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.” (Matthew 9:15)
In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. For those who have the ears to hear, Jesus has just revealed who He is and what He came to do. First, He revealed that He is the Bridegroom. That might appear at first to be a quaint metaphor, but actually Jesus is calling Himself Yahweh, the God of Israel. Remember, in the Old Testament the covenant is often compared to marriage and idolatry is often compared to adultery. Israel was considered the Bride of Yahweh. If Jesus is the Bridegroom, then He is God!
The disciples cannot fast now, because they are with the Bridegroom. Now is the time for feasting! And so, the disciples eat many meals with Jesus, sitting alongside sinners and tax collectors. However, there will come a time when the Bridegroom is taken from them. They will fast then. This is the first Passion prediction. Jesus will be taken from His disciples when the Sanhedrin arrest Him and crucify Him.
So, what about now? Is now a time of fasting or feasting?
It is indeed appropriate for Christians to fast now. After all, Jesus ascended into heaven and, although He is truly with us, He is hidden from our eyes. We are waiting for His reappearing and the wedding feast of the Lamb to begin. As we wait, the Church suffers the abuse of the devil, the world, and the flesh, who take advantage of the Bridegroom’s absence. So, fasting is appropriate.
On the other hand, fasting cannot be the sole practice of Christians or even the most prevalent practice. The Bridegroom was crucified, but He is not dead. He lives and will never die again. Thus, we have a joy that none can take from us. While we cannot see Him, we know that He is present, especially when the Word is preached and the Sacrament is celebrated. Indeed, every Sunday is a Feast Day—a time of celebration. Christ has won the victory and will return shortly. Where the Spirit makes this known, there must be joy.
So, you are free to fast and grieve, but never lose your Easter joy and hope. He is risen and He will come again! In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
All the earth with joy is sounding: Christ has risen from the dead! He, the greater Jonah, bounding From the grave, His three-day bed, Wins the prize: Death’s demise—Songs of triumph fill the skies. (“All the Earth with Joy Is Sounding” LSB 462, st.1)
-Pastor Alexander Lange is pastor of Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Albany, Oregon.
Audio Reflections Speaker: Rev. Duane Bamsch
Study Christ’s words on the cross to see how you can show more Christlike grace in your life. Perfect for group or individual study, each chapter has a Q&A at the end, and the back of the book includes a leader guide. Available now from Concordia Publishing House.