(Matthew 9, 14-15)
John The Baptist sent his disciples to Jesus to ask Him about fasting. Because they used to fast, and so did the Phariseers. But Jesus and his disciples didn’t fast. Why?
Jesus answers with saying: “Can the friends of the bridegroom mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast.”
The Bible doesn’t tell us that Jesus fasted together with His disciples. We know that he fasted before He chose them – when he was alone in the desert for 40 days and nights. But together with His disciples He didn’t fast. Because this was not a time of sorrow, but a time for the revelation of the Kingdom of God. The bridegroom (Jesus) was still together with his friends, and it was a time of joy, not of fasting.
But after Jesus died on the cross, He was taken away from His disciples. After that day it is a time for all His disciples to FAST. This means also His disciples today – you and me.
These words from Jesus were prophetic. The first Christians fulfilled this. The same did many holy men and woman through the following generations – through the centuries. But where are the believers who fast and pray today? There are all too few Christians of today who take these words from Jesus seriously. And therefore the churches are weak and suffering.
1. WHAT MEANS FASTING?
(Matthew 4, 1-11)
Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness – to be tempted by the devil. This was a spiritual test for Jesus. And He prepared himself for this through prayer and fasting.
Let us look at the definition of the word fasting:
To fast (greek: “nesteuo”) means “to not eat”.
esthio (greek): to eat
ne (greek): negative prefiks
This text tells us that Jesus did not eat for 40 days, and then He was hungry.
There are some who say that fasting can mean other things than to stay away from food. They say that fasting means to stay away from everything which can hinder your relationship with God. Well, it is true that there are many things which can stand as a barrier in our relationship with God. But anyway, the biblical word fast means to not eat.
We find the same story in the gospel of Luke, and here stands that “…He ate nothing…”
(Luke 4, 1-2)
(Here it stands very clear that Jesus didn’t eat. But we don’t know whether he drank water. There are different meanings about that among Bible teachers. But when Satan came to tempt Him, he tempted Him only with bread, not with water. If that means that Jesus fasted only from eating, but drank water – the Bible doesn’t tell.)
But Moses was in the same situation as Jesus, when he was up on the mountain of Sinai to receive the 10 commandments from God.
(Deuteronomy 9, 9-10 and 15-19)
Moses says that he “neither ate bread nor drank water…”
So that is what we can call total fast: To not eat nor drink.
We also find one example with Daniel, when he was seeking God in prayer and sorrow.
(Daniel 10, 1-3)
He didn’t eat meat or drink wine for 3 weeks. There are some who say that maybe he ate vegetables and drank water in this period. Because he did that when he was a young student for the King.
(Daniel 1, 3-16)
This is speculations, and I believe that Daniel was in a total fast when he was seeking the Lord in chapter 10.
These stories from the Bible tell about fasting in a special leading from God. Jesus, Moses and Daniel were fasting in an extraordinary way, and they were led specific by the Holy Spirit in this. It doesn’t stand in the bible that God want every believer to fast for 3 weeks without eat and drink. These are special exceptions. But we will now look at the way of fasting that the Bible describes as the most normal and common.
2. THE NORMAL BIBLICAL FASTING
(Acts 9, 3-9)
“And he was three days without sight, and neither ate nor drank”
The Bible shows us some examples of the kind of fast which were practised among the people of Israel and the first Christians. This story about the apostle Paul’s meeting with Jesus is just one of them. Here we see that the fast lasted for three days.
There is a story from the book of Ester which explains in details how the people of Israel practised the fasting before the Lord.
(Ester 4, 15-17)
All the Jewish people were in a very difficult and dangerous situation. It was a moment where all the people of Israel could be effaced. Even Queen Ester could not feel safe. She therefore requested this total fast, because desperate situations need desperate actions!
But how was the fast practiced? To not eat or drink for 3 days and 3 nights. This is the most common fast in which we find in the scriptures. It is a personal and individual fast.
3. WHEN SHOULD WE FAST?
The Bible doesn’t give any specific instructions to the believers in the New Testament about special moments when we must fast. Fasting is a secret agreement between you and God, and should not be shown in the face of other people. It is enough that you and your family knows that you are fasting.
(Matthew 6, 16-18)
But anyway, the Bible gives us examples of situations where it is normal and necessary for the believer to fast:
In a dangerous and difficult time. (Ester 4, 16)
For the specific spiritual leading. (Acts 13, 1-4)
When God has called you into something special. (Acts 9, 9)
For personal surrenderance to Gods will and plan. (Psalm 69,10) (1. Samuel 1, 2-11)
In prayer and intercessions. (Esra 10,1 and 6) (2. Chronicles 7,14)
To break down demonic power and strongholds. (Matthew 17,21)
For revelations and spiritual understanding. (Daniel 9, 1-3)
Except from this we can say that there is normal for one Christian to fast:
For his/her family (husband, wife, children)
For your church.
For your job.
For your nation.
WHEN – NOT IF!
(Matthew 6, 1-6 and 16-18)
Can you see that Jesus is speaking expectations and not only advices?
you give – not if you give!
you pray – not if you pray!
you fast – not if you fast!
Jesus didn’t give us advices. He didn’t say if or maybe! No, He said when because He expected these things to be a part of the Christians lifestyle. To give, to pray and to fast.
(Matthew 28, 19-20)
We are called to teach the believers to keep all what Jesus told us to do, not only a part of it. There are many churches today who don’t even speak about fasting. But God wants to rise up a strong people, who know what fasting means and who practise this in a Biblical way. In this way the churches will be stronger and prosper much more!