From Fasting to Feasting: The Coming of the Bridegroom

Then John’s disciples came and asked him, “How is it that we and the Pharisees fast often, but your disciples do not fast?”

15 Jesus answered, “How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them? The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast.

16 “No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch will pull away from the garment, making the tear worse. 17 Neither do people pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.”

Matthew 9:14



Fasting seems to suggest that something is wrong. Eating is a normal part of life, so fasting signals that something is wrong and thus calls for restoration.


As already mentioned, in the OT, fasting is connected to a web of meanings which include: mourning, repentance, the seeking of forgiveness for sin, prayer, and ceremonial public worship, and purification. Yet, Jesus added a fresh layer of meaning, which connected fasting as anticipating feasting. Fasting, which is a disruption of the normal rhythm of life, served to create awareness that the community had not yet reached the predicted new age that the prophets had spoken. It pointed to a messianic age when they would not need to fast ever again, for that which called for fasting would no longer exist.

 As long as pain, suffering, need of forgiveness and mourning remained, fasting would too. Till when? Till the day in which God would dwell fully among his people. With the arrival of the “Bridegroom” (Jesus) fasting was suspended and turned into feasting, tears into celebration. In many colorful and varied ways He pointed to the future banquet table. A table in with Abraham’s children from the East and from the West reunited (Mat.8:11).  It is as if Jesus was saying, “how appropriate is to fast when the exile from sin is over?, When the bridegroom is finally among you (John 3:28-29)?, When the temple is rebuilt in me (John 2:19), and the Messiah is among you (John 4:26)? Isn’t this reason for celebration? (Mat.9:14-15).

The new age had come, but it was not fully there yet, thus, “But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them, and on that day they (Jesus’ disciples) will fast.”

And here lays the difference between Islamic notions of fasting and biblical ones: the anticipation of the messianic new age of final restoration centered on God’s Messiah: Jesus.


Fasting as Reversal

The final motif associated with fasting is the reversal of the sin that lead mankind into the path of destruction. If Jesus was the new Adam, conquering in the desert what Adam had lost to Satan, Jesus is also “the new Eve”, He also took, ate and gave (Gn 3:6 and John 26;26), but not the fruit that was forbidden, but His own body that would undo the effect of the cursed tree. Sin came associated to eating, salvation is also associated with eating. Not in a magical sense, but as remembrance (Lord’s supper).

It is God who defines what is good and also the one who through the Messiah reverses the effects of the sin associated with food and lack of trust.