“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.” (Mark 2:19, ESV)
There are some remarkable things that are implicit in Jesus’ statement here which, if we rush by it, we will miss.
- Jesus understood that he was the bridegroom about whom he himself was talking. When one thinks about this it is quite amazing [not to mention outlandish]. Jesus is claiming to be the central focus of what he himself is teaching his disciples. John’s disciples and the Pharisees were seeking devotion to God, Jesus was teaching his disciples to be devoted to himself, because–as they will find out later–he was God.
- The only proper response when one was in the presence of a bridegroom was joy. “Sure,” Jesus says, “there is a time for fasting, but never while the wedding celebration is going on. That is a time of unbridled joy. Don Carson writes:
Here is Jesus, profoundly self-aware, deeply conscious that he himself is the messianic bridegroom, and that in his immediate presence the proper response is joy. The kingdom was dawning; the king was already present; the day of promised blessings was breaking out. This was not a time for mourning, signaled by fasting. [For the Love of God: Volume 1]
- As the New American Commentary points out:”The passage further suggests that the way to God is not through religious practices but through joyful association with Jesus.” This we mustn’t miss. The Pharisees never figure this out. They are pursuing God through the ritual of religious practice, which will not get them to God–quite the opposite–when the subject of their pursuit is right in front of them and they are completely missing it! One aspect of the new thing that Jesus’ coming ushers in, is this marvelous truth that all that is required in terms of religious devotion is joyful association with Jesus. Nothing more.
Here is the remarkable thing. This joyful association comes as a gift from God himself, it requires nothing on our part. We like to call this “free grace.”
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8–9, ESV)