Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Feasting When You Should Be Fasting, Part 1, Mark 2:18

Now John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting. And the people came to [Jesus] and said to him, “Why do John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” Mark 2:18 ESV

How do we know that the disciples of Jesus are not fasting? In the sections on either side of this passage we see Jesus feasting with sinners and the disciples picking grain on the Sabbath. They were not fasting.

So why do two warring, though highly religious groups, John the Baptist and the Pharisees, agree on the need to fast, but Jesus and his disciples seem to totally disregard the practice? I think the question is answered by the answer to the question; what were these groups fasting for?

From other places in the New Testament and from historical documents, we see that Israel was in a state of heightened messianic expectation. Because of Daniel 7, in which we read that four kingdoms must come before the coming of messiah, and because the Romans (the fourth kingdom) had taken control of Israel around 63 BC, all Israel seemed to be in a state of expectancy. In fact, we know from history that over 100 messianic hopefuls (pretenders) rose up during this time.

Now Daniel lived in a very similar day. He knew from Jeremiah’s writings that Israel would be in captivity for 70 years. Therefore, when he realized that the time had been accomplished he,

Turned my face to the Lord God, seeking him by prayer and pleas for mercy with fasting and sackcloth and ashes. Daniel 9:3 ESV

Thus, John the Baptist and the Pharisees both realized that this was a time for repentance, prayer, and fasting. So now we see how outrageous the actions of this gluttonous teacher looked. He and his disciples seemed to be jeopardizing the hopes of all; jeopardizing because everyone knows that God does not reward Israel for her sins, but sends her into exile.

Well, more later.

Above: Took this photo last fall, sorry if I already posted it, I still like it.

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