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?”
Jesus responded, “Do wedding guests fast while celebrating with the groom? Of course not. But someday the groom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast.”Luke 5:33-35
There is debate as to how this unit connects with what went before it. Although it starts with “One day . . . ” it is likely that it was the day following the calling of Levi and interaction that followed from the previous Gem. The reason is that everything hangs together so well and follows in sequence. All three synoptic gospels have it in the same sequence but Matthew and Mark link it more closely in time. But for some reason Luke has chosen to introduce this unit with “One day”. Also Luke has the statement coming from “some people”. Matthew writes the question came from John’s disciples about why they are fasting and yet Jesus disciples are not. The tone of the Matthew and Mark interactions are more conciliatory and seeking to find information, whereas in the Luke account the exchange is more in line with accusations from the Pharisees. I think it is more than likely that both things happened.
Remember there were many Pharisees gathered there at the scene and though they were not in Levi’s house, they were certainly hanging around outside. It is highly likely that John’s disciples were fasting because their leader was in prison. The Pharisees fasted two days a week on Mondays and Thursdays. They also fasted on regular public holidays dedicated to fasting and also on the Day of Atonement and on the four days set aside to commemorate the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem. In addition to that anyone was allowed to fast for personal reasons to draw closer to God. The Pharisees brought up the issue of fasting but in that context it is likely that John’s disciples picked it up too, resulting in both groups querying the matter of fasting.
In this case the eating and drinking is specifically referred to in the context of fasting. Eating and drinking as opposed to abstinence. In the previous story, “eating and drinking” was a symbol of relationship and friendship. In this case that is not in focus. This is purely a discussion as to why Jesus disciples were not fasting. From John’s disciples perspective, why is it that they fast when Jesus disciples don’t seem to do it? From the Pharisees perspective there is a barb to the query. It seems like the additional “always eating and drinking” is a jibe at them for not being spiritual enough in following their rabbi.
Jesus response related to wedding guests is in the context of the bridegroom’s attendants. The word can either mean “wedding guests” or the “bridegroom’s attendants”. This refers to the groom’s close friends who make up his official wedding party and are expected to do all they can to make the wedding a success. The wedding itself would last about a week and while that was happening it was time to celebrate. That time was referred to as “the time the bridegroom is with us”. When the wedding came to an end was the time for the bridegroom to go off with his bride and hence to leave his friends behind. Now he was a married man and had “other commitments”, so the friends although still friends were not going to share the closeness they once did because now the man was married and had responsibilities to his wife. This is the reason for the reference to when the bridegroom is taken away.
This is the usual meaning however all three synoptic gospels use it to refer to Jesus impending death burial and resurrection – that time when the bridegroom (Christ) will be taken away from them. This is the first time in the gospel of Luke that Jesus pending death is referred to. This is the beginning of the theme related to Jesus’ coming death. By these references Jesus instructs his disciples in the events to come. Because there is also a theme related to the “marriage supper of Lamb” this is clearly a reference to much more than just Jesus death. It is a complicated theme that Luke has referred to and will develop into a theme of joy. Luke’s is a gospel that focuses often on joy as we shall see as the story unfolds. Jesus is simply saying there is a time for fasting but it is not now. Now is the time to celebrate; fasting will come later.
If the cross and all creation is the preparation, what will the banquet be?John Piper
What we once enjoyed & deeply love we can never lose; for all that we love deeply becomes a part of us.Helen Keller
If life has put you on hold, don’t hang up! Just enjoy the hold music … life will get back to you!Scott R Jones
I am too blessed to be stressed and too anointed to be disappointed!Anon