Due to several medical conditions I have, there are many foods I cannot eat and beverages I cannot drink. I’ve learned to accept it as eating the foods and beverages I shouldn’t exacerbate my intestinal issues. So, for me, fasting isn’t an option. However, if people choose to do so, that is their choice, and they should not be looked down on because they choose to.
One more point on fasting.
In Jesus’ time, “Religious people would choose to fast for various reasons: to concentrate on prayer and meditation, as a form of self-punishment for some sin committed, or to evidence a disdain for the body and its needs.” (People’s Bible Commentary, Luke, Victor H. Prange, Pp. 61)
Jesus says, “But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; in those days, they will fast.”
Jesus is referencing Himself as the bridegroom. He says that His disciples will fast when the time is right. That time is after His death and when He ascends into heaven.
You’ll notice Jesus shares a parable of new wine in old wineskins. New wine is unfermented. So, as it ages and ferments, the wine causes the old skin to burst.
The parable that follows is common sense. You wouldn’t cut up a new piece of fabric to patch a hole in an old piece of cloth. But, of course, today, people find it fashionable to have holes in their pants, especially jeans, without patching them.
The point is the old does not meld well with the new.
“Jesus is a minister of the New Covenant. This (His) is a covenant of forgiveness. The new life in the Spirit breaks loose from the old mentality, which thrives on fault-finding and concentration on the meritorious observance of the law…. Make no mistake: Jesus is on the side of the new.” (Peoples Bible Commentary, Luke, Pp. 62)
Jesus’ teaching was so different from the teachings of the Pharisees of the day. He knew the two could never be mixed. Perhaps that’s why Jesus said,
“Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people”