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  • Jesus on Fasting (Part 2)

    Today is the start of our 40 days of prayer and fasting. After looking at what Jesus said about fasting in Matthew chapter 9 in the first article of this duo, here we're delving in to another passage where Jesus teaches on fasting. It's part of the rich and famous 'Sermon on the Mount' and well worth exploring.

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    Matt 6:16 “And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 17 But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 18 that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

    As I mentioned in part 1, Jesus was on a mission to turn the cold, religious world upside down and help people to see that it’s not fit for purpose. He was teaching against the hypocritical behaviour of people who tried to make it very obvious to others that they were fasting but had no authentic relationship with God. As well as making us think about fasting, these verses also help us to consider all our public acts of devotion to see whether they match up with what’s happening in private.

    Is my sung and spoken praise as passionate in private as in public?

    Is my smile as broad when alone with God as when I’m greeting other Christians at meetings?

    Do I hurry and sacrifice other things in order to make time to be with God in private, in the same way that I rush to not lose face by being late to a meeting?

    I feel like I’m in the crowd in Acts 2:37 as I read these questions; cut right to the heart. When the answer is ‘no’ to any of these challenges we need to follow Peter’s advice to another crowd, shortly after Pentecost, who were also cut to the heart as the Holy Spirit held up a mirror in front of them:

    “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord” Acts 3:19-20

    Our Refreshing, Forgiving, Sufficient Father

    ‘Turn to God’, it’s easy not to, especially when you’ve just identified hypocritical behaviour in yourself or seen how filthy you really are, our first reaction is normally to hide from God. But go back and read the passage at the top of page and you’ll realise that Jesus is emphasising something astounding; God is our loving, devoted Father. This was a wonderful renewing of his hearers’ understanding of the way that they could relate to God. We can relate to Him as our Dad and can connect with Him on our own, privately.

    Fasting is a special way of showing our Father how much He means to us. It is a private demonstration of our total dependency and our faith in His complete sufficiency.


    Other people don’t always know what’s best for you, they have limited resources from which to give to you, and they can only reward you in this lifetime. God is different. He rewards fittingly, fully and for eternity.

    Just as He does when talking about prayer and giving to the needy, Jesus says here that the Father will reward us for authentic devotion. It’s not 100% clear in Scripture what these eternal rewards will look like. It may be referring to the person or neighbourhood which is transformed because you prayed and fasted for them, but it’s clear from elsewhere in the New Testament (e.g. Luke 12:33, 1 Cor 3:10-15)  that there will also be direct, tangible, eternal rewards based on what we do in this life. (To read more on this topic, try this link)

    Whatever the rewards are, God is good and generous, so they’re going to be worth a lot more than the fickle admiration of people who applaud you for your piety when they hear how good you are at fasting!

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