Why do you fast when the Bridegroom is with you?

Luke 5:34-35 (NKJV)
34 And He said to them, “Can you make the friends of the bridegroom fast while the bridegroom is with them?
35 But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them; then they will fast in those days.”

The other day my friend, Colleen, shared a nugget of rhema that she received from God about fasting. The references for the passage are Luke 5 and Matthew 9 and I believe it is also found in the Gospel of Mark. Anway. I’ve done some research…Imagine. Colleen’s rhema word from God is – the need to fast has (at least for now) passed because you have the Bridegroom with you. AND, if He is speaking that to you stay with it. I’m not arguing to prove a point, but instead sharing what the Scriptures and context have emphasized to me.

So, in Luke 5 while Jesus is dining with “SINNERS” the pharisees come to question him about the demeanor of those who follow Him. “Why aren’t your disciples fasting like John’s and our disciples?” IOW, Why are your disciples openly sinning when they should be observing the Jewish rites and suffering like the rest of us?

Jesus’ reply – Can you make the friends, or “sons of the Bridegroom,*” fast while the Bridegroom is with them? HMMMM! Now that is a word. If we are saved, Jesus is with us in our heart. He goes on to say in vs. 35 that the days will come when the Bridegroom will be “taken away” from the and then they will fast in those days. In Acts you find that the early church believers fasted and prayed regularly. So… Naturally after reading this I wanted to know more.

I came before the Lord and asked Him if I should study this out. He said, “It is time.” 🙂

Particularly I wanted to understand what Jesus is saying here in context with what else He has said about being the Bridegroom – and since He is talking to Jews understanding the Jewish mindset regarding Bridegrooms and Brides and the wedding party is essential.

First, the “friends of the bridegroom” is the Greek Word υἱός, huios (Strong’s G5403). The reference literally translates “Children of the Bridegroom.” This refers to those who are close in intimacy and physical proximity to the Bridegroom. Those who are akin to the Bridegroom. So, here Jesus says two things: 1. There is no need for fasting while I am with you, but 2. the time will come when I’m taken away and then you will fast in those days – then is those days. When are those days? After he is taken away.

The Greek grammar for “will come” literally appears in the future tense in the middle voice. Now, if I understand this correctly – this means that Jesus, Himself, takes Himself away from the disciples – the friends of the Bridegroom. The Ascension.

Read on…

John 14:1-4 (NKJV)
1 “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. 2 In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.4 And where I go you know, and the way you know.”

In John 14, Jesus tells His disciples as He is preparing them for the price He is about to pay. So, in order to understand this we must look at Jewish Betrothal and Marriage Customs. In the Jewish Marriage Customs of Jesus’ time – the bridegroom customarily went to the father of the woman he wanted to marry and negotiated a bride price that would be paid to the father to “redeem” the bride. (I’m chuckling already.)

Then, there is a ceremony where the bride is presented to her husband and offered a cup of wine – the betrothal cup. This cup signifies her acceptance of his offer of marriage and institutes the covenant of marriage. From this time on – the woman is considered set apart for her bridegroom. She is his wife and considered his wife for all intents and purposes. However, the bride remains in her parents’ home for a period of twelve months after the betrothal ceremony while the bridegroom returns to his own father’s house and prepares a place to take his bride.

Now, three things stand out to me from this perspective.  The Jews would have understood the analogy of the Bridegroom from this perspective-

1. Jesus says, “Father if it is Your will, let this CUP pass from me. But not as I will, but as You will it be done.” This is prayed to the Father in the Garden of Gethsemane as he is about to go to pay the price to “redeem” His Bride. This is also prayed just after He has observed the Passover meal with His disciples. In which He drank of the third cup in the ceremony and then said, “I will not drink this cup again until …” And the indication is – that He did not observe the fourth cup of the passover meal, but stopped at the third cup.

NOTE: In the Passover observance there are four cups taken. They are shared while the four “I will” statements are read by the father of the household. The cups retell the Exodus story of the Jews from slavery in Egypt. (Now, remember-God instituted this custom for the Jews just before they were to enter into the promised land to remind them of their redemption and His promise of full restoration to the nation of Israel.)

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[from: http://2-passover.tripod.com/thefourcupsofwineforpassover.html]

The four cups of wine in Jewish tradition during the Roman rule of Palestine:

The rabbis of Roman times in Palestine added a fourth cup of wine – the kiddush cup – to sanctify G-d and His merciful deeds, which established the four cups of wine as mandatory for the Passover seder:

(1) the first cup of wine drunk for kiddush;

(2) the second cup of wine drunk just before the main meal;

(3) the third cup of wine drunk after the “Grace After Meals” ritual; and

(4) the fourth cup of wine drunk after the conclusion of “Hallel” which the near the end of the Passover seder.

[from http://mikeratliff.wordpress.com/2008/03/26/the-four-cups-of-wine-of-passover/]

Say therefore to the people of Israel, ‘I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from slavery to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment. I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the LORD your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. (Exodus 6:6-7 ESV)

As the Lord spoke these words to Moses, He revealed to him the plan by which He would redeem the children of Israel. In a prophetic sense, God was also revealing how He would redeem His elect to become His children. Based on the four promises in the passage above we have the four cups of the Passover feast.

