Luke 5:33-39 Fasting strengthens our faith to possess our inheritances
33 And they said to Him, “The disciples of John often fast and offer prayers, the disciples of the Pharisees also do the same, but Yours eat and drink.” 34 And Jesus said to them, “You cannot make the attendants of the bridegroom fast while the bridegroom is with them, can you? 35 But the days will come; and when the bridegroom is taken away from them, then they will fast in those days.”
36 And He was also telling them a parable: “No one tears a piece of cloth from a new garment and puts it on an old garment; otherwise he will both tear the new, and the piece from the new will not match the old. 37 And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the new wine will burst the skins and it will be spilled out, and the skins will be ruined. 38 But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins. 39 And no one, after drinking old wine wishes for new; for he says, ‘The old is good enough.”
The Pharisees caught up with Jesus after the banquet and accused Him for not enforcing the religious discipline of fasting upon His disciples. Jesus responded by telling them that the Messiah had already come and that their prayers and fasting for the salvation of Israel had been answered. Noticing their unwillingness to assimilate the way of the gospel into their core beliefs, Jesus revealed the pride of man that resist change. Today’s devotion teaches the significance of fasting in the new covenant age. Fasting in a posture of humility is exceedingly beneficial; it strengthens our faith to fulfill our calling thus possessing our eternal inheritances.
The disciples of John often fast and offer prayers, the disciples of the Pharisees also do the same, but Yours eat and drink.
The Pharisees launched yet another attack aimed at Jesus and His disciples on the issue of fasting and prayer. The discipline of fasting and prayer in the Jewish context was a display of remorse and repentance purposed to hasten the coming of the promised Messiah. They accused Jesus for not enforcing religious discipline on His disciples. Jesus’ response was direct, “You cannot make the attendants of the bridegroom fast while the bridegroom is with them, can you?” Jesus meant that as the Messiah had already come, this kind of fasting and prayers were no longer needed. However, the followers of Christ will fast again, not for salvation but for greater spiritual intimacy and worship.
No one tears a piece of cloth from a new garment and puts it on an old garment.
Using the analogies of garments, wine and wineskins, Jesus revealed the tendency of the human condition towards pride that resist change. Judaism was designed to preserve the people’s faith by way of the Law until the arrival of the Messiah. The Israelites, for thousands of years were deeply entrenched in the observance of Moses’ Law. Unfortunately, what was purposed to keep them looking forward to the arrival of Christ became to them a terminal block. In fact, the temple worship and its system of sacrifices was meant only as a foreshadow, a antecedent or model of the real; it was designed to keep them looking to the Messiah. The tragedy of the Pharisees and the Jewish leaders was attributed in part to their pride blinding them to the Messiah. They were familiar with the Law of Moses and could perform it but could not understand the heart of God, which is the essence of the Law.
Here, Jesus gave two analogies to stress the point that the way of the Pharisees and the way of the gospel were incompatible. A new unshrunk piece of garment (cloth) cannot be used to mend an old garment because the new cloth will shrink ruining the whole garment. Similarly, old wineskins cannot serve as containers for new wine. Old wineskins, having lost their elasticity will break as the new wine ferments and swells. As a result, both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. The values of the Pharisees and that of Christ’s are diametrically opposed. Hence, the Pharisees did not think they needed God’s forgiveness thus refusing to assimilate into the way of Christ, they thought their old way would suffice. The way of the Pharisees was to utilize the Law as a covering for their sins. But the way of Christ is to expose sin and cleanse the heart. The Pharisees were so entrenched in their brand of Judaism that they wanted no part in the new covenant.
All that fasting and prayer do is to strengthen and regenerate our hearts.
All that fasting and prayer do is to strengthen and regenerate man’s hearts according to the passion of Christ so that he may do His works. In the new covenant, fasting does not directly attract God’s favor. However, believers in the old testament fasted as an expression of piety and remorse to restore God’s favor towards them.
The quintessential figure of fasting and prayer in the gospel is Anna, the prophetess who never left the temple, serving night and day with fastings and prayers, looking for the Redemption of Jerusalem. There were many others who fasted in the posture of self-abasement so as to draw God’s attention towards their predicament. The prophet Isaiah wrote concerning the prevalent mindset towards fasting during his time, ‘Why have we fasted and You do not see? Why have we humbled ourselves and You do not notice?’ Isaiah 58:3. The Pharisees and the Jewish leaders supposed by their fasting and prayers would hasten the coming of the Messiah. And indeed the Messiah had already come. Since then, the purpose of fasting is no longer to hasten God’s salvation or to attract God’s favor, but to be filled with the Spirit. Fasting carries the following benefits:
– Fasting sharpens our spirit to know God’s will and to receive His guidance. According to Acts 14:23, before Paul and Barnabus would anoint elders in the churches, they prayed and fasted to receive God’s guidance.
– Fasting redirects our attention to the wellbeing of our inner man. By abstaining from physical food for a time, we compell our inner man to feed on the Word and the resources of the Spirit.
– Fasting prepares believers to enter into a new phase of life. Jesus fasted for 40 days in preparation to reveal Himself as Messiah of the world.
Put in a nutshell, fasting produces clarity of mind giving us direction and wisdom for all our endeavors.
Fasting strengthens the believer’s faith to accomplish his calling and possess his inheritances.
In the old covenant, man is without a mediator to intercede on his behalf. He uses his own virtues and acts of piety (fasting and prayer) to gain God’s favor to help in times of need. In the new covenant, believers are adopted as God’s sons and are blessed with every blessing in the universe (see Ephesians 1:3). As believers’ inheritances are secured and hidden in Christ, it is superfluous to obtain them again through fasting. That was why Jesus did not ask His disciples to fast. Juridically speaking, our inheritances had already been apportioned to us through Christ. However, it remains for us to fulfill our calling through which we obtain our inheritances. It is here that fasting and prayer come in; to strengthen our faith for the time of trials and testing. Even though our inheritance had already been secured by Christ’s work on the cross, it remains for us to possess it by faith.
How do I begin the discipline of prayer and fasting?
First, strengthen the discipline of reading the Word and in hearing God’s voice on a daily basis. One cannot be counted on to run when he cannot yet walk. A believer must spend a minimum of 30 minutes daily in the reading and meditation of the Word. It is through the reading of the Word, that the inner man begins to come alive. Fasting compels the inner man to feed on the Word and the Holy Spirit with greater intensity.
Throughout the duration of the fast, the believer immerses himself in the Word in solitude. Fasting heightens the setting up of foundations of truth and the tearing down of erroneous concepts resulting in dramatic shifts in worldview. He will begin to notice changes in his core values system. He will learn to differentiate what aspects of the world is within his power to change and what is not. He begins to understand in greater clarity his role and calling for his life. He will also be able to identify certain gaps in his life that needed attention. The believer can also mingle praying in tongues with reading of the Word, for it contributes to receiving revelations with clarity. Praying with understanding is an important component through which the believer seals his new found understanding and commitment towards God.
Do you find your walk with God stagnating such that the Words of the bible no longer touch your heart? Perhaps, it is time to let God search your heart and reveal to you the hidden ideas that opposes the truth of Christ. Perhaps, you need a fresh encounter with God. Ask God to speak to you personally through various channels (e.g. people, thoughts, intuitions, visions and dreams). If possible, search for a spiritual director in your church who is able guide you in this spiritual journey.
Dear Lord, I hunger for the touch of your love, and a fresh encounter of your face. Lead me into a new phase of growth through which I can see you more vividly and hear you more clearly. Use me to touch those who are discouraged and heal those who are sick. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.