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A Prayer and Fasting Devotional

Jesus loves food and drink. He begins His public ministry by miraculously crafting fine wine for a local wedding in Cana. He describes His kingdom as a wedding feast with an open invitation (Matthew 22:1-14). He even defends the fact that His disciples don’t fast while He is still with them (Matthew 9:15).

It is no surprise, then, that at a final feast with His disciples, Jesus gives us one final marker to remember Him with: eating bread and drinking wine. In this feasting, we remember our Lord, His coming, and His salvific sacrifice for us. And in this feasting we also point to the feast on the mountain of Zion that awaits the nations, “a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine” (Isaiah 25:6).

It may seem, then, that fasting is out of step with this biblical ethic of feasting. But fasting isn’t disconnected from feasting; it isn’t an ascetic twisting of Christian hedonism.[1] It isn’t grace reworked into legalism. Rather, by the absence of food, fasting whets the appetite of those who long for Christ’s return and prepares us for Kingdom feasting.

Two passages point us to the connection between Christ’s appearing and fasting. In Luke 2, we meet Anna, a prophetess who “did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day.” Anna waited for the Messiah for decades and joyously gave thanks to God when she met the infant Jesus, who had come for those “waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.” By not partaking of food, Anna’s spirit was sharpened in anticipation of the Redeemer of Israel, the coming King. While so many (even Jesus’ own followers) missed who Jesus was, the Spirit-hungry Anna knew who He was, even in His infancy.

The second passage that points to this connection is Jesus’ defense of His disciples not fasting. Jesus says that His disciples aren’t fasting while He is with Him because it wouldn’t be appropriate for the wedding guests to mourn while the Bridegroom is with them, however, “The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast” (Matthew 9:15). Why would they fast then? Out of sadness or vexation? No, but rather out of anticipation and preparation.

We fast now not as those who have not tasted, but as those who have tasted and who long for more. We fast as those who desire to sharpen our hunger for God Himself and the full in-breaking of His kingdom.  As John Piper says, we fast “not because we have never tasted the wine of Christ’s presence, but because we have tasted it so wonderfully by His Spirit, and cannot now be satisfied until the consummation of joy arrives.” May these 40 days be days where our appetites are whetted for the appearing of our Lord and Savior.



[1] See John Piper’s A Hunger for God for a full defense of the connection between feasting and fasting.
 
John Beeson
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