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. – Mark 2:19
In the second chapter of Mark’s gospel, the author records Jesus’ response to a question regarding fasting. The disciples of John the Baptist and the Pharisees fasted, but Jesus’ disciples did not. Jesus answered that His disciples could not fast as long as the bridegroom was with them, but when He is taken away from them they would fast in those days (verse 20).
In this discourse, Jesus likens Himself to a bridegroom and His disciples as “children of the bridechamber.” Thus Jesus is referring to His disciples figuratively as His bride. In the Hebrew marriage customs of the day, the bridechamber was the place where the marriage was consummated. In other words, it is a place of ultimate intimacy.
The disciples were desiring a deeper, spiritual intimacy with God that was not being provided for them through “religion.” They were rejoicing in the intimacy with God