Today we are reading from Mark 2: 18-22:
18 Now John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting; and people came and said to him, “Why do John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” 19 Jesus said to them, “The wedding guests cannot fast while the bridegroom is with them, can they? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. 20 The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast on that day.
21 “No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old cloak; otherwise, the patch pulls away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear is made. 22 And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and the wine is lost, and so are the skins; but one puts new wine into fresh wineskins.
Fasting is an activity that has an outward element to it. You don’t eat. People see that. Think about what it is like to fast during Lent. Hey Andy, want to go grab lunch? I can’t it’s Lent. You can “hide” it sometimes, but it is hard to avoid all attention to fasting. There is an outward element to it.
But fasting is not about the outward element or appearance. Fasting is not about the outward appearance (that’s why in Matthew Jesus says to put oil on your fast and not appear gaunt) or the outward change (losing weight) but fasting is about the inward change. Fasting draws us closer to God, allows us to more clearly hear God’s voice, imparts grace to our lives, and can be a mark of repentance. There are outward elements, but fasting is about the inward grace and change.
So, today, all can see that John’s disciples are fasting and the Pharisees are fasting and that Jesus’ disciples are not. Does this make them less holy? After all, everyone can see that the others are, and they are not. Why aren’t they? Are they not dedicated?
Jesus basically says, now is not the time. There will come a time for fasting. But now is a time when God is doing something new when God is moving in fresh, new ways, and that must be what requires their attention and their efforts. Fasting is not, Jesus encourages and teaches His disciples how to do it. But that exact moment was not the moment to fast. The attention was needed elsewhere.
For us today, I think this poses an excellent question Why do we do what we do? Why do we live our disciples? What are the motivations for our actions? For others to see? For others to notice? So we can look and appear holy?
Or are we driven not for an appearance of holiness, but are we driven to actually be holy and different. True holiness, true transformation, a life truly different is not a life driven by outward appearance, but by an inward thirst and desire for God’s grace. Jesus calls us to attend to the internal, not be driven by the external.
May it be so for us today.
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