September 5, 2021 Fasting and Feasting

Fasting and Feasting



Then the disciples of John came to him, saying, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” 15 And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast. 16 No one puts a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch tears away from the garment, and a worse tear is made. 17 Neither is new wine put into old wineskins. If it is, the skins burst and the wine is spilled and the skins are destroyed. But new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved.” [1]


The disciples of John the Baptist were not quite keeping up with God’s move upon the earth. They were right to become disciples of John because he was a man filled with the Holy Spirit and possessed wisdom from God. But John clearly pointed everyone to Christ as the Messiah and said that he must decrease and that Jesus would increase.


John was already beheaded. The disciples of John should have already aligned themselves with Jesus and become his disciples. Instead, they still identified themselves as disciples of John. They were unsure! There is a lesson here for us. Don’t allow patterns of behavior, even godly ones, to keep you from pursuing after Christ to the utmost. Religious affiliations and traditions can actually keep us from knowing Christ more deeply. Be ready to move on in Christ and not remain in an old religious tradition! The disciples of John were holding on to the old and missing Christ!


If you are not more deeply in love with Jesus as you were three years ago then something is wrong. Press into the kingdom! The way you press into the kingdom is by loving Jesus more deeply! The more we love him the less we will sin. The more we love him the more that we will spend time with him in the word, in fellowship, and in prayer.


See how easy it is to miss Christ! The disciples of John had a desire to follow God but they were caught up in the old.


John had taught them to fast and they did fast because they were obedient to the one who discipled them. They thought it was strange that the disciples of Jesus did not fast.


And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.[2]


Jesus answers them by saying that there is a time to fast. When Jesus was with those who love him they did not need to fast. Why? Because he is the Bridegroom and the presence of a bridegroom brings great joy! Fasting will take place when the Bridegroom leaves.


In verses sixteen and seventeen our Lord affirms the truth that the old ways need to be left behind and the new ways embraced. He uses the illustrations of cloth and wineskins.


Cloth makes for clothing and illustrates our need to be covered by the righteousness of Christ. The old ways of Judaism will not do. Now that Christ is here we need him to be our righteousness. There is an application for us. The old ways of denominationalism can keep us from seeing and enjoying the full provision that Christ is. Our traditions can keep us from Christ!


Our Lord uses the picture of wineskins too. Wine represents enjoyment:

You cause the grass to grow for the livestock

and plants for man to cultivate,

       that he may bring forth food from the earth

15        and wine to gladden the heart of man,

       oil to make his face shine

and bread to strengthen man’s heart. [3]


God made wine (through the process of fermentation) to bring us gladness. Contrary to American Christianity, wine is a blessing from God. Only those who either do not have the discretion to know how to moderate their consumption or those who are consecrating themselves more fully to the Lord (as in a Nazarite vow[4]) need refrain. (Of course, it is also a matter of preference. Some people simply do not like the taste of wine and others do not like the sensation that alcohol brings.) Thus, wine signifies gladness or enjoyment.


The new way is a way of enjoyment! Christ is the most enjoyable person in the universe! We can enjoy him! The disciples enjoyed him. This is why they did not need to fast.


Jesus Himself taught his disciples to fast:


“And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 17 But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 18 that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. [5]


Jesus did not say, “If you fast…” He said, “When you fast…” Then he went on to teach them how to behave when they fast. He obviously expected them to fast. And, in our main passage this morning, he said that they would.


So when do we fast and when do we feast? We want to fast when we are supposed to and feast when we are supposed to. We don’t want to fast when we ought to be feasting and neither do we want to feast when we should be fasting.


If you never feast then something is amiss. Our Lord feasted. This is one reason why both the Pharisees and the disciples of John questioned him. He was feasting (9:10).  We should feast. I do not mean to be gluttonous. That is a sin. We should not eat more than we need to be healthy. Gluttony is not only detrimental to our spirit (because it is a sin), it is bad for our heath and shortens our life. Some health experts have said that overeating causes 80% of our heath issues! In other words, if we simply ate less we would have 80% fewer health problems! When I say we should feast on occasion I mean that we ought to enjoy a good meal from time to time, especially with others in order to share the simple joy of a meal!


It is also true that if you never fast something is wrong with you, if you are a Christian. Jesus taught his disciples to fast and he fasted Himself (Mat. 4:2; 17:21).  The early church fasted as we see in the book of Acts (13:2; 14:23). Thus, if you are not fasting then you are living contrary to apostolic instruction and example.


When do we fast? There are three main reasons to fast:


  • We ought to fast when there is a great need in our life. Fasting empowers our prayers!
  • We ought to fast to deal with our pride because fasting humbles us.
  • And, we ought to fast for more spiritual power to cast out demons (Mat. 17:21). (For more on fasting see Notes on Matthew, Part 20, in “Pastor’s Sunday School Notes” on church website.)


