Reasons for Fasting

The Gospel of Mark – Part 10

Reasons for Fasting – Mark 2:18-22

Mosaic Rockford – Dave Spooner – Sept. 1st, 2019

Intro:

  • This morning our focus is on the teaching of Jesus on the subject of fasting. Fasting is something that, in reality, very few of us do because it is unpleasant and difficult and most of us don’t know why we should do it at all. My hope is that by the end our time together today, that you will understand the reasons for fasting and that you will put it into practice in your life.
  • Mark places this teaching on fasting as the fame and resistance to Jesus continues to build all across Israel and beyond. He is preaching and teaching with authority, commanding evil spirits, and healings of all kinds, including a paralytic. He is calling people to repent and follow Him and going to people who are in great need of Him.
  • The keepers of the religions culture are asking Him all kinds of questions and trying to trap and discredit him. Jesus was not doing what they thought the messiah was to do and many people did not understand this rabbi, especially when it came to religious practice and tradition.  Fasting is one of the areas they had questions about, and in Jesus’ response, we see the real reasons to fast, the first being to seek God’s presence. Let’s read this passage together, starting in Mark 2:18-20.

Seeking God’s presence

Mark 2:18-20 ESV
Now John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting. And people came and said to him, “Why do John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” 19 And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast.  20 The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in that day.  

  • Fasting had become a religious tradition and activity that had lost its original purpose. It was originally practiced as a means of seeking God and His presence. Jesus restored this original purpose by giving the illustration that the wedding guests do not fast when the bridegroom is with them, but there will be a time when He (the bridegroom) would not be present with them, and it would be an appropriate time to fast. They forgot that this was the original purpose and it had morphed into a way to impress people with how devoted and “holy” you were. 
  • When Jesus gave the sermon on the mount, He said this about fasting:

Matt 6:16-18 ESV
“And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 17 But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 18 that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

  • The religious people of the day made it a point to make sure that other people knew how devout and holy they were by purposefully making it known that they were fasting so that others would notice them. Jesus said don’t be like these hypocrites, that when you fast do so that you will be seen by your Father, do so to be rewarded by Him.  
  • The main reason we fast is to be in the presence of God, and from this connection there is great reward for us. Fasting was not given to be seen or rewarded for others- it was given to seek the presence of God.
  • Jesus then gave two other illustrations to demonstrate and teach the reasons for fasting, the next one is this, to repair something that is torn.    

Repairing something torn

Mark 2:21 ESV
No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. If he does, the patch tears away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear is made. 

  • Sometimes in our attempt to fix things, we end up making them worse. Has this ever happened to you?  There are times in which the fabric of our lives has been torn.  It may have just worn out, or there could have been an event that ripped a hole in it . . . either way the garment has been damaged- it is not the way it was. It has lost its original “glory” and has become less than what it was and also exposed a part of us that was meant to be covered. There are many places in our lives that the garment has been torn. And again, in our efforts to fix it, if we are not properly prepared, the tear become worse in our attempts.  
  • In this illustration Jesus is saying that there must be proper preparations made in order for the repair of the tear to be successful. Fasting is the way to prepare ourselves so that the tear can be fixed. Quick fixes do not work. You have to do the hard work of preparation of the fix to be applied and be permanent.  
  • This happens by “shrinking.” This is a shrinking in recognition how dependent, weak and powerless we are. There is humility that comes from understanding this, and fasting brings this to the surface, knowing that this tear is beyond us and needs the preparation and presence of God to fix.
  • Many things in our lives have been torn and may have gotten worse in our attempts to mend them. The best way and perhaps only way to properly do so is to prepare ourselves by humbling ourselves through denying ourselves and calling out to God in our diminished state.  
  • Not only is fasting to be employed when we are need of repair, but also to prepare us for something that is new.  Jesus again uses another illustration to teach this principle.  

Preparing for something new 

Mark 2:22 ESV
And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins—and the wine is destroyed, and so are the skins. But new wine is for fresh wineskins.” 

  • In order for us to receive what the “new wine” or the next thing that we are to participate in, we first must be prepared in order to receive it. If we do not and the new thing is given to us, both the new thing and we ourselves will be destroyed and damage in the process. This is why many of us have not received the new thing or the next thing that God would have for us, because we are not prepared to receive it. He does not give it to us because in doing so, both would be lost. Fasting then is to be used in preparation in order to receive the new.   
  • If you are looking for something new or looking to be “refilled” or “refreshed” again, the best way to be ready for this is to build yourself up, but to bring yourself low. Fasting the way to prepare yourself for moving to the next thing.
  • If you are stuck, if you are dry, if you are in need of something new, fasting is the way to be prepared to receive the next and new thing that God would want to give to you. 

Conclusion 

  • Fasting is not to be used to communicate to people how “holy” and righteous you are.  Fasting is to be done for the Father to see, to be again in His presence and be rewarded for doing so.  When you fast, seek the Lord, use the time to seek Him.  Use the pain to remember how dependent, and weak and in need we really are. “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you” (James 4:7 ESV).
  • Choose to fast when there is a “tear in your garment.” In this way you will be properly prepared to mend what has been torn.
  • Choose to fast when it is time to receive the next thing. Prepare yourself and watch what the Lord will do for you.