But When You Fast…

My favorite meal of the day is breakfast. As a new day dawns, I need energy from a good bowl of oatmeal flavored with honey and cocoa. I also like a good bowl of cereal to finish it off. Breakfast is not just the meal but also refers to the time of day when the darkness ends and the light of day returns. The word is a combination of “break” and “fast,” simply meaning the time when the overnight fast breaks.

Jesus used meals in the gospels to illustrate deeper spiritual truths. First, we read about two separate occasions when Jesus feeds multitudes of 4000 and 5000 with just a few fish and some loaves of bread. Next, Jesus eagerly desired to share the Passover meal with His disciples before his suffering. Finally, we see the risen Christ on a beach serving up a feast of fish and bread to his disciples, inviting them to come and eat! In all of these examples, we see Jesus as the One who supplies life-giving sustenance out of what seems to be nothing. In this, Jesus reveals something about Himself that a well-seasoned Old Testament scholar would have quickly picked up on.

In the wilderness, God supplied the physical needs of His people with manna out of thin air. The rocky, harsh climate of the desert in the Arabian peninsula is unforgiving. The most cunning hunter could never survive in an environment with no natural resources for food. Therefore, they had to depend entirely on God to provide everything they needed. God faithfully fed them every day with the right amount of food to survive, and yet they, in turn, were required to demonstrate their obedience by gathering just enough for that day’s needs. Anything more would become worm-infested. God would even supply a double portion on the day before the Sabbath, requiring no work on that day.

Jesus revealed Himself as God through these miracles of providing food, and yet he instructs his disciples on how they were to fast. Did Jesus encourage fasting while He was present with these disciples? No. We only hear Jesus speaking of fasting in opposition to the examples set by the hypocrites. In Matthew 6:16, Jesus points out how fasting can be practiced in ways that draw attention away from God and onto themselves. Hypocrites seek the accolades of the people because they put on a face not indicative of the heart beneath. In Mark 2:16, the author compares John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees who fast and Jesus’ disciples who do not fast. Jesus answers that as long as the bridegroom or Jesus is with them, they cannot fast, but they will fast when the bridegroom is away.

I could only imagine what joy there would be to share a meal with Jesus. Luke tells us that when Jesus took the bread, gave thanks, and broke it, he gave it to his disciples and said, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” Every observance of communion remembers the body and blood of our Lord – a time of intimacy with Jesus. When we fast, we recognize a deep awareness of need. Jesus meets this need is in a relationship with Him. To eat a meal in the Hebrew culture with another person speaks of connectedness. Jesus desires to share a meal with us but not with food that only satisfies temporarily. He is our bread from heaven whose life-giving Spirit supplies our deepest yearnings.

Finally, we anticipate the coming of our Lord again. As the risen Savior shared a meal with disciples on that Galilean beach, so we will join in the marriage supper of the Lamb spoken of in Revelation 19. Our fasting need not be for outward show but to draw us into deep communion and fellowship with Jesus that we may hear Him more clearly and eagerly await the time when we will finally break our long, long fast.

~ Shan Norwood and his wife Rina have been members at LIFE Fellowship for seven years. Shan is a recent graduate of Gordon Conwell Seminary and holds degrees in Biblical Studies and Christian Thought. He also serves as a LIFE University instructor and as a stepdad to Micah and Caleb Godsey.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes:

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>