 How often we fast will depend on our circumstances. In my opinion, I think we should be fasting at least a couple of times per year, if not more often.


If we are neither feasting nor fasting then we must reassess our lives. However, I do not think there are too many in the West who don’t feast enough. If anything, we feast too much! According to health experts, 42.4% of Americans are overweight.


This morning I wish to focus upon this matter of the new wine. The new wine signifies Christ as our enjoyment. If we could see how enjoyable the Lord is and if we could enjoy Him then something would change about our lives. Do you know what would change? We would have more enjoyment! Amen! Enjoyment is what most of need! I tell you, enjoying the Lord will cause us to walk in a way that pleases Him! When we enjoy the Lord obedience itself becomes an enjoyment and comes spontaneously!


The new wine signifies the new enjoyment that is available to us through Christ. Let me share three reasons why we should enjoy the Lord.


First, we should enjoy the Lord because this fulfills the very purpose of our living. What is the purpose of life? This is one of the questions we ask on our survey when we go door to door during outreach. Sadly, no one knows the answer to this question. Often, we come across those who claim to follow Christ and neither do they know. It’s like having a brand new car in a garage, say a BMW or a Mercedes-Benz, and a neighbor comes over and says, “How come I never see you driving your car?” The person replies, “A car? What are cars for?” What a waste to have a nice, reliable, new car and not know what it is for! But to not know the purpose of life is much worse than not knowing the purpose of a car because a human life is infinitely more valuable than an auto.


The Baptist Catechism of 1689, which is based on the Bible, seeks to teach children and new adult converts the fundamentals of the faith. This was the same catechism that Charles Spurgeon promoted. He was not only the greatest Baptist preacher of history, but by most accounts, the greatest preacher of the whole church since the apostolic age. This catechism is still widely used.


The second question of the catechism asks: “What is the chief end of man?” In other words, what is man’s purpose?


The answer is: “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.”


It has been pointed out that these are not two separate things. As if, sometimes, we glorify God and, at other times, we enjoy him. They are the same thing! We glorify God by enjoying him! When you enjoy someone it is the highest compliment. When you enjoy someone, you are saying, without words, how beautiful and satisfying they are. So it is with the Lord! When we enjoy him we glorify him. It is so easy! We don’t have to work. We just enjoy! Praise Him!


Second, we should enjoy the Lord because it will stir us up to fulfill the Great Commission. As you have been taught, the commission to spread the gospel and make disciples is not just for professional evangelists or church leaders. It is for every follower of Christ. It is for you. Your own experience and the simple observation of Western church life reveal that it is a struggle to share the gospel. Many Christians are apprehensive to talk about God and the gospel.


Do you know what makes any subject easy to talk about? It’s when you enjoy it! The more you enjoy something the easier it is to talk about it. In fact, we like sharing things that bring us joy. You see, the more you enjoy the Lord the more you will spontaneously talk about him. You will hardly have to give it a thought because it will just be the overflow of your enjoyment!


Enjoying the Lord opens our mouths! This is the way the Lord has made us!


Third, we should enjoy the Lord because enjoying him is…enjoyable! Can you see that enjoyment is its own reward? All men seek happiness. It is one thing that is always true. And, enjoyment is just a higher form of happiness! Our enjoyment makes life good and the Lord Himself is the best enjoyment!


Maybe you have lost your enjoyment of the Lord. It is even possible to be a Christian and never had the enjoyment of the Lord. A person can belong to God but they may see their life as nothing but duty. I tell you, the Christian life is far more than duty. The best life is a life of enjoyment!


How do we experience the new wine? We really only need two things. First, we must know that the Lord is inside of us if we have been born again. He is not far away. If we want to enjoy him we should learn to turn to our inner being. This “inner being” is just our human spirit. The Lord is there. As we have an appreciation for his real presence and turn to our spirit where he dwells the enjoyment begins.


Second, we must learn to be calm as we pray; that is, when we talk to God we should be free from outward distractions, even from concerns. Because, whatever concerns you have, they are less important than your enjoyment of the Lord. Your enjoyment will be the strength to deal with your concerns! Enjoy the Lord first and you will be surprised how your concerns go away!


If we enjoy the Lord God will abide in us richly and will become our all!


Have done with lesser things and enjoy the goodness of the Lord!


When the disciples were with the Lord, they enjoyed his presence. They were in the experience of the new garment and the new wine. When we are enjoying the Lord we can feast, that is, our enjoyment of the Lord will overflow into every area of our lives, including our meals.


We still need to fast when trouble looms or if we have a great need. We need to be those who know when to feast and who know when to fast.









[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mt 9:14–17). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[2] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mt 9:15). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[3] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ps 104:14–15). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[4] Not that the Nazarite vow is till something to be held on to, rather it is just an example of how a person may consecrate themselves from otherwise lawful pleasures.

[5] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mt 6:16–18). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.