Feast Fast? | Pastor Mike Fortune | June 20, 2015


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by Pastor Mike Fortune
June 20, 2015

ShareFaith: Father's Day Jokes

  1. Jesus brings joy (Luke 5:33-34; John 3:29; Nehemiah 8:10)
  2. Fast when mourning (Luke 5:35; John 16:20; Zechariah 7:5-6)
  3. Relationship trumps ritual (Luke 5:36-39; 2 Kings 18:1-4; Matthew 6:16-18; Psalm 51:17)

“God knew that each one of us would need shelter and guidance. Throughout our growing up years. Warm and compassion for all our problems. And strength for our worries and fears. He saw that we needed wisdom for living. A knowledge of heaven above. True understanding of life’s deeper meanings. Examples of kindness and love. And so He made fathers to stand by our side. To inspire us in every endeavor. Whose faith and devotion will last through our lives. And whose love we will cherish forever.” - Author Unknown

That poem, by an unknown author, is entitled “Why God Made Fathers.” I think another reason God made Fathers is to bring joy. Through high fives and daddy dates. Through our yes’s or no’s - go put on more clothes. Through corny jokes that bring joy. Even amidst sorrow and loss. Which we can be grateful for. Because in our passage this morning, Jesus brings joy amidst references to mourning. So let’s take a look. 

Luke 5:33-34
33 One day some people said to Jesus, "John the Baptist's disciples fast and pray regularly, and so do the disciples of the Pharisees. Why are your disciples always eating and drinking?" 34 Jesus responded, "Do wedding guests fast while celebrating with the groom? Of course not.

Wouldn’t that be something? If wedding guests didn’t celebrate? What’s wrong with a little chicken dance? A little hokey pokey? A Father-Daughter dance. Oh, pastor, I don’t dance. God does. Psalm 150:6 says, “Praise the LORD. Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens. Praise him for his acts of power; praise him for his surpassing greatness. Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet, praise him with the harp and lyre, praise him with tambourine and dancing…(Psalm 150:6, NIV). Wait. What? Praise God in his sanctuary with dancing. I thought point number one was about Jesus bringing joy not terror. But that’s what it says right? But John the Baptist’s disciples couldn’t believe it either. So Matthew 9:14, unlike Luke and Mark’s account of this passage, specifically identifies them.

Matthew 9:14
14 One day the disciples of John the Baptist came to Jesus and asked him, "Why don't your disciples fast like we do and the Pharisees do?”

We talked last week about how Jesus communicates directly face to face in broad daylight. How God loves tax collectors. And how Matthew 18 requires Christians to do the same and that if that gets you nowhere, the fourth all-too-often missing step in Matthew 18:17 is to start over a little later until reconciled even if never resolved. Because that’s how Jesus pagans and corrupt tax collectors!

He loves and accepts them! Even if He disagrees with them! He befriends them and continues to abide with them and go to their homes and have a relationship with them. Back then, Jesus was accused of being a wine bibber and a glutton and someone who associates with social outcasts and sinners like pagans and corrupt tax collectors. Today, perhaps, Jesus would be accused of defending and befriending homosexuals and white supremacists. Would you? The families of the nine murdered Charleston church goers did. Have you seen their video taped offers of forgiveness? Powerful stuff.

In those days, the Pharisees fasted twice a week. Because Jewish tradition says Moses began his 40-day fast on Mt. Sinai (Ex.34:28) on a Thursday and ended it on a Monday (SDABC p.584). Others say they fasted on those days to allow enough time to elapse before and after Sabbath. So the Sabbath kept right would be a delight not a day for mourning.

Regardless of the rationale, if the Pharisees fasted twice a week, and John the Baptists’s disciples were accused of following their lead, these folks circumventing Matthew 18 by going first to Jesus’ disciples to complain about Jesus (v30) and next to Jesus’ disciples to complain about Jesus (v33) were fasting too. And Jesus knew this about them. Later, Jesus would tell the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector in Luke 18 where in verse 12 the Pharisee proclaims: “12 I fast twice a week, and I give you a tenth of my income.”

