“Why Do Your Disciples Not Fast?”
All religious groups have ways of behaving which make them recognizable, and fasting at certain times is one of them. John the Baptist’s followers as well as the Pharisees were known for their fasting, but not Jesus’s disciples. This occasioned comment and criticism, and led to Jesus being asked why his disciples did not conform to public perception.
Jesus answers by way of metaphor, likening his sojourn with his disciples to a wedding feast. As such it is to be considered a time of joy and festivity, when fasting and other signs of mourning are out of place. Jesus does not reject fasting as such, but only says that there are times when it is not suitable, and so, is not an obligatory practice.
The Endtime is often compared in Scripture to a wedding feast, a sign of the messianic times, to which all and sundry are invited, and where the food and drink is abundant. Jesus affirms that with him the messianic times have arrived. Still there is a brief allusion to his own passion and death, when “the bride-groom will be taken away from them”, and that will be the time for his disciples to mourn.
This is just one of many metaphors Jesus uses to tell the crowds that the kingdom of heaven he proclaims is not derived from conventional religious values. Conventional religion makes practical demands of devotion, but does not call for a new heart, a transformed life. But it is this that Jesus brings, and it shatters all conventional thinking. This is why his metaphors too – “the wedding feast”, “new wine into fresh skins”, “pearl of great price”, “the mustard seed” – challenge his hearers to re-think their lives and re-form their behaviour.
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