Today’s Gospel Reading: Matthew 9:14-15 – FRIDAY AFTER ASH WEDNESDAY: 8 March 2019
Some of the practices of Jesus clash not only with those of the scribes and the Pharisees but with those of John the Baptist as well. Originally this passage may have been a complaint that the disciples of Jesus do not mourn for John, for Jesus’ response focuses of fasting as a sign of mourning. But in its present state, including a reference to the Pharisees fasting, the question is more general.
Only one fast was prescribed by the written law, that on the day of Atonement (Leviticus 16:29). But pious Jews fasted on other occasions, and the Pharisees fasted twice a week (Luke 18:12).
Jesus fasted during His time in the desert (4:2). But during His public ministry He did not fast, probably because, isolating Him from others, it would have conflicted with His inclusive mission.
At any rate, fasting as an expression of mourning would be inappropriate while Jesus the bridegroom is present. His ministry is a wedding celebration, for He has come to claim the people as His bride.
The time will come, however, when the groom is taken away (Jesus’ first prophecy of His passion – or an addition by the post-resurrection church to explain its resumption of fasting?). and then it will be appropriate to fast.
The church after the resurrection fasts as a longing for her groom’s return.
Jakarta, 8 March 2019
A Christian Pilgrim