And there’s nothing wrong with fasting. Moses and Jesus did fasted for forty days. We’ll see one reason why you periodically should fast in a minute. Maybe from Netflix. Or dessert as well. There’s nothing wrong with fasting or tithing. Which by the way is not just an Old Testament idea. Jesus said in Matthew 23:23, “You should tithe, yes, but do not neglect the more important things.”

Whoa. There’s more important things than not robbing God? Apparently. But we don’t have time for that sermon today. So to answer these fasting and furious disciples of John (anybody else see what I did there?), Jesus replies with the words of John the Baptist found in John 3.

John 3:29
29 It is the bridegroom who marries the bride, and the best man is simply glad to stand with him and hear his vows. Therefore, I am filled with joy at his success.

Point number one. Rightly understood, Jesus brings joy. Even amidst sorrow and loss. Even amidst confusion and anger. Do you know this to be true? I think earthly fathers who love like our heavenly Father know this is true.

Have you ever been accused of defending and befriending some social outcasts? When was the last time you chicken danced? Or did the hokey pokey at a wedding? Yes, there should be times of silence in the sanctuary. Habakkuk 2:20 calls for that. But make no mistake, unless you want to rip Psalm 150 out of Scripture, there should also be times of loud singing and dancing and joy. And when you get home, feasting. Preferably with lemon meringue pie. I love this verse from Nehemiah 8.

Nehemiah 8:10-12
10 And Nehemiah continued, "Go and celebrate with a feast of rich foods and sweet drinks, and share gifts of food with people who have nothing prepared. This is a sacred day before our Lord. Don't be dejected and sad, for the joy of the LORD is your strength!" 11 And the Levites, too, quieted the people, telling them, "Hush! Don't weep! For this is a sacred day." 12 So the people went away to eat and drink at a festive meal, to share gifts of food, and to celebrate with great joy because they had heard God's words and understood them.”

Kept right, Sabbath is a delight! A day of feasting and joy. Because the joy of the Lord is our strength. Especially in times of sorrow and loss. So Jesus brings joy. And one reason to fast, aside from asking for divine intervention or to draw closer to God through humility, is to fast when mourning. Jesus prophesied in Luke 5:35…

Luke 5:35
35 But someday the groom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast.”

Who’s he talking about? He’s talking about Himself! When one day soon He would die on the cross. He prophesied again in John 16:20.

John 16:20
20 I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn over what is going to happen to me, but the world will rejoice. You will grieve, but your grief will suddenly turn to wonderful joy.

Did that happen? Were the disciples overwhelmed with sorrow and loss? Can that happen to sincere followers of Jesus? The Christians in Charleston, South Carolina reminded us this week that it can. But when you fast, you better do it for the right reasons. To ask for divine intervention. Or to to draw closer to God through humility. Or to mourn. You better not fast to impress people. Or even more twisted, to impress God.

But that’s what the people were doing back then. Zechariah 7:5-6 makes this obvious: 5 "Say to all your people and your priests, 'During these seventy years of exile, when you fasted and mourned in the summer and in early autumn, was it really for me that you were fasting? 6 And even now in your holy festivals, aren't you eating and drinking just to please yourselves?

God is not a Coke machine. You can’t put some fasting in and get something cold and tasty out. But according to the SDABC p.584, “In general among the ancient Jews fasting was undertaken by individuals in order to make good a misdeed or to ensure the favorable answer to a prayer or fulfillment or wish. Indeed, many seem to have fasted because they believed such an act earned special merit for them before God. These uses of fasting rested, of course, upon a misconception of the character of God and of the nature of righteousness. Too often fasting degenerated into a mean of righteousness by works through men hoped to appease an austere God and earn His favor, regardless of the state of their hearts.”

