And Jesus said unto them,
Can¹ the children² of the bridechamber³ fast⁴,
while the bridegroom is with them⁵?
As long as⁶ they have the bridegroom with them,
they cannot⁷ fast [can they?]
¹) Being able to do something
²) The Greek word used here literally means ‘son’. In a restricted sense, it is the male offspring (one born by a father and of a mother); in a wider sense, a descendant, one of the posterity of any one.
³) The room in which the marriage ceremonies are held; the chamber containing the bridal bed. Also pointing to the friends of the bridegroom whose duty it was to provide and care for whatever pertained to the bridal chamber, that is, whatever was needed for the due celebration of the nuptials
⁴) To abstain from food and drink as a religious exercise. Either entirely, if the fast lasted but a single day, or from customary and choice nourishment, if it continued several days.
⁵) Is associating, fellowshiping, with them.
⁶) Like this has been done 24 times in the Amplified Version, this can also be translated with “as many as”.
⁷) Not; in direct questions expecting an affirmative answer
From other translations:
Jesus answered them, Can the wedding guests fast (abstain from food and drink) while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. [AMP] And Jesus said to them, "Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. [ESV] Jesus said, "When you're celebrating a wedding, you don't skimp on the cake and wine. You feast. Later you may need to pull in your belt, but not now. As long as the bride and groom are with you, you have a good time. No one throws cold water on a friendly bonfire. This is Kingdom Come!" [MSB] And Jesus said unto them, Can the children of the bridechamber fast, while the bridegroom is with them? as long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. [KJV] And Jesus said to them, "While the bridegroom is with them, the attendants of the bridegroom cannot fast, can they? So long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. [NASB] Jesus answered, "How can the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? They cannot, so long as they have him with them. [NIV] Jesus replied, "Do wedding guests fast while celebrating with the groom? Of course not. They can't fast while they are with the groom. [NLT] And Jesus said to them, "Can the friends of the bridegroom fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them they cannot fast. [NKJV]
Now let us see what this verse is telling us.
Had the Christ recently been put to justify Himself in conversing with tax collectors and sinners, now He is put to justify his disciples.
In what they do according to His will He will justify them, and bear them out.
Jesus justifies them for not fasting, which was turned to their reproach by the Pharisees.
Why do the Pharisees and the disciples of John fast?
They used to fast, the Pharisees fasted twice in the week (Luke 18:12), and probably the disciples of John did so too. It seems, this very day, when Christ and his disciples were feasting in Levi’s house, was their fast-day, for the Greek word used here (nesteuousi) means they ‘do fast’, or ‘are fasting’, which aggravated the offence.
These strict professors made from their own practice a standard, and to censure it, condemned all that did not fully follow their standards.
They suggest that if Christ went among sinners to do them good, as he had pleaded, yet the disciples went to indulge their appetites, for they never knew what it was to fast, or to deny themselves.
Somehow these hypocritical pharisees always were looking for, and suspected the worst. But the Christ brings up two things to excuse His disciples for not fasting.
- That these were easy days with them, and fasting was not so seasonable now as it would be hereafter (Mark 2:19,20). There is a time for all things.
Those that enter into the married state, must expect care and trouble in the flesh, and yet, during the nuptial solemnity, they are merry, and think it becomes them to be so.
It was very absurd for Samson’s bride to weep before him, during the days that the feast lasted (Judges 14:17).
Christ and his disciples were but newly married, the bridegroom was yet with them, the nuptials were yet in the celebrating (Matthew’s particularly); when the bridegroom should be removed from them to the far country, about his business, then would be a proper time to sit as a widow, in solitude and fast.
- That these were early days with them, and they were not yet able for the severe exercises of religion as they would be later.
▪︎ The Pharisees had long accustomed themselves to such practices;
▪︎ and John Baptist himself came neither eating nor drinking. His disciples from the first moment made themselves used to hardships, and thus found it easier to bear strict and frequent fasting.
But it was not so with Christ’s disciples; their Master came eating and drinking, and had not bred them up to the difficult services of religion as yet, for it was all in good time.
To put such frequent fasting at first on them, would be a discouragement to them, and perhaps even drive them off from following the Christ; it would be of as the consequence of putting new wine into old casks, or sewing new cloth to that which is worn thin (Mark 2:21,22).
Note that God graciously considers the frame of young Christians, that are weak and tender, and so must we; nor must we expect more than the work of a day in one day, and that in according to the strength one has received, because it is not in our hands to give strength.
As many contract an antipathy to some kind of food, although good, by being surfeited with it when they are young; so, many entertain prejudices against the exercises of devotion by being burthened with them, and made to serve with an offering, at their setting out.
Weak Christians must take heed of over-tasking themselves, and of making the yoke of Christ otherwise than it is, light and easy.
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True joy is experienced only in fellowship with the Lord.
But joy is certain in that communion by faith.
There is a joy in believing that the world does not know, not even the purely religious world.
The Lord is called in the Bible, in the Psalms, the God of the joy, of my joy.
The Lord uses the image of a wedding, an event full of joy in the East. Those who are invited to the wedding, and who have also come, rejoice while the bridegroom is present.
Then they don’t fast. Then they will not abstain from food and drink.
No, the disciples of John the Baptist did, and those of the Pharisees did, but the disciples of Jesus did not.
But, there will come other times, when He will suffer and die, then their lust will perish. But living in faith with Him, the people of God may know joy. But even now, this joy is only a foreshadow of the eternal joy waiting. For full joy awaits us on the other side.
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