Verse of the Day Devotion Luke 5:34
“And Jesus said to them, you cannot make the attendants of the bridegroom fast while the bridegroom is with them, can you?” – Luke 5:34
Now, continuing with the words of Jesus as recorded by Luke, Jesus here is again contending with the Pharisees regarding the law, this time focusing on fasting. This controversy involves a contrast between Jesus’ disciples who were not fasting and the practice of fasting of both the disciples of John the Baptist and of the Pharisees. “And they said to Him, The disciples of John often fast and offer prayers; the disciples of the Pharisees also do the same; but Yours eat and drink.” Luke 5:33. It is interesting that in Mark’s telling of this, it was made clear it was not just the Pharisees asking this question. “And John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting; and they came and said to Him, Why do John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but Your disciples do not fast?” Mark 2:18. According to this version, both groups, John’s disciples, and the Pharisees were fasting. The twice-weekly fast spoken of here was a tradition adopted by the legalistic Pharisees at the time, even though the Mosaic Law prescribed only one fast, that on the Day of Atonement. And it could be that John’s disciples were fasting because John had been arrested and was currently in prison.
Jesus then answers in our focus, “You cannot make the attendants of the bridegroom fast while the bridegroom is with them, can you?” Luks 5:34. Now, there is no Old Testament or rabbinic example in which the term, bridegroom, is used as a messianic title. However, it was used by John the Baptist in describing the Messiah. “You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, I am not the Christ, but, I have been sent before Him. He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice. And so this joy of mine has been made full. He must increase, but I must decrease.” John 3:28-30. John refers to the Church, the true believers, as the Bride. And the Christ being the Bridegroom. And this is reinforced by our focus verse. What Jesus is saying is that there is no reason for the bride, the Church, to be sad and fast. He is the Bridegroom, the chief person of the Messianic feast: the time of His walk upon earth is, so long as it endures, a festival for His faithful disciples; yet this time hastens soon to an end. However, “But the days will come; and when the bridegroom is taken away from them, then they will fast in those days.” Luke 5:35. As their master, John, was taken away from them and was now in prison, it was no wonder they mourned and fasted. And this signifies that in a short time Jesus, the bridegroom of his church, should be taken away by death, causing the bride, who is the church, to fast and mourn at that time.
This story illustrates the fact that you can’t mix old religious rituals with new faith in Jesus. Jesus’ disciples were not fasting along with the Pharisees and John’s disciples because they were now under the new covenant of grace and faith in Christ. As mentioned earlier, Jesus fulfilled the law; therefore, there is no longer any need to continue with the old rituals. Jesus cannot be added to a works-based religion. In the case of the Pharisees, they were consumed with their own self-righteousness, and faith in Jesus cannot be combined with self-righteous rituals.
William Funkhouser MDiv, ThD, Founder and President of True Devotion Ministries.