After this he went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax booth; and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up, left everything, and followed him.
Then Levi gave a great banquet for him in his house; and there was a large crowd of tax collectors and others sitting at the table with them. The Pharisees and their scribes were complaining to his disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” Jesus answered, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have come to call not the righteous but sinners to repentance.”
Then they said to him, “John’s disciples, like the disciples of the Pharisees, frequently fast and pray, but your disciples eat and drink.” Jesus said to them, “You cannot make wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them, can you? The days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast in those days.” He also told them a parable: “No one tears a piece from a new garment and sews it on an old garment; otherwise the new will be torn, and the piece from the new will not match the old. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the new wine will burst the skins and will be spilled, and the skins will be destroyed. But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins. And no one after drinking old wine desires new wine, but says, ‘The old is good.’”
What do you think is the first thing your church would do if Jesus showed up one day? I know at mine the United Methodist Women would throw together the world’s most last-minute potluck! If Jesus were here with us the best way we could spend our time would be with Him. We wouldn’t need to fast to get closer to God, because He would be right here! We wouldn’t need to spend hours in prayer, we could just talk to Jesus! If Jesus were here we would celebrate His presence (probably with brownies and casseroles), not mourn His death on the Cross. And I think that is the point Jesus was trying to make to the Pharisees.
But Jesus isn’t here with us. The days have come when the bridegroom is taken away. So I guess it’s time for us to do some fasting. I admit, fasting is something I know next to nothing about. I think in the modern church we sort of write it off as something old fashioned and out dated, like animal sacrifice, or Passover. But here it is, right in the middle of the gospels. Jesus says that we will fast when He is gone. So maybe it’s something we need to start looking into. Why should we fast? What’s the value in it? I imagine that fasting is a good exercise in discipline. Perhaps in learning to discipline our bodies we can learn to master our minds and spirits as well. But I also think it would be a constant reminder of God’s presence. Every time my tummy rumbled (which, seeing as how I’m hungry for most of the day even when I’m eating too much, would probably be pretty much every minute of the day for me) I would be reminded of why I was fasting, and therefore reminded of God. I know that I personally struggle with feeling God’s presence throughout the day, or remembering to pray or talk to Him at some time other than right before bed. I think perhaps fasting might help me learn how to do that a little better. I think fasting is something I might need to give a try!
Yet, when we do celebrate, who should we be celebrating with? The tax collectors and sinners! I wish my church would throw fewer potlucks for ourselves, and more for the poor or the nonbelievers. In the church we love to surround ourselves with other people from the church, and share our experiences with them. Probably because it feels safe, comfortable, and like a family. But Jesus came to help the non-believers. Those are the people we should be sharing our hearts, love, and food with. And I imagine every church in America could probably do a better job with that. It might take some creativity and some courage, but that’s what Jesus did, and I think that’s what we need to try and do too.