So God criticized their fasting for these reasons. Perhaps the most specific example of that is found in Isaiah 58. Just listen to these words from Isaiah 58:1-10: “1 "Shout with the voice of a trumpet blast. Shout aloud! Don't be timid. Tell my people Israel of their sins! 2 Yet they act so pious! They come to the Temple every day and seem delighted to learn all about me. They act like a righteous nation that would never abandon the laws of its God. They ask me to take action on their behalf, pretending they want to be near me. 3 'We have fasted before you!' they say. 'Why aren't you impressed? We have been very hard on ourselves, and you don't even notice it!' "I will tell you why!" I respond. "It's because you are fasting to please yourselves. Even while you fast, you keep oppressing your workers. 4 What good is fasting when you keep on fighting and quarreling? This kind of fasting will never get you anywhere with me. 5 You humble yourselves by going through the motions of penance, bowing your heads like reeds bending in the wind. You dress in burlap and cover yourselves with ashes. Is this what you call fasting? Do you really think this will please the LORD? 6 "No, this is the kind of fasting I want: Free those who are wrongly imprisoned; lighten the burden of those who work for you. Let the oppressed go free, and remove the chains that bind people. 7 Share your food with the hungry, and give shelter to the homeless. Give clothes to those who need them, and do not hide from relatives who need your help. 8 "Then your salvation will come like the dawn, and your wounds will quickly heal. Your godliness will lead you forward, and the glory of the LORD will protect you from behind. 9 Then when you call, the LORD will answer. 'Yes, I am here,' he will quickly reply. "Remove the heavy yoke of oppression. Stop pointing your finger and spreading vicious rumors! 10 Feed the hungry, and help those in trouble. Then your light will shine out from the darkness, and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon.”

Point number two: Fast when mourning. Or to ask for divine intervention. Or to to draw closer to God through humility. You better not fast to impress people. Or even more twisted, to impress God. Because God is not impressed by that. Why? Because point number three, He knows relationships trump ritual.

Luke 5:36-39
36 Then Jesus gave them this illustration: "No one tears a piece of cloth from a new garment and uses it to patch an old garment. For then the new garment would be ruined, and the new patch wouldn't even match the old garment. 37 "And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. For the new wine would burst the wineskins, spilling the wine and ruining the skins. 38 New wine must be stored in new wineskins. 39 But no one who drinks the old wine seems to want the new wine. 'The old is just fine,' they say.”

What is all this stuff about wedding guests and new garments and new wineskins all about? The SDABC p.585 is short and to the point.

“What Jesus set forth, in three brief figures (wedding guests, new cloth, new wine), was the incompatibility of His teachings with those of the scribes. John’s disciples, although presumably accepting Christ as the Messiah (John 1:35-37), nevertheless adhered at least to some of the ritual regulations imposed by the scribes and Pharisees. in the parable of the wedding guests, “the children of the bridechamber,” Christ defended His own disciples against the charge that they did not conform likewise to tradition. He implied that ritual practices were to be subordinated to concerns of higher importance. Relationship with sinners trumps rabbinic ritual. It would be an insult to the bride and groom should wedding guests be mournful an gloomy and refuse to partake of the wedding feast.” SDABC p.585.

Jesus used three short metaphors or examples from their daily lives to illustrate that Jesus’ revolutionary teachings could not be reconciled with the reactionary dogmas of Judaism. It is futile to interweave the good news of the kingdom of heaven with the worn-out observances of Jewish tradition and ritual for the wrong reasons. It is futile. And actually, makes everything worse. The bride and groom get insulted. The new and the old garment is ruined. The wineskin breaks.

Point number three: Relationship trumps ritual. Especially ritual that no longer contributes to God focused relationship.

