Pharisees Think There is Merit in Fasting

Church bulletin - National Prayer and Fasting Conference announcement: “The cost to attend the Fasting and Prayer Conference includes meals.” (Source Unknown).

Church bulletin - National Prayer and Fasting Conference announcement: “The cost to attend the Fasting and Prayer Conference includes meals.” (Source Unknown).

Fasting

The Pharisees seemed to think there was real merit in the act of fasting. Only one fast day was prescribed in the Old Testament Law which was the Day of Atonement (Lev. 23:27). However, the Jews added many fast days to their calendar. By the time of Christ, the Pharisees were fasting twice a week (Luke 18:12). The Pharisees and the disciples of John the Baptist used the matter of fasting to accuse Jesus and His disciples of not taking spiritual things seriously enough.

These are good reasons for fasting. The trouble about the Pharisees was that in far too many cases their fasting was for self-display. It was to call the attention of men to their goodness. They actually whitened their faces and went about with conspicuous garments on their fast days so that no one could miss the fact that they were fasting and so that everyone would see and admire their devotion. It was to call the attention of God to their self-righteousness. They felt that this special act of extra piety would bring them to the notice of God. Their fasting was simply a ritual and a self-displaying ritual at that. To be of any value, fasting must not be the result of a ritual; it must be the expression of a feeling in the heart.

In Jesus’ response He did not say that fasting wasn’t important, but insisted  that it be put in its proper perspective. At a wedding feast the important matter is not the absence or presence of food  but the presence of the bridegroom and Jesus is our heavenly bridegroom. When He was gone the disciples would then have a reason to fast and mourn His absence. He then gives a couple of graphic illustrations of how the Pharisees insistence on ceremonial ritualism when their heart was far from God was simply patch-work Christianity. The new message of the gospel demanded transformed, regenerated lives and not just the lip service of formalism as a religious duty. If it produces Pharisaic pride it does more harm than good.

Application

I need to constantly be on guard in my Christian life that I am not just going through a ritualistic form. Think of as many examples of this as I can. It could be singing in Church and not even thinking about the words I am singing or applying the message of the song in my life.

Mark 2:18-22 (English Standard Version)

Now John's disciples and the Pharisees were fasting. And people came and said to him, "Why do John's disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?" And Jesus said to them, "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. No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. If he does, the patch tears away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear is made. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins--and the wine is destroyed, and so are the skins. But new wine is for fresh wineskins."

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