Jesus answered, “How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them? The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast.
- Matthew 9:15
Have you ever wondered what the meaning is behind fasting?
I will confess that the first time I decided to fast for Lent, I was unclear about the motivation or meaning behind it. I figured it meant breaking a bad habit or temptation that I was reliant on (i.e. drinking coffee) such that I can spend time, energy and mindset to focus more on God. However, in reading the scripture, there is so much more behind the meaning of fasting.
Yes, fasting teaches us to hunger for Christ and to remind ourselves to be reliant on God. It makes us aware of our sins and temptations, and how difficult it is to trust fully in God and live only in Him. It does draw parallels to Jesus fasting and resisting the temptation of Satan for 40 days and 40 nights. But when we look at scripture, we also see that fasting marks important moments of quiet time away from distractions to dwell in our relationship with God and prepare for major events in our faith. Moses, for example, fasted for 40 days several times. They are considered as times for atonement, for receiving instructions from God and to receive the Ten Commandments.
What was most telling for me about fasting, though, was actually when Jesus and His disciples did not fast. In Matthew 9, Jesus was questioned as to why the disciples did not fast, and the answer helps us understand the meaning behind fasting. Jesus responded that fasting was not required because He was currently with them. It is when He is gone that the disciples will long for him. This passage tells us then that fasting is an action performed to help demonstrate and help us experience our thirst for and long for Christ. There was no need for fasting when Jesus was with the disciples because there is no point in longing for someone that was currently with them.
Therefore, as you approach the end of Lent and the celebration of Good Friday and Easter, consider how you may prepare yourself and how you long for Christ. Use this as a time to separate yourself from temptation, but to also seek God and to focus on God without distractions.
Reflection: What distractions do you need to "fast" from to help you focus on Christ?
What does fasting mean for Christians? Read this week's devotional to reflect on the meaning of fasting for this Holy week. You can also meditate on the words of God while you listen to praise and worship music from Calm Christian Music.