14 “Then the disciples of John came to him, saying, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” 15 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 (ESV)
The Adult Bible Fellowship (ABF) my wife and I attend at our church is presently studying Ecclesiastes. We just recently examined Ecclesiastes 3.
“Ecclesiastes 3:1–8 stands as one of the most familiar texts of Scripture in modern culture even outside the church, for this passage was famously adapted by the rock group The Byrds in 1965 as the hit single “Turn! Turn! Turn!” The focus of the passage is the idea that in God’s created order, there is a proper time for all sorts of things, from birth to death to mourning to dancing to war to peace and so on. The implication of the text is that living wisely entails discerning the proper time for every activity,” explains one commentator.
In today’s text from Matthew’s Gospel, the people who asked Jesus a question about fasting were the disciples of John. Mark indicates it was only unidentified people who posed the question, without any indication they were either John’s disciples or the disciples of the Pharisees. Luke implicitly refers to the Pharisees and their scribes (Mark 2:18-20; Luke 5:30-32).
What is consistent in all three Synoptic Gospels is the question about fasting and prayer. The disciples of John the Baptist and the Pharisees often fasted and prayed. They wondered why Jesus’ disciples did not? Jesus spoke about the importance of, and qualifications for, fasting (Matt. 6:16-18). Fasting was to be done secretly and not with a gloomy facial expression. How would either of these two people groups know if Jesus and His disciples fasted, or did not fast, according to Jesus’ instructions?
Jesus responded by saying, ““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.”
Jesus responded metaphorically, as He often did, to His critics. He compared Himself and His disciples respectively to a bridegroom and wedding guests. While He was with them, it was a time for celebration. There was too much joy for fasting. He would leave soon enough, which would bring a time for fasting and prayer following His departure. During that time, often filled with sorrow and despair, there would be plenty of opportunities for fasting and prayer.
“Wisdom consists not only in doing the right thing but also in doing it at the right time. Often, knowing the right time to do something is the most difficult thing. The only way to attain sufficient wisdom to do the right thing at the right time is through careful study of the wisdom given in God’s Word, accompanied by prayer that He will help us understand its teaching,” concludes Dr. R. C. Sproul.
Have a blessed day in the Lord.
Soli deo Gloria!