Monday, December 10, 2012

Luke 5:35 and Fasting

Sunday before last in my sermon on Luke 5:27-39, we reflected on the Bible's teaching on fasting, especially related to v. 35.  Here are some notes:
One of the keys to interpretation here is how we take Jesus’ words in v. 35:  "But the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken away from them, and then they shall fast in those days."  Was Jesus referring to fasting of his disciples in grief between the time of his crucifixion and the resurrection, or was he referring to fasting as a regular obligation of Christians after the ascension?
In my study, I found that the Reformed interpreters tended to prefer the latter interpretion, making the special point that we should avoid the errors of Roman Catholics who stress man-made efforts at fasting as an onoging way to pursue holiness.
Geldenhuys, for example, offers this exposition of v. 35;  “the Lord here refers to the time from His arrest until His resurrection—then the disciples will of their own accord and without compulsion fast as a result of the grief of their hearts.” He adds, “So we may not interpret the Lord’s words (as the Roman Catholic Church does) as a command for Christians to fast regularly” (Luke, p. 196).
Jesus, indeed, taught in the Sermon on the Mount that believers were to fast as a spiritual discipline but to do so in such a way that other men would not know of it (see Matt 6:16-18).  We are not to go beyond Scripture in requiring fasts (e.g., fasting on Fridays or during "the season of Lent," as the Roman Catholic catechism instructs the adherents of that religion).
The fact is that the risen Lord, our bridegroom, is with us, even now!  Geldenhuys notes:  “every believer is called upon to be joyful in Him and not to fast in sorrow.  A joyful, healthy spiritual discipline indeed always remains the characteristic of a follower of Christ” (p. 196).

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