Well, I thought I was going to be able to cover fasting and why the disciples didn’t fast when they were with Jesus, but you’ll have to wait for a few weeks for the second part. (Or read Matthew 9:14-17, Mark 2:18-22, Luke 5:33-39 to learn more)
Fasting is “hip” by today’s standards. It’s healthy, very beneficial to the body. But there are strong spiritual roots to fasting, too. There is a right way to fast for the Lord, and there is a wrong way.
I Encourage You To Read This Scripture Before Reading Further: Matthew 6:16-18
(Matthew 6:16) Continuing the sermon on the Mount, Jesus brings up fasting.
Biblically, fasting is a form of abstinence, an affliction of the body, in which one gives up food and drink. In today’s modern world, people can fast from multiple things, though people debate what is Biblical. The Jews were to fast from food and drink.
- *King David, when he fasted, included not sleeping on a bed and wearing the same clothes.
- Others often fasted in ashes and sackcloth.
- The people of Ninevah fasted and repented when Jonah gave them a warning.
Post | Are You Fasting…At All?
My thoughts have shifted a little since the above post. Fasting is something the Jews were instructed to do, and there is nowhere in the New Testament we see that the Gentiles are commanded to do so. (See what Gentiles WERE instructed, like the Jews, to do in the Jerusalem Decree Acts 15:22-29)
Does this mean Gentiles can’t fast at all? Absolutely not! Fasting is important.
Keep in mind, if we just fast thinking the action is enough, it’s not. We need Jesus, and we need to come to Him humbly. The act of abstaining from food is not the same as prayer or repenting.
Jesus, on the Sermon on the Mount, was showing the disciples the same thing.
Do NOT Fast Like Hypocrites
(Matthew 6:16) He says when they fast not to be like the hypocrites. This statement is interesting because Jesus doesn’t say “if you fast,” instead He says, “when.” Again, I originally thought that meant for everyone, Jew and Gentile. However, Jesus first came to the Jew THEN the Greek. One thing we see in the preachings of Jesus, His messages are designed for the Jewish people because it’s framed in their culture. There’s a lot of explanations He doesn’t have to give because the Jewish people would have already understood. The Gentiles might be like, “Say what? Who is disfiguring their face? What are You talking about? Why should we fast?” The Jews already know these answers.
Please understand, that doesn’t mean His messages can’t be helpful to the Gentiles. They absolutely can, and we should take much away from what Jesus preached. I state this purely so we can understand the context of scripture better and the audience for the particular scripture.
Note Also: The 12 disciples WERE NOT fasting at this time. Jesus saying “when they fast” made a lot of sense especially for the disciples who were not currently fasting.
What were the hypocrites doing that made them hypocrites? The rest of 16 explains that they “disfigured” their faces, and had a sad expression. How were their faces disfigured? *Remember the ashes we talked about? In addition to ashes, people would not take care of themselves, not combing hair, not washing their face.
What the Pharisees had done was use fasting in a prideful way. They pushed the idea of works and having a sense of control by doing these things. (If they do these things, they were righteous, God was pleased with them, kinda idea) Like they had a habit of doing, they continued to add to the Law, making fasting a requirement twice a week and connecting it to when Moses ascended and descended Mount Sinai. God did not instruct this.
Jesus says the hypocrites have their reward. Men could admire their dedication to fasting and how “loyal to God” they must be. Kinda like how people use the word “religious” today, referring to how close, they think, someone is to God purely based on things they see outwardly.
(Matthew 6:17-18) Jesus tells them what to do instead. When they fast, they are to anoint their head and wash their face. The reason is so, unlike the hypocrites, others are not aware they are fasting. However, God will see, and God is in the secret place. The Father who sees in secret, Jesus says, rewards openly.
What To Take Away: It’s tempting to desire praise from others. We desire validation and when people approve of what we do, well, we feel good about it. The problem is pride often wraps its fingers around our spirit and continues to squeeze us saying, “More! I desire more!”
We need to be living for Jesus and know that what we do for Him He will see. Taking care of those who have needs, the poor, the widowed, the fatherless, the hungry, etc. Sometimes it’s okay to talk about those deeds to spread the word to try to encourage others to get involved. But when the reality is we are just showering our good deeds and how “religious” we are, then our reward is with men, not God.
Look at the motive of why something is shared. Is it to encourage others? Is there any secret pride that is starting to seep out? Seek the Lord.
*Bible Hub Commentary On Matthew 6:16
*Matthew 6:16. (n.d.). Retrieved April 28, 2020, from https://biblehub.com/commentaries/matthew/6-16.htm
Have you struggled with pride and seeking praise from others before? How did God help you?
Monthly Scripture- (NKJ) Psalm 85:04, “Restore us, O God of our salvation, and cause Your anger toward us to cease.”
Monthly Community Prayer– April 2020, – Join us in praying for one another, if you have requests let me know
Second Blog: Peeking Beneath