Today, I have have received many questions related to the subject of fasting. I will write separate articles to answer to them, the first question is this:
Why isn’t there any word in the Bible coming from Jesus concerning the way we should fast? It is not even explained how we should fast. What are the “rules” a Christian respects when he fasts if this thing is not mentioned in the Bible? Jesus did not say not to eat meat, milk, etc. But this is the way we fast. What explanation can you give me?
Jesus talked a lot about fasting, about how we should fast and all these teaching are written on the pages of the New Testament. Let’s look at some of them.
The motivation counts
Jesus addressed the most important aspects of our relationship with God when He said the famous sermon on the Mount and He said the following regarding fasting:
Whenever you fast, do not put on a gloomy face as the hypocrites do, for they neglect their appearance so that they will be noticed by men when they are fasting. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face so that your fasting will not be noticed by men, but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. (The Gospel of Matthew 6:16-18)(NASB)
Before you fast, it is very important to ask yourself why you do this? What do you want to accomplish? What is your motivation? You see, according to this biblical passage, some were fasting because this was the situation of those times, it was considered that the one who fasts is a godly man, that was a way to measure their piety and some put on a gloomy face to show the great efforts they made to live godly. But, the effort was to impress people. The correct motivation when you fast is to show yourself to the heavenly Father. The same text also says that when you want to impress people, or you simply uphold a tradition, this is all you have accomplished by your fast, that’s all. I mean, people saw you, some of them have appreciated this, or you simply have established a tradition. That’s all. That’s it.
The wrong attitude thwarts fasting
We can see this truth reading the following passage:
And He also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt: ”Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’ I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (The Gospel of Luke 18:9-14)(NASB)
The Pharisee used the religion to have authority before others and fasting was used for the same purpose. God does not like such a fast and He says clearly that He does not accept it, as long as man doesn’t humble and repent of the committed sins, so as to leave them definitely. Have you humbled yourself to repent from your sins? Or you just fast so as to be as others are?
Jesus and His disciples didn’t observe groundless fasting
As we have seen in the above example, Pharisees used to fast twice a week. The disciples of John the Baptist and took the same practice. Here’s the discussion they once had on this subject:
John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting; and they 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, “While the bridegroom is with them, the attendants of the bridegroom cannot fast, can they? So long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. But the days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in that day. No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; otherwise the patch pulls away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear results. No one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the wine will burst the skins, and the wine is lost and the skins as well; but one puts new wine into fresh wineskins.” (The Gospel of Mark 2:18-22)(NASB)
This case is described in the other two synoptic Gospels, that are Luke and Matthew, that present some interesting details. The apostle Matthew says that Jesus answered like this:
“The attendants of the bridegroom cannot mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them, can they? But the days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.” (The Gospel of Matthew 9:15)(NASB)
The Lord Jesus wanted to show that He didn’t accept fasting just because it had become a routine, but because it had a motivation, such as grief. Then, Jesus always said the comparison with the patch of unshrunk coat and with the old wineskin and the new wine in all three places in the Scriptures where this case is mentioned. With both examples He shows that the Christian teaching that He has brought is not a new patch on an old garment, just as the old wineskins of the old teachings as those of the Pharisee, can not have any dealings with the new and the right teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ. Evangelist Luke says Jesus added later:
And no one, after drinking old wine wishes for new; for he says, ‘The old is good enough.’ (The Gospel of Luke 5:39)(NASB)
So, He showed that when people live with a tradition they do not want to deny it, even when it no longer makes sense.
Fasting is a necessity for spreading the Gospel
Once the disciples came to Jesus and told him about a demon-possessed man that they could not cast out demons. After Jesus rebuked the devil and that left the man, the disciples asked Jesus why they couldn’t drive it out.
“Because of the littleness of your faith; for truly I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you. But this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting. (The Gospel of Matthew 17:20-21)(NASB)
Again you can see clearly the same principle that the fast should have a serious reason, in this case, the servants of the Gospel must fast to drive out evil spirits from a man possessed by them.
As you see, the Lord Jesus talked enough about fasting. How will you fast from now on?
Translated by Felicia Djugostran