Fasting for Jesus' Presence
Monday, August 19, 2019
Devotional for Day 8
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.”
— Mark 2:18-20, ESV
When was the last time you went to a wedding? What do you remember most? Who were the people getting married? Who were the other guests?
Weddings are feasts and celebrations. We hope that the weddings we attend are ones that involve people we love and fully support in their unions. We hope that we can celebrate with the bride and groom wholeheartedly. But, even in the cases where we may have mixed feelings, the wedding is still always a celebration and a feast. The planning takes months, and food and drink are in abundance. It would be strange and even inappropriate to refuse to eat at a wedding. It would either show disrespect for the hospitality given or grave disapproval of the union of the two people.
At the beginning of the Gospel of Mark, Jesus is asked why his followers do not fast. He responds by saying that His presence is like that of a bride-groom at his wedding—it would be preposterous to fast! Why? Because He is present, and His presence means that it's time to feast!
The statement that follows, however, is prophetic: one day you will fast, because Jesus will be gone. You see, Jesus always expected His followers to fast, because He knew that He was going away and they would mourn and long for His presence. That would be the normal way of things until the marriage supper of the lamb, until Jesus' people experienced His perfect presence once again, until the day when they no longer longed for His presence.
How is your longing for Jesus' presence lately? Has it waned over time? Do you feel it less as time passes? If so, why not try fasting for His presence? Cry out with your body in fasting like you cry out with your words in prayer. Experience your hunger for physical food and allow it to shape your hunger for Jesus' presence. And don't delay.
At the end of the Gospel of Matthew (25:1-13), Jesus tells another tale of a bride-groom. Again, He's the bride-groom. But, in this story He's been away longer than anyone ever expected and returns at the most unexpected time. Unfortunately, half of those waiting for Him have found themselves unprepared and they are unable to go into the wedding feast with Him. There is only one chance to enter and then the door is locked. The warning in that story is, "Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour" (Matt 25:13, ESV). Be prepared, because no one knows when He will come again!
Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me. Help me to long for Your presence until You come again. Help me and every other believer to stay awake and not grow weary or find ourselves unprepared for that joyful day when we will enter the marriage banquet with You. We long for Your presence, help us to continue to do so until we see You face to face. Amen.
Ministry Fellow, Christian Union at Yale