2 Kings 18:1-4
1 Hezekiah son of Ahaz began to rule over Judah in the third year of King Hoshea's reign in Israel. 2 He was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem twenty-nine years. His mother was Abijah, the daughter of Zechariah. 3 He did what was pleasing in the LORD's sight, just as his ancestor David had done. 4 He removed the pagan shrines, smashed the sacred pillars, and cut down the Asherah poles. He broke up the bronze serpent that Moses had made, because the people of Israel had been offering sacrifices to it. The bronze serpent was called Nehushtan.

What’s a modern NE-HUSH-TAN? Fasting for wrong reasons. Or not at all. I think the problem these days is not that people fast or fast for the wrong reasons. I think the challenge is to get them to fast at all! Have any of you ever done so? Not to appease an angry God. But to ask for divine intervention (2 Chronicles 7:14). Or to to draw closer to God through humility (Psalm 35:13).

You could abstain from bread like John the Baptist in Matthew 9:14. Or you could abstain from Netflix. Or pie. I actually don’t eat pie every day. So when I do, its usually a special occasion. Like Sabbath. Or a birthday. Things that have to do with relationships. Because relationships trump ritual. Even sacred rituals like fasting. And tithing.

Jesus said it this way in Matthew 6:16-18. 16 "And when you fast, don't make it obvious, as the hypocrites do, for they try to look miserable and disheveled so people will admire them for their fasting. I tell you the truth, that is the only reward they will ever get.17 But when you fast, comb your hair and wash your face.18 Then no one will notice that you are fasting, except your Father, who knows what you do in private. And your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.”

The folks in Charleston, South Carolina are probably fasting. They’re definitely mourning. "Dylann Roof committed a heinous act on Wednesday night, killing nine at a church in Charleston. His ominous Facebook profile photo is being widely circulated until his account was shut down. Before it was, there was one comment on that photo. His name is Marcus Stanley. He is a 30-year-old, award winning gospel musician from Virginia. Here is the message he left for Dylann: 

“I don’t know you, but when I searched for your name from the news outlets it led me here. You’re not captured yet, so there is a chance that you may see this massage. I don’t look at you with the eyes of hatred, or judge you by your appearance or race, but I look at you as a human being that made a horrible decision to take the lives of 9 living and breathing people. Children do not grow up with hatred in their hearts. In this world we are born color blind. Somewhere along the line, you were taught to hate people that are not like you, and that is truly tragic. you have accomplished nothing from this killing, but planting seeds of pain that will forever remain in the hearts of the families that lost their lives and countless hearts around our country. If you’re still out there and you have your phone with you…Give your heart to Jesus and confess your sins with a heart of forgiveness. He is the one that can save your soul and forgive you for the terrible act that you have done. I love you Dylann…even in the midst of the darkness and pain you’ve caused, but more importantly HE loves you. If you would like to make that confession, then repeat these words."

"Dear God in heaven, I come to you in the name of Jesus. I acknowledge to You that I am a sinner, and I am sorry for my sins and the life that I have lived; I need your forgiveness. I believe that your only begotten Son Jesus Christ shed His precious blood on the cross at Calvary and died for my sins, and I am now willing to to turn from my sin. You said inYour Holy Word, Romans 10:9 that if we confess the Lord our God and believe in our hearts that God raised Jesus from the dead, we shall be saved. Right now I confess Jesus as the Lord of my soul. With my heart, I believe that God raised Jesus from the dead. This very moment I accept Jesus Christ as my own personal Savior according to His Word, right now I am saved. Thank you Jesus for your unlimited grace which has saved me from my sins. I thank you Jesus that your grace never leads to license, but rather it always leads to repentance. Therefore Lord Jesus transform my life so that I may bring glory and honor to you alone and not to myself. Thank you Jesus for dying for me and giving me eternal life. Amen. God bless you Dylann.” (For more see: The Only Comment on Dylann Roof’s Facebook Photo Will Bring You To Tears by Benny Johnson on Independent Journal Review)


Psalm 51:17
17 The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.