When should Christians fast? Does Jesus ever tell us? Jesus assumes that his disciples will practice fasting (Matthew 6:16-18). But Jesus also taught that there is a time when his disciples should fast and there’s a time when his disciples should not fast.
Then the disciples of John came to him, saying, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast. –Matthew 9:14-15
Apparently during Jesus’ public ministry, his disciples did not regularly fast. And other faithful Jews thought it strange. So Jesus explains that it would indeed be strange for his disciples to fast while he was with them. Imagine fasting during a wedding banquet? Silly right?! Jesus says he’s the bridegroom and as long as he is with his disciples they shouldn’t fast but feast–feast on all that God is doing in and through the person of Jesus!
That might sound strange to us today. Isn’t it supposed to be…”all eyes on the bride”? Today, yes. But in Jesus’ day the bridegroom, not the bride, was the center of attention.
Jesus’ disciples then did not fast because, Jesus, the bridegroom, was with them.
Jesus’ disciples today do fast because Jesus, the bridegroom, is not with us. Yet.
We fast because we want to be with him. We fast because we cannot wait for him to come back. We fast today knowing that though the King came and inaugurated his kingdom, we are waiting for him to come back. We fast knowing that the King will come again and fully consummate his kingdom. And so fasting reminds us that that we must be hungry for God’s Kingdom to come, hungry for his will to be done on earth as it is in heaven, hungry to hallow his name now and forever!
So when should we fast? NOW! Now and until King Jesus returns! When we fast, every grumble in our stomach should create a homesickness that will only be cured at the marriage supper of the Lamb, the Great Banquet in the New Creation. And then we will never fast again!
On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples
a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine,
of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined.
And he will swallow up on this mountain
the covering that is cast over all peoples,
the veil that is spread over all nations.
He will swallow up death forever;
and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces,
and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth,
for the LORD has spoken.
It will be said on that day,
“Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us.
This is the LORD; we have waited for him;
let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.”