Mark 2:18-20

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?’

Jesus said to them, ‘The wedding-guests cannot fast while the bridegroom is with them, can they? 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 on that day. Mark 2:18-20

What is this text about? Is it about Jesus reaching into the symbolism of messianic expectations, or is it the first foreshadowing of the end of the story, or is it about fasting, intentionally going without food for a specific period of time? The answer is probably yes.

The idea of the messianic banquet reaches back to passages like Isaiah 25, “On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines, of rich food filled with marrow, of well-aged wines strained clear. And he will destroy on this mountain the shroud that is cast over all peoples, the sheet that is spread over all nations; he will swallow up death forever. Then the Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces, and the disgrace of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the Lord has spoken.”

Remember that the central question that Mark is responding to is “What do we do with a Messiah who dies?” Perhaps these verses foreshadow the death of Jesus, the bridegroom who will be taken away.

I’ve never really considered the actual practice of “fasting” to be an important part of this passage. To me it has always been the differences between the disciples of Jesus and those of John and the Pharisees. The disciples of Jesus had no need for spiritual practices to draw closer to God because they understood that, in Jesus, God was right there in their midst. When you are driving a car you don’t use a cell phone to talk to the person in the passenger seat.

Then again, maybe there is something to be learned from the practice of fasting. After all, we live on this side of the resurrection. Maybe there is something to fasting that we don’t know.

Last month, and all of the months of my life before that, fasting was a strange mystery. The only times that I ever “fasted” were in preparation for some medical thing when I was told not to eat after midnight. Which always left me ravenously hungry after I left the doctor’s office until I could go get something to eat.

As a Lutheran, the closest I ever got to fasting was giving something up for Lent. Which I have never been great at. Not eating chocolate is one thing, not eating for an extended period of time seemed just a little crazy. (This from a guy who has struggled with his weight since I was in my mid-forties.)

Then, on back on September 1st, I watched a YouTube video featuring Dr. Jason Fung that a member of our congregation sent to me. It was the first time that I thought of the health benefits of fasting. So I have been trying it. And, I found out for myself, it is amazingly easy. Last night I broke my first three day fast. (Feel free to email me at if you want to learn more.)

Maybe, had they actually tried it, the disciples of John and the disciples of the Pharisees might have discovered something marvelous in following, rather than opposing, Jesus. The same goes for us.

Let us pray: Jesus, may we celebrate today, and every day, the good news of the love of God in which we live. Today, and every day, may we be always open to the new ideas that the Spirit guides us toward. For truly, in you, we find a life that is truly alive. In Jesus’ name. Amen.


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