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Why did Christ’s disciples not fast?

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February 20th, 2014 | Filed Under: Author, Fasting, Mitch Kuhn, Q and A2 Comments | Author:

Hi W____,

This is a very interesting verse that you have brought up.

(Mar 2:18 NKJV) The disciples of John and of the Pharisees were fasting. Then they came and said to Him, “Why do the disciples of John and of the Pharisees fast, but Your disciples do not fast?”
(Mar 2:19 NKJV) And Jesus said to them, “Can the friends of the bridegroom fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them they cannot fast.

The Pharisees are asking why the disciples of Jesus are not fasting like the disciples of John and the Pharisees. The answer to your question lies in comparing spiritual with spiritual and the fact that we all regard Christ after the flesh at first. They are also asking Jesus a very physical question about abstaining from physical food, but Jesus gives them a spiritual answer. He did the same thing when they asked about when the kingdom of God should come.

Luk 17:20 Now when He was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, He answered them and said, “The kingdom of God does not come with observation;
Luk 17:21 nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you.”

I explained in a recent Q and A that the spiritual meaning of fasting has nothing to do with physical food at all. Here is a link to that article which I suggest everyone read if you have not already done so. You will need the understanding found in that article to comprehend what I’m about to explain.

The disciples were with Jesus and were hearing his teachings, but were not yet able to fully understand the spiritual meaning, because they did not have the gift of the Holy Spirit yet. They also did not have the strength to obey Christ’s commands and do what he said. They were yet regarding Christ after the flesh.

(2Co 5:16 NKJV) Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer.

The disciples were yet carnal. Yes, Jesus the bridegroom was with them, but he was with them according to the flesh and not according to the spirit. Christ actually has to go away from us in the flesh in order for us to truly be with him in the Spirit.

(Joh 16:7 NKJV) Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you.

These are the very next verses in Mark that Christ speaks:

Mar 2:21 No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; or else the new piece pulls away from the old, and the tear is made worse.
Mar 2:22 And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; or else the new wine bursts the wineskins, the wine is spilled, and the wineskins are ruined. But new wine must be put into new wineskins.”

Christ is talking about the transition from the Old to the New Covenant. Everything is in the process of changing from the Law of Moses that only cleaned the outside of the cup to the Law of Christ that cleans the inside. In the same manner, fasting is no longer an outward physical act of abstaining from food, but an abstaining from false doctrine and evil.

This is what happens next in Mark; Christ redefines the Sabbath and shows the shadow of this truth in the Old Testament.

Mar 2:23 Now it happened that He went through the grainfields on the Sabbath; and as they went His disciples began to pluck the heads of grain.
Mar 2:24 And the Pharisees said to Him, “Look, why do they do what is not lawful on the Sabbath?”
Mar 2:25 But He said to them, “Have you never read what David did when he was in need and hungry, he and those with him:
Mar 2:26 how he went into the house of God in the days of Abiathar the high priest, and ate the showbread, which is not lawful to eat except for the priests, and also gave some to those who were with him?”
Mar 2:27 And He said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.
Mar 2:28 Therefore the Son of Man is also Lord of the Sabbath.”

The Pharisees were focused on not physically working on the literal day of the Sabbath, but Christ was telling them in a parable that the true Sabbath is to cease from our carnal works and rest in Christ.

(Heb 4:9 NKJV) There remains therefore a rest for the people of God.
(Heb 4:10 NKJV) For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His.
(Heb 4:11 NKJV) Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience.

(Mat 11:28 NKJV) Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
(Mat 11:29 NKJV) Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
(Mat 11:30 NKJV) For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.

Christ came as a reformer to reveal the mystery that was hidden in the Old Testament from the very beginning.
I explained in the previous Q and A that fasting is to abstain from wickedness and to be freed from the bondage of sin.

(Isa 58:6 ESV) “Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?

We cannot be freed from the bondage to sin until the Spirit of God is sent to us.

(Eze 36:26 NKJV) I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.
(Eze 36:27 NKJV) I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them.

Jesus was telling the Pharisees in a parable that the disciples could not truly fast spiritually speaking, until the flesh of Christ was taken away and the Holy Spirit sent. The flesh of Christ was crucified and then he was resurrected with a spiritual body, as a shadow of how our flesh is being crucified now and we are being created new by the Spirit.

Gal 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.

This is the true Sabbath rest! Our works are over and Christ’s works begin in us.

2Co 5:16 Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer.
2Co 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.

Regard NO ONE according to the flesh, including OURSELVES!

The Pharisees and the disciples of John thought they were fasting, but they did not know the true meaning of fasting. They were saying that they could see, but yet were blind.

(Joh 9:38 NKJV) Then he said, “Lord, I believe!” And he worshiped Him.
(Joh 9:39 NKJV) And Jesus said, “For judgment I have come into this world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may be made blind.”
(Joh 9:40 NKJV) Then some of the Pharisees who were with Him heard these words, and said to Him, “Are we blind also?”
(Joh 9:41 NKJV) Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no sin; but now you say, ‘We see.’ Therefore your sin remains.

The outward fasting of the Pharisees and disciples of John is an example of how we all try to clean the outside of the cup, but within we are full of evil.

(Mat 23:25 NKJV) “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence.
(Mat 23:26 NKJV) Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also.

The problem with the Pharisees was their doctrine. The problem was within but they were focused on what was without.

(Mat 16:11 NKJV) How is it you do not understand that I did not speak to you concerning bread?—but to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”
(Mat 16:12 NKJV) Then they understood that He did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

When the Spirit comes, we are convicted of the sin that we must fast, spiritually speaking.

(Joh 16:8 NKJV) And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment:
(Joh 16:9 NKJV) of sin, because they do not believe in Me;
(Joh 16:10 NKJV) of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more;
(Joh 16:11 NKJV) of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.

We are judged and the true fasting begins. The disciples were eating of the true bread from heaven in shadow, because they were hearing Christ’s words, it was just not bearing any fruit yet. In due time the Spirit would bring all things into remembrance and they would truly fast when the bridegroom had left them according to the flesh.

Joh 14:26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.

In due time the mystery would be revealed, and Christ will tell us all things.

(Joh 16:12 NKJV) “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.

(Col 1:27 NKJV) To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

Christ spoke so simply, yet behind those simple words lies a great mystery that no man can uncover. It is only revealed through the Spirit of God and the mind of Christ.

Mar 4:11 And He said to them, “To you it has been given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God; but to those who are outside, all things come in parables,

I really appreciate you bringing up that verse W___. I did not see the great mystery hidden behind those simple words until now.

Your grateful brother,

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  • Pete

    This answer was very helpful to me. Great post Mitch and I thank W___ for the question.

  • MitchellKuhn

    Thank you Pete. I’m glad it was a blessing to you.