Thursday, August 9, 2012

The Bridegroom Is Here

Luke 5:33-35 (ESV)
And they said to him, "The disciples of John fast often and offer prayers, and so do the disciples of the Pharisees, but yours eat and drink." [34] And Jesus said to them, "Can you make wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? [35] The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in those days."

“And they said to him.” Of course, they are the party goers as near as I can tell. They have to be just as perplexed as the Pharisees. At least I imagine they are. Probably looking at Jesus as cross eyed as the customers at J and J’s bar look at me when I walk down there for lunch on a Wednesday afternoon. Often they really don’t know what to do about the man in the collar, but awkward conversation can turn into a meaningful discourse at times. I once went for lunch and didn’t get home till 8. The party goers now want to know what it is Jesus has to say. They are perplexed. The Pharisees were just harassing him about being there. And now they would like to know too. So they ask him about fasting.
I’m guessing the party was being thrown on a day that others tended to use for a fast. Otherwise I have no idea how this question comes about or how they know his disciples don’t fast. Fasting was the thing to do for religious people, like partying for tax collectors and prostitutes but the opposite. John’s disciples fasted, so did the Pharisees. Jesus and his disciples are busy enjoying good food and good wine.
Jesus answeres them in a way that gives them more than a blunt answer to their question. Who fasts at a wedding? Who fasts when the bridegroom is among them. Oh people do. Some people never know how to live. “I’m on a diet” is something that should never be uttered at a wedding. Pick your diet up tomorrow you ungrateful sourpuss. Jesus is announcing something. There is a wedding going on, and he is the bridegroom come to claim the wayward bride that is Israel. His disciples celebrate.
So now comes the question then of when it is appropriate to fast. Jesus says the time will come. I’ll confess, I’ve tried the Lenten fasts, and never really have gotten the meaning behind it. I know some who think of it not too much different than a diet. And some who get a bit legalistic about it. I’ve done it, yes. A couple times I put myself on bread and water rations for all of Lent. Of course not Sundays, that is a feast day. Eat up. It’s actually the opposite of pious to fast on Sunday. Jesus rose from the dead on that day. It’s celebration.
And that is the thing, the Bridegroom hasn’t ever really left. He is still here with us, he is risen. He sits at the right hand of God, which puts him everywhere. But he isn’t with us any longer in the sameway as he was with the disciples at this time. So fasting has a place.
Fasting is to abstain from something that in and of itself is indifferent. This isn’t about giving up bad habits, and it isn’t about losing weight or concurring gluttony. The idea is to teach one patience, and prepare one for temptation, finally it is to concentrate a person and all his will on the one thing needful, Jesus Christ.

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