Starving for Attention

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Reading the Word

Matthew 6:16–18 (ESV)

16 “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.

Understanding and Applying the Word

Fasting is the putting aside of food so a person can spend more time in pursuit of God. In Scripture, it was done in times of distress and great need. It was used as a way to say “God, I need you more than anything to intercede in my circumstances right now. I need you more than even food.” Over time, fasting became a way the religious gauged how spiritual they were. The more one fasted, the more spiritual they were. So, people would fast and let everyone else know about it so they would be recognized as spiritual.

Jesus points this out as hypocrisy. Those who behave in this way are not fasting to appeal to God, they simply want to be seen by others. Jesus says that they have already received their reward (i.e. the recognition of others). Instead of trying to impress others, Jesus says our fasting should be done in such a way that no one even knows that it is happening. Only God should know. In this way, we are not seeking the approval of others, but truly seeking God.

Unfortunately, many are still caught up in performing religious acts for show. Just about everything we do can be done for the wrong reasons. We go to church, we pray, we fast, we ask questions and say all of the right things in our Bible studies. But are we doing them to be noticed by others or are we doing them out of the sincerity of our heart? Are our religious acts for show or are we truly seeking God? Ask yourself today, “Who are you trying to please?”

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New Wine Needs New Wineskins

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Reading the Word

Mark 2:18–22 (ESV)

18 Now John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting. And people came and said to him, “Why do John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” 19 And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. 20 The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in that day. 21 No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. If he does, the patch tears away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear is made. 22 And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins—and the wine is destroyed, and so are the skins. But new wine is for fresh wineskins.”

Parallel Texts: Matthew 9:14-17; Luke 5:33-39

Understanding and Applying the Word

John the Baptist’s followers asked Jesus about fasting. They wondered why Jesus’ disciples did not fast, while the followers of John and the Pharisees all did. Fasting was seen as a pious religious activity at this time. The Pharisees were said to fast twice per week (Luke 18:12).

Jesus began by saying that as long as the bridegroom was present, it was a time for celebration, not fasting. Jesus’ disciples were in the presence of Christ and fasting is a display of desperation, not celebration. So, fasting was not appropriate while Jesus was present with his followers. However, the day would come when Jesus would no longer be present and his disciples would fast.

Jesus then goes on to talk about sewing unshrunk cloth to an old garment and putting new wine into new wineskins. This seems odd at first. What does this have to do with fasting? Jesus’ illustrations demonstrate the same point. A new piece of cloth would shrink and tear the old cloth that had already shrunk. Also, new wine, when it would ferment, would break old wineskins that had already expanded as far as they could. The new wine needs new wineskins and new cloth can only be attached to new cloth.

With Jesus, we have entered into a new era. No longer do we relate to God in the same way as the people who lived prior to the cross. Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection have forever changed how we access God. We go through the finished work of Christ and that is cause for celebration.

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