Jesus fasted, and was then tempted in the wilderness, woodcut by Gustave Doré
Bible Readings and Devotion for September 3, 2020
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Devotion for September 3, 2020
By Pastor David Tinker
In today’s reading from Luke 5 Jesus mentions fasting. He also notes that his followers do not need to fast when he is among them, as in walking the earth during his ministry. Back at the beginning of Lent this year I prepared a series on the, “Disciplines of Lent.” One of the disciplines of Lent includes the Biblical practice of fasting. I am including that message on fasting from Ash Wednesday, 2020. Most of the readers of this devotion have not likely read or heard this message.
Teachings from Ash Wednesday, February 26, 2020
Today is the beginning of Lent. It is also the beginning of our Lent Series on the Disciplines of Lent. I will be presenting teachings on the core disciplines of Lent. These are outlined in the Invitation to Lent which is shared as part of the Ash Wednesday service each year.
Here is the relevant portion of that invitation: “I invite you, therefore, to the discipline of Lent—self-examination and repentance, prayer and fasting, sacrificial giving and works of love—strengthened by the gifts of word and sacrament.”
Each Wednesday in Lent we will share about 1 of these 6 ways of spiritual discipline. On Ash Wednesday the Gospel Reading from Matthew highlights 2 of these quite boldly.
What is fasting?
Fasting is voluntarily going without food — or any other regularly enjoyed, good gift from God — for the sake of some spiritual purpose. It is markedly counter-cultural in our consumerist society. It is for the purpose of setting our lives toward God, and to resist the urge to succumb to the desires of the body for food or certain kinds of food.
Fasting is a response to what God has first done for us. It helps us refocus our lives on the Lord.
Fasting is a way of responding to God’s grace, and to show God – not others – that we are responding with repentance.
Jesus and the Apostles fasted. It is strongly rooted in the Old Testament and in the Jewish religious culture. The 40 Day time of fasting in Lent is founded in the 40 days following the Baptism of Jesus. During that time Jesus fasted from food and was tempted by the devil. He was resistant to the temptations. This was a period of preparation for his 3 years of ministry.
The fasting by the early church leaders was generally after the Ascension of Jesus. St. Paul fasted as a major part of his spiritual disciplines.
The Faithful People in Scripture fasted and prayed for repentance and forgiveness. They fasted for victory in battle. They fasted for discernment. They prayed for deliverance. They fasted for strength.
We have lost the spiritual discipline of fasting that Jesus took for granted. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus said, “When you fast…” Not if. I have fasted at various points in my life. I have friends and family members who are regularly participate in fasting from some or all food. They see it as a calling from God, and a way of faithfully following the way of Jesus.
Luther and Fasting
“He who starts with works, turns everything around and gains nothing. In the same way St. Paul after he had taught faith to the Romans, undertakes to teach them many good works saying that they should offer their body as a holy, living, agreeable sacrifice in the service of God. This takes place when one chastises the body with fasting, staying awake, getting dressed, and working. This is what Anna does. All the saints of old did the same. ‘Fasting’ refers to all chastisement and discipline of the body which, although the soul is justified and holy through faith, is still not entirely free of sin and evil inclinations. Thus it is necessary that the body become subdued and chastised and subservient to the soul, as St. Paul says of himself: ‘I chastise my body and bring it under control, so that I, who am teaching others, am not myself disqualified’ [I Cor. 9:27]. St. Peter, too, teaches the same thing in I Peter 2[:5]: ‘You are to offer spiritual sacrifices,’ not sheep and calves, as in the law of Moses, but your own body and yourselves through putting sin to death in the flesh and through the chastisement of the body. Nobody does this unless faith is there previously.
For this reason I have said frequently that the works that come after faith should have the sole purpose and intention of chastising the body and serving one’s neighbor; they are not intended for earning a lot of merit or for making someone pious, for that must be present prior to the works. This is the real service of God in the works, if these works come about quite freely, to honor God. Otherwise what use does he have for your fasting, unless you quell thereby the sin and the flesh which he wants quelled? St. Paul also teaches about fasting of this sort in II Corinthians 6:5, stating among other things that in many fastings we should show ourselves as servants of God.” (Candlemas Sermon on Luke 2:33-40, LW 52:137-139)
Guidelines for Fasting
Christian fasting includes various forms of partial fasts to complete fasting of all food. These fasts can last for a day, a week, a month or, in some cases, all of Lent.
It is unwise and very dangerous to abstain from drinking water during a fast.
Jesus teaches us that we are to go along with life as normal during a fast. Do regular grooming and self-care. We read about this when Jesus said, “17But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”
I have provided this link to a simple guide for fasting. This also includes an article by our bishop about fasting.
Fasting is a Biblical and faithful Christian discipline. It is founded in God’s Word, affirmed by Jesus, the Apostles, Martin Luther, and millions upon millions of Christians over time and all over the world.”
Gracious God, out of your love and mercy you breathed into dust the breath of life, creating us to serve you and our neighbors. Call forth our prayers and acts of kindness, and strengthen us to face our mortality with confidence in the mercy of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen