Session #070 Fast Forward
Scripture Matthew 9:14-17
Summary In Matthew 9:14-17, Jesus responds to a Complaint with a Counter-question. After stating the Condition, He issues a Caution. And we would do well to heed the words of Jesus that we do not mix the new with the old. Clearly, the question is not if Christians should fast, but how Christians are to fast. But more than just another nice teaching about fasting, there must be Conviction before any would even consider fasting forward, looking to the Bridegroom’s return.
Then the disciples of John came to Him, saying, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast often, but Your disciples do not fast?” And Jesus said to them, “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. No one puts a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; for the patch pulls away from the garment, and the tear is made worse. Nor do they put new wine into old wineskins, or else the wineskins break, the wine is spilled, and the wineskins are ruined. But they put new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.” Matthew 9:14–17
The passage begins with a question about fasting, specifically, why do Jesus’ disciples not fast? Jesus uses this opportunity to teach us that everything changes when Jesus comes, and that part of discipleship is leaving the old behind.
The Complaint (Matthew 9:14)
John The Baptist’s disciples led an Ascetic lifestyle in which they separated themselves from the main community. They kept a strict diet and holiness code, fasting regularly.
The Pharisees fasted on Yom Kippur, Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16), and had regarded fasting as a mark of general piety, not just repentance, and they would fast on Mondays and Thursdays (Luke 18:12).
In Matthew 11:18–19, we see that there are common outward indicators of Holiness. They would avoid eating or fellowship with unclean or sinful people. Have religious practices like fasting, prayer, and giving. And when others do not practice or live we do, we are quick to criticize and consider them as unholy or unfaithful.
The Counter-Question (Matthew 9:15a)
Rabbinic discourse is a form of “textual reasoning,” a way of forming ideas in exchange with the authoritative traditions, written and oral, in order to enrich the tradition through truthful transmission, refined categorization, and new, ingenious interpretation. This was a form of teaching that Jesus uses often, asking a question with another question. This causes the other to think and ponder.
In asking if they mourn at a wedding celebration when the Bridegroom is with them? The answer is obvious, they cannot. It is a time of joy and celebration. Everyone is expected to participate fully with the couple. Also, wedding celebrations take precedence over religious obligations (cf those betrothed are exempted from going to war Deuteronomy 20:7).
Jesus is saying that He is the bridegroom. He is the one that Israel has been waiting for all these years. John’s disciples would have been familiar with this as John the Baptist was the one who said this of Jesus (John 3:29).
Pharisees would also understand as this is a Jewish metaphor for God (Hosea 2:16-20).
This is yet another Christological claim by Jesus. Jesus is the Son of Man (Matthew 8:19), one who commands the winds and waves (Matthew 8:27) and in now “I am the Bridegroom, the Husband, who is here with you. I am the Messiah. I am God.”
We are friends of the Bridegroom. The King James Version uses children as translated from the Greek word “huios”. The expression “child” or “children,” shows some relation between the person to whom it is applied. Do you have a real relationship with the Bridegroom?
What have you been fasting for? Have you not been fasting forward, looking to the day that the Messiah will come and be with you? The good news is that Jesus is here. The king is here. The kingdom is near you. It is a new season so there is no need to mourn. It is a time to celebrate.
The Condition (Matthew 9:15b)
Jesus provides a condition for fasting and that is when the bridegroom is taken away, apairo meaning snatched away. After Jesus ascended, this condition has been fulfilled. It is time to fast again.
We FAST FORWARD for His return and the fullness of His kingdom. To fast as an expression of our longing and desire. We fast in anticipation, waiting for our Savior to return.
The Caution: Mixing Old Covenant Fasting with New Covenant Fasting (Matthew 9:16-17)
The old is incompatible with the new. The old ways are incompatible with the new ways. That is what Jesus says in this part of the passage.
God’s old and ancient paths are timeless and still the best ways (Jeremiah 6:16, 18:15). In Jeremiah 31:31-34, God declares that He will make a New Covenant with the House of Israel.
In Hebrews 8:7–13, the New Covenant is mediated through Jesus which replaces the Old Covenant made at Mt Sinai through Moses, the Mosaic Covenant.
What about Gentiles then? When we believe, we are plugged straight into the promise or covenant made with Abraham (Galatians 3:29).
The New Covenant is about trying to live the new Christian kingdom life with old Judaistic structures and mindsets. We have to understand the Spirit of the Law so that we may enjoy true freedom in God’s kingdom.
Old Covenant vs New Covenant Fasting
Fasting in the Old Covenant is normally associated with crisis, loss, repentance, and mourning which may be at a personal, corporate, or national level. In the New Covenant fasting, the kingdom of God is characterized by peace, joy and righteousness in the Spirit. We repent for our sins but at the same time, we rejoice in the work of Jesus, setting us free from the power of sin. We do not fast to be forgiven. We believe in the sacrifice and blood of Jesus and are forgiven.
It is tempting to regard and employ fasting as a means to get closer to God, to get onto His good side, to obtain His favour, to get Him to hear and answer. Our relationship and intimacy with God is through joyful association with Jesus. If we missed the heart of the matter, it became ritualistic with no benefit to anyone. It became an outward show of piety worn as a badge of holiness to be pridefully paraded for all to see and be impressed.
Fasting has become institutionalized over time. It is just something we do, and so often many things start out right and good but end up wrong and dead.
Jesus warns us to not mix the old and the new. A patch is pleroma in Greek meaning to make full or to fill up. This is the same word as “to be filled with the Holy Spirit”. If you mix “old covenant” with “new covenant”, when God begins to move, when the kingdom manifests, it will “pull away” making the tear worse. Is this why the Body of Christ has so many “tears”?
Do not try to fix or cover-up or paint over. It will not work. It is not about repairing an old garment but replacing it with a new garment. We have been clothed with Christ, with His righteousness, with garments of joy and gladness. The Old Covenant is obsolete and done away with. The New Covenant Promises in Jesus are better.
New wine represents the fullness of the messianic age, the true ways of the kingdom. Old wineskins are hard and inflexible. When the new wine ferments and bubbles, the old wineskins cannot accommodate and will burst. But many prefer the old wine, not the new wine (Luke 5:37–39).
Nobody wants to be an old wineskin but we are unaware when we have become old wineskins. The moment we institutionalize the kingdom, rely on systems and structures more than the Spirit, keep reminiscing about past glories and successes, we have become hard and inflexible. Are we doing church vs living kingdom?
New Covenant thinking and living is only possible with New Creations with New Mindsets
Wineskins are made from animal bodies. There was a Lamb who died on our behalf. Do not depend on yourself, on dead works and old forms of sacrifice.
The only way is to be a new wineskin is to be a new creation in Christ, with new mindsets.
We have died with Christ, raised to new life. It is no longer you but Christ who lives in you. You live by faith through Him. Renew the mind and be transformed. Know and prove God’s will by living the kingdom life.
The Conviction: As with all things, Fasting is based on Faith. We Fast By Faith
Jesus was not against fasting at all. Jesus fasted in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11). Jesus taught about fasting in Matthew 6:16-18. It is not about spiritual showmanship and we need to check our motives.
Fasting is common in the New Testament and they are found in Acts 10:30, 13:3; 14:23. Paul fasted as well in 2 Corinthians 6:5 and 11:27 and instructed married couples to fast as well in 1 Corinthians 7:5.
Fasting is voluntary, no one can force you to fast. Only you can decide when, how, and how long to fast. Understand what New Covenant is and know why you are fasting.
Fast is derived from the Germanic root meaning solid, firm, or steady. Hence, to hold fast means to hold steady or to be securely anchored to something. Fasting requires commitment, and commitment is based on conviction. It is not just being committed not to eat, but being committed to something more than just the benefits of weight loss and being able to fit into your old jeans. We fast in anticipation, waiting for our Savior to return, Fast Forward.
Jesus invites us to participate in the things of the kingdom! What is God doing? How is He moving? What’s my part? Where do I fit in? What are my assignments? How do I know?
I need to be convicted enough that I have a part to play before I am willing to posture myself to seek Him and His kingdom through fasting and prayer.
Empowerment is recognizing that I cannot do this on my own. My tendency is the way of the flesh. The kingdom is the way of the Spirit. The kingdom is upside down. Through fasting, my flesh is weak, but my spirit man is strong. My dependence is not on myself but on Him.
I do not fight or fret for the battle belongs to Him. I need to be convicted enough that it is not my talents or abilities or intelligence or riches at all. It is beyond me, and the way to tap into divine empowerment and spiritual resources are through fasting and prayer.
FAST FORWARD is not about rushing ahead or getting things done quickly. We no longer fast in mourning, waiting for the Savior to come. We fast in anticipation, waiting for our Savior to return.
How would you like to move forward in this new year? How would you get through a challenge? Are you looking for a breakthrough? Do you want to know and fulfil your kingdom assignments? How about Fasting Forward?