THE COMPASSION AND HEALING OF THE
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He got into a boat, crossed over, and came to His own city. Then
behold, they brought to Him a paralytic lying on a bed. When Jesus saw
their faith, He said to the paralytic, 'Son, be of good cheer; your
sins are forgiven you.' And at once some of the scribes said within
themselves, 'This Man blasphemes!' But Jesus, knowing their thoughts,
said, 'Why do you think evil in your hearts? For which is easier, to
say, "Your sins are forgiven you," or to say, "Arise and walk"? But
that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive
sins' --then He said to the paralytic, 'Arise, take up your bed, and go
to your house.' And he arose and departed to his house. Now when the
multitudes saw it, they [NU reads: were afraid] marveled and glorified God, who had given such power to men."
Jesus passed on from there, He saw a man named Matthew sitting at the
tax office. And He said to him, 'Follow Me.' So he arose and followed
it happened, as Jesus sat at the table in the house, that behold, many
tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Him and His
disciples. And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to His disciples,
'Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?' When Jesus
heard that, He said to them, 'Those who are well have no need of a
physician, but those who are sick.; But go and learn what this
For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners [NU omits: to repentance].'"
"I desire mercy and not sacrifice."
"Then the disciples of John came to Him, saying, 'Why do we and the Pharisees fast [NU brackets: often as disputed], but Your disciples do not fast?' And Jesus said to them, 'Can the friends of the bridegroom mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them?
But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from
them, and then they will fast. No one puts a piece of unshrunk cloth on
an old garment; for the patch pulls away from the garment, and the tear
is made worse. Nor do they put new wine into old wineskins, or else the
wineskins break, the wine is spilled, and the wineskins are ruined. But
they put new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.'"
Fasting was a yearly obligation under the Law on the Great Day of Atonement. It was obligatory and a sign of mourning for the sins one had committed. By the time of
Christ, the Pharisees, by their traditions, had added considerably to
the Law concerning fasting. The Pharisees fasted weekly in order to display how spiritual
they were (52 times more than the Law required!).
When considering Jesus' words in the Gospels on this subject, we need to keep in mind that, at the time, he was a man under the Law speaking to a people under the Law. And, when he spoke here in Matthew of fasting as being like someone who puts "new wine into old wineskins"
... he was thinking of the New Covenant which he would shortly
institute with his own blood on the cross. After that, the new wine of
the Age of Grace would not be compatible with being housed in the old
wineskin of the Law.
Now, as to
specific scriptures in the New Testament that mention fasting, there
are several things that we need to keep in mind...
First, keep in mind that the book of Acts is a history that records Christ's newly founded Church learning to transition from Law to Grace. It is the
book that faithfully records what happened and what was said. It
is not a doctrinal book. It is a history book. Caution: we should take care not to build our doctrine exclusively on the book of Acts. One should primarily build their doctrine from the doctrinal books not the historical books.
Second, it is important to note that fasting is
never discussed or prescribed for believers in the doctrinal books of
the New Testament.
First Corinthians 7:5, is often quoted as proof that fasting is prescribed
for saints during this Age of Grace. That passage instructs the believer that abstaining
from normal marital sex should only occur for brief periods of time for the
purpose of prayer. Although your translation of the Bible may also add fasting ... in the original Greek text the word fasting
is not present. It was added later by some well meaning person who
was zealous for fasting but, apparently, unaware of the seriousness of
tampering with the Word of God.
Third, when fasting is mentioned in other passages in the New Testament,
keep in mind that the word "fasting" often has a broader meaning than
just "having no food" or "having no water" (2 Cor 6:5; 11:27).
Fourth, let me say that there is certainly no problem with anyone who incorporates
fasting as a spiritual exercise in their own walk with Christ. Same
goes for tithing. We are not to judge one another. Each of us will give
an account to our Master and no one else. I only have a problem when a
brother or sister insists that their particular practice or walk should
be made obligatory for everyone else in the body of Christ.
The reason that I personally do not practice fasting is because of
Jesus' words here in Matthew. He told the Pharisees that his disciples could not fast as long as the Bridegroom was with them. The days are coming, he said, when they will fast when the Bridegroom is taken from them. I see the days
to which he was referring as the time when Jesus was in the grave and
then, subsequently, off and on as he was absent from his desciples
until he gave them his Spirit as recorded in Acts 2. During those brief
periods of time, the Bridegroom was truly not with them and thus it was
an appropriate time for their mourning and fasting.
But, when our Lord's Spirit came to indwell each of his believers (1 Cor
12:13; Eph 1:13-14), the days of mourning and fasting (in my opinion) were over
forever. Can one fast when the Bridegroom is both with them and in them? I think not.
Luke 5:39, adds,
And no one, having drunk old wine, immediately [NU omits: immediately] desires new; for he says, "The old is better [NU changes: better to good].'"
One last thought here, Jesus' final words about how men prefer the old to the new
is a truism of human nature. If you don't think so, just try to change
something that people have been doing for a long time. I
tried leaving the bulletin out one Sunday at a church I once pastored.
I was looking for more spontaneity and freedom of worship. But, instead, it
created a firestorm! Fasting was a part of life in Old Testament
economy and Law. So, to drop its practice in the first century of the Church age was no small undertaking.
He spoke these things to them, behold, a ruler came and worshiped Him,
saying, 'My daughter has just died, but come and lay Your hand on her
and she will live.' So Jesus arose and followed him, and so did His
disciples. And suddenly, a woman who had a flow of blood for twelve
years came from behind and touched the hem of His garment. For she said
to herself, 'If only I may touch His garment, I shall be made well.'
But Jesus turned around, and when He saw her He said, 'Be of good
cheer, daughter; your faith has made you well.' And the woman was made
well from that hour. When Jesus came into the ruler's house, and saw
the flute players and the noisy crowd wailing, He said to them, 'Make
room, for the girl is not dead, but sleeping.' And they ridiculed Him.
But when the crowd was put outside, He went in and took her by the
hand, and the girl arose. And the report of this went out into all that
"When Jesus departed from there, two blind men followed Him, crying out and saying, 'Son of David, have mercy on us!'
when He had come into the house, the blind men came to Him. And Jesus
said to them, 'Do you believe that I am able to do this?' They said to
Him, 'Yes, Lord.' Then He touched their eyes, saying, 'According to
your faith let it be to you.' And their eyes were opened. And Jesus
sternly warned them, saying, 'See that no one knows it.' But when they
had departed, they spread the news about Him in all that country."
they went out, behold, they brought to Him a man, mute and
demon-possessed. And when the demon was cast out, the mute spoke. And
the multitudes marveled, saying, 'It was never seen like this in
Israel!' But the Pharisees said, 'He casts out demons by the ruler of
Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their
synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every
sickness and every disease [NU omits: among the people]. But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary [NU reads: harassed] and
scattered, like sheep having no shepherd. Then He said to His
disciples, 'The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few.
Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His
taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas
Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.