The Bridegroom Fast - John H

"Then John (the Baptist’s) disciples came and asked Jesus, ‘How is it that we and the Pharisees fast often, but your disciples do not fast?’  

Jesus answered, ‘How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them? The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast." 
Matthew 9:14-15
I have a confession. I love food. It’s a passion of mine. I love reading cookbooks, watching cookery shows on TV, I love buying and cooking and most of all eating food. We occasionally eat out, and I have an incredible memory for the food I’ve eaten on holiday and in fancy restaurants. I could list the top 3 steaks I’ve ever eaten. I’m also partial to a donner kebab and a pot noodle (Bombay Bad Boy)

The joy of eating and drinking is a gift from God (Ecc 3:12-13). The Bible has lots to say about the serious business of feasting and celebration. And yet, it has been in developing a regular rhythm of fasting that I have found a deeper intimacy with Jesus.

Jesus didn’t tell us to fast to make us more spiritually powerful or to give us greater breakthrough (although this may well be a reflex of a regular rhythm of fasting). Fasting isn’t first about kingdom advancement, it’s about covenantal identity. It’s a way of helping us, the church, to grow in our passion and love and longing for more of Jesus. For the Bride (the church) to be reunited with her Bridegroom (Jesus).

When we fast, we turn the longing for food into a longing for more of Jesus our Bread of Life. And He responds by gifting us with a greater sense of His presence.

Of course a greater love and passion for Jesus is right at the heart of what will lead to the transformation of others and of our city. First Love is what makes our witness effective and our lamp burn bright (Rev 2 and the church in Ephesus)

As a church we have a regular pattern of fasting that I’d like to invite you into. We fast 24h a week. Typically you’d eat your evening meal on Monday, then break your fast with an evening meal on Tuesday. You could fast other days and times, in other ways, but that’s how we tend to do it. Just make sure in your fasting you’re not doing it out of religious duty or in order to try and prove something to God or others!

We call this the Bridegroom Fast. I think it’s been one of the most significant things we’ve done as a church, although in many ways it is unseen.

In the past I hardly ever fasted, but then maybe once a year I’d aim for a week. It never seemed to be a positive experience and it often ended up in failure. I suppose it’s a bit like trying to run a marathon when if you’ve never run a 5k. A regular weekly 5K is probably far better for your physical health than running a marathon annual with no exercise in between! That’s a bit like fasting!

I also use to do Daniel Fasts or abstain from meat or chocolate or social media. This sort of fast can be good, especially if you have a medical reason that prevents you from going without food, but I think for most of us, most of the time, there’s something really significant in fasting food.

I don’t feel guilty or ashamed if one week I forget, because I’m living in grace. But I’ve found now that it’s become a joyful, live-giving aspect to my relationship with Jesus. It’s helped me to break the idol of self and of food. I have a greater compassion for two thirds of the world who don’t have the same sort of access to food as I do. And I’ve grown in my thankfulness to God in the times of feasting.

So why not give it a go!

Further resources
The Bridegroom Fast - Preach by John Gibson (April 2017)
7 Purposes to fast in Scripture - Notes by John Gibson
Fasting Guidelines and Information - IHOP 

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