As we continue to look at the ministry of Jesus in Mark’s Gospel, one thing we have to realize is that the Lord lived under the Old Covenant. So there were times He had to make it clear that something new was coming.
Now John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting. Some people came and asked Jesus, “How is it that John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees are fasting, but yours are not?”
That was an interesting question for the Lord. It’s clear from Scripture that Jesus fasted. In Jesus’ ministry, He taught what to do “when you fast.” Jesus assumed that fasting would be a normal part of our lives. Why didn’t He make His disciples practice this discipline?
Jesus answered, “How can the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? They cannot, so long as they have him with them. But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them, and on that day they will fast.”
The Lord was basically telling them that fasting would change from Old Testament to New Testament. He wanted them to start the New Covenant fast after the resurrection.
Under the Old Covenant, fasting was a way to humble yourself in repentance. Now, in Christ, we fast in order to put down the flesh so that we can hear the voice of the Holy Spirit more clearly. For a more detailed teaching on this subject…click here.
At this point, Jesus gives a description of the differences in parable form. Those listening to His explanation probably didn’t understand what the Lord was talking about, but looking back, we can.
“No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. If he does, the new piece will pull away from the old, making the tear worse.”
The first thing He talks about is the outside – a garment. In the ancient world, the way to repair your clothing was to take an old piece of cloth and use it to patch an old garment.
Under the Old Covenant, fasting was only a patch. It was all about doing something to get God to listen to me. I needed to patch things up. So I humbled myself by fasting, wearing sackcloth, and covering my head with ashes. I had to show how sorrowful I was for my sin.
There were times that people fasted just for show. They wanted to look “holy”. That’s when God would say things like, “Will I listen to you if you fast like that?”
According to Jesus, we don’t fast like the Pharisees or other Old Testament people. Much of what they did was to impress people with their outward displays of religion.
If I try to patch things up with God under the New Covenant, I only make things worse. It’s all about me being able to hear God’s voice clearly.
How, then, do I get God to hear me? The truth is that I don’t. In Christ, we have 24/7 access to the throne room of God. There’s no condemnation; we can enter boldly into His presence.
Now, under grace, we’re a new garment and don’t need a patch. But a new garment (back then) would always shrink with use. Fasting under the New Covenant shrinks the outer garment.
That’s what we look for – the flesh to decrease. As I fast, the voice of my flesh gets quieter. So fasting forcefully puts down the flesh.
This is because under the New Covenant it’s about me hearing from God. God hears me in Christ. But I need to hear Him with my spirit when He speaks.
I don’t think it’s as much God not speaking, as me not listening. Fasting helps drown out the noise of my flesh. That’s why I believe that fasting should be a regular part of a Christian’s life.
Questions: Do you fast? How often?
© 2017 Nick Zaccardi