Summary: What began as a confrontation regarding the practice of fasting, turned into a lesson regarding the doctrines of salvation. Christ is the only means of salvation. We must come to Him by grace, through faith, in Christ alone.
The Concern about Fasting
Mark 2: 18-22
Our text today deals with a passage that is often misunderstood, and even overlooked by many. Some argue the passage is confusing, and they fail to see the great significance it reveals. Actually Jesus revealed great doctrinal truth in this conversation with men.
As He continues to minister in and around Capernaum, He is once again confronted by Pharisees and those who are skeptical about His teaching and ministry. Bear in mind that Jesus had shown great authority and power, but He did not follow the rules established by the religious elite. As you study the life of Christ, you will discover that He had more problems with the devoutly religious than any other group. They were continually trying to force Him to conform to their standard, and yet Jesus was determined to follow the will of God, not the dictates of men.
As we consider the comparisons revealed in the text, I hope you will gain a better understanding of this powerful passage concerning the Gospel. I want to preach on: The Concern about Fasting. Consider:
I. The Inquiry (18) – And the disciples of John and of the Pharisees used to fast: and they come and say unto him, Why do the disciples of John and of the Pharisees fast, but thy disciples fast not? Here we notice the inquiry of the Pharisees and certain disciples of John the Baptist. Notice:
A. Their Participation (18a) – And the disciples of John and of the Pharisees used to fast. Clearly these men were in the habit of fasting. It had become a regular part of their lives. It was a time set aside to deprive themselves of food, or other provisions, in an act of self-denial. Fasting was observed as a means to deny the flesh and focus one’s attention on the Lord and greater spiritual matters than the needs of the body.
Fasting in and of itself is not a bad practice. It is referred to many times in Scripture, and was practiced by many as well. The Pharisees were adamant about fasting. They were committed to fasting twice every week. Jesus referred to this practice in Luke 18:12 – I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. By this time in Jewish history, fasting had become an expected practice of every devout Jew. Yet this was often done more for the praise and recognition of men than it was to seek the Lord and grow spiritually. Jesus dealt with the hypocrisy of fasting in Matt.6:16 – Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.
I am in no way opposed to the practice of fasting, if you feel led to spend time in self-denial in order to draw closer to the Lord. However, we must check our motives if we are planning to engage in fasting. If you choose to fast, that should be kept between you and God. If you plan to make it public and seek the praise and approval of men, then there is no spiritual advantage to fasting. (Share some of the comments heard regarding Lent.) Fasting, in and of itself, holds no significant power. It is not a spiritual “silver bullet” to obtain one’s desires and gain the favor of God. It is not a badge of honor to wear proudly before others. If however, you are committed to genuinely seeking the Lord while denying the flesh, then I am sure God will honor your efforts.
B. Their Confrontation (18b) – and they come and say unto him, Why do the disciples of John and of the Pharisees fast, but thy disciples fast not? As these men observed Jesus and His disciples, they quickly noticed they were not fasting. With an attitude of skepticism, they confronted Jesus. Quite possibly the disciples of John had begun fasting in prayer for him as he was imprisoned. They were upset that John had been taken captive and were unsure why Jesus didn’t share their concern and fast as well. The Pharisees likely were seeking any means of accusation.
Jesus well understood the basis of their argument and He will deal with it in the verses to follow. These men had developed religious practices and certain rituals they expected everyone else to follow. Sadly these practices remain, even within Baptist churches. Many preach a message of salvation by grace through faith in Christ alone, and yet they mercilessly add numerous rules and expectations following salvation. They preach one message, but practice something entirely different.
II. The Instruction (19-20) – Jesus responded to their inquiry with valuable instruction. Notice: