It does us well to remember this teaching is coming from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. What we can learn from this is that Jesus our Lord was preaching and teaching to a multitude of people, each having their own needs and cares. Probably quite similar to those of us alive today. In his sermon, Jesus was not just simply talking about the benefits of giving up doing things you enjoy so that you can enjoy a better life. Fasting was practiced to bring us closer to God in Spirit. I can imagine that most of those who were standing there to hear him were, for the most part, religious. Today we could identify with them because they were trying to live a religious life and Jesus was telling them, and us, how to find the best in it.
It is well to remember also that most, if not all, of the people listening to Jesus that day were religiously Jewish. They knew Yahweh their God and believed in what God wanted of them. God the Father wanted sincerity and fulfillment of what all the prophets had taught. In the subject of fasting, Jesus probably used the text from Isaiah, chapter 58. I wrote it down so that we can read what Jesus was teaching from: “Is not this the fast that I choose: to lose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them“(vs.6-7)?”
To fast, although it may seem like it, is not to abstain from enjoying this good life God has blest us with, but to bring us closer to God in Spirit. I can remember some time ago I decided to fast by not enjoying my morning cup of coffee. It was very difficult at first, but then as I continued to think about not drinking coffee I would think about why I gave it up. I thought of God and all the truly wonderful blessings God had bestowed in my life; my wife, my children, but most especially my calling into His ministry. Thinking of God’s blessings was much more pleasing to me than simply drinking a cup of coffee.
Holy Father God, who blest us with not only all the great and wonderful things we have and enjoy in life, but most especially Your Son our Lord and Redeemer. Help us, Lord, never to forget your love of us as we are reminded of it every day. Amen.