And they said unto him, Why do the disciples of John fast often, and make prayers, and likewise the disciples of the Pharisees; but thine eat and drink? And he said unto them, Can ye make the children of the bridechamber fast, while the bridegroom is with them? But the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken away from them, and then shall they fast in those days.Luke 5:33-35
Many times during Jesus’ earthly ministry, He took time to teach against the doctrines and practices of the Scribes and Pharisees either by exhortation or as a living example. The confrontation recorded here in Luke is an occasion where Jesus refutes an errant practice of the Pharisees and teaches His disciples more about His own power and glory.
The Pharisees had developed a system of fasting twice a week to appear more religious. There is nothing wrong with fasting, it is taught throughout the Bible, but their purpose behind it was the error. The meal at Matthew’s house probably occurred on one of these declared days of fasting and that is why the Pharisees question Jesus.
A cursory examination of Scriptures regarding fasting reveals a few but very important details and instructions. Fasting is typically in combination with mourning, repentance, or at time of deep need for the will of God to be manifest in the life of the believer. It is to be done when needed, and there is only one hint of a regularly scheduled fast and that was the yearly fast on the Day of Atonement. It is a very special duty but a particularly private one as well.
Incidentally, we have it recorded that Jesus fasted both day and night for 40 days during the temptation. This is recorded because the practice of the Pharisees allowed them to eat at night when no one could see them! Perhaps this is why Jesus taught so clearly in the Sermon on the Mount that fasting should be a private matter not a public display of self-righteousness!
By feasting on this day, Jesus reminds us that the commandments of men, though they appear religious, are not the commandments of God. We should fast when we feel the need to be closer to God, but it should be a private matter and not just a ceremony to show others how religious we are.