  • The Cup of Sanctification – based on God’s statement, “I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians”
  • The Cup of Judgment or Deliverance- based on God’s statement, “I will deliver you from slavery to them”
  • The Cup of Redemption – based on God’s statement, “I will redeem you with an outstretched arm”
  • The Cup of Praise or Restoration – based on God’s statement, “I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God”

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The third cup is the cup of redemption.

Jesus partook the night before he died of the three cups… The Cup of Sanctification – preparation and thanksgiving. The Cup of Judgment – indicating the price that would be paid. The Cup of Redemption – indicating the promise of His return to claim what has been redeemed.

He did not partake of the cup of restoration because we have not yet been fully restored. This cup… The Cup of Restoration… may be shared at the Wedding Feast of the Lamb when we all come together in heaven. Oh what  a day of rejoicing that will be.

So the CUP in the betrothal ceremony that is shared with the Bride has a very beautiful picture in the act of Communion when we observe and remember – acknowledging agreement with the covenant of our Bridegroom with His Bride.

The cup of Redemption. Beautiful.

Can we just rest there a minute? Let that SELAH on you and soak into your heart of hearts.

2. The bridegroom comes and presents himself to the bride and makes a covenant with her father and her. Then he goes away for a set period of time – and in the tradition – the bridegroom returns for his bride as soon as the place he prepares for her is finished – which is customarily a period of approximately twelver months. However, the bride does not have a set date for her wedding – her bridegroom is coming for her at an undisclosed time. At that time he gathers his friends and they go out and call forth the bride with loud shouts. She comes out and the couple are escorted to the place the bridegroom has prepared for her where the groom takes her into the bridal chamber – huppa – where the consummates their covenant. Once the covenant is consummated the bridegroom returns to announce the happy news to the wedding guest and a seven day feast ensues. OH. MY. WORD. Talk About Pressure. WOW!

3. Jesus made the New and Best Wine at the end of the wedding feast – not the beginning. Do you figure they had been there for seven days?

I digress.

The Bridegroom has sent His helper to sustain us until he returns. I remember just the day of my wedding with Scott – we had barely been apart four or five hours and the anticipation of his arrival at the place where we were married caused me to not eat or drink, but just focus my attention on the arrival of my Bridegroom. For me, this is what I believe Jesus is saying in Luke 9:35 when He says there will come a time when He is taken away and His friends will fast. Fasting is a natural response to mourning and the loss of something valued and loved. When our heart longs for something it seems that our natural appetites take a back seat. Nothing compares to seeking the thing that satisfies the heart. Fasting for me is also a time when the Lord deposits and imparts to me deep revelation and truth.

As I embark on this New Year I’ve sensed the Lord calling me to a deeper intimacy and relationship with Him. I have a longing in my soul to be with Him – close to Him.

In recent years, I’ve heard clearly and distinctly that I am called to specifically fast a set number of days three times in my life. I’ve observed more fasting than that – but when I am called to fast the only thing I am seeking is the Lord.

I don’t fast out of religious obedience, but I ask the Lord to show me what He is doing in that season that presses me into Him in a way that denies my natural appetites, cuts away my flesh, so that only my desire for Him remains. I have sensed the Spirit asking me to lay down the first 40 days of this year to sacrifice from my heart.

I long for that deep connection with God that sustains – and so I’m going into that place of exchanging my natural appetites for spiritual ones. Do I believe everyone should fast? I believe everyone does in some way or another.  I also believe that the motive of the heart and the direction of God in fasting is essential. It is a discipline that lends itself to deep intimacy when the Lord brings us into Himself through our desire to give up – surrender – everything in our lives to Him to gain a better promise.

Only you will know if the Lord is asking you to set aside some days of fasting and prayer – and what that would look like. For me it started several years ago when I was in a congregational crisis. I had heard much on fasting and intrigued by the reports of congregational breakthrough in corporate fasting. I asked a small group of women to join me in the fast and many did. For me at that point it became about the discipline – could I do it?

By the end of that first twenty-one days I knew two things with certainty. My fasting was not spiritual at all and the only harvest it had produced was my loss of weight. I also knew God’s call to go deeper had come to me and fasting would arise for me again in my future. A few months after that first experience I set out on the journey again – another twenty-one days. In those days I found myself glorying when my appetite would cause my stomach to growl because I knew that in those moments I could thank God for sustaining me through hunger. I pressed in and I heard three specific areas of my life that the Lord wanted to help me with:

1.) That I had never in my life taken a sabbath day of rest. Even on the sabbath I was working myself to the bone.

2.) My gift with words. He wanted me to write.

3.) That I had given out of obedience to the principle of firstfruits but never to the heart of it.

I also had been studying the discipline of fasting and what the Bible said about fasting. He shared with me that He wanted me to go through a complete season of testing. I later realized an assignment that I knew was coming would not be released in my life until I had completed it. 40 days of fasting.

That is where I am today.

I can’t wait until the fruit comes forth – so I can share it with you. In the meantime – I invite you to pray for me as I seek the Lord in a season of allowing Him to cut back my flesh in order to impart more of Himself to me in the days ahead. So now, I must go in order that I may “wash my face and anoint my head with oil.” Happy New Year! He is making all things new.

2 thoughts on “Why do you fast when the Bridegroom is with you?

  1. I’m gathering my thoughts and what has come to me to start this search. I love what you wrote Michelle. So much meat there. Let me get back to you… still entertaining family here :).

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