Did Jesus have the talk with his disciples? The fasting talk? Did he sit with them and explain that, when it came to fasting, they would be different?
They would not fast at all!
For sure they knew other rabbis and disciples fasted. It was a holy act of devotion. They could’ve been looking forward to their fasting experience with their teacher. Or not. Did they notice they hadn’t been fasting?
Well, we’re sure others noticed.
At the very least, John the Baptist’s disciples wondered about their fasting practice. Or lack thereof. They aligned themselves with the Pharisees. As best we can tell, they fasted twice every week. But why didn’t the disciples of Jesus even fast once?
The Lord eluded to his being the expected bridegroom–the church is the bride. Wedding attendants don’t mourn when they’re with the bridegroom. My best man took me out to lunch and bought me a gift on my wedding day. He didn’t bring up to me that about fifty percent of marriages in the U.S. end in divorce. He didn’t tell me most Americans live paycheck to paycheck. There’s too much to celebrate right now.
To be sure, a time would come when others would take away or snatch the bridegroom, Jesus. Let’s guess that’ll happen on a Thursday evening. Were his disciples fasting behind locked doors the day Jesus resurrected?
The larger point Jesus pointed to was about the new reality God was shaping in Jesus. There was nothing wrong with fasting. There was nothing wrong with praying and giving. But there was a change in perspective and, perhaps, even in attitude. That was what Jesus led his disciples toward by not fasting.
Now, if we want a new or even a renewed sense of joy in our churches, we need new attitudes. New perspectives. Is there something we need to stop doing to pay closer attention to the reality of Jesus? Dressing up our old only creates more problems. Problems that take us further from our mission and purpose.
I won’t suggest we stop fasting because I’m not so sure many of us do to begin with. So, maybe we should fast this week. In the next few days, find a way to fast with joyful expectation. And let’s see what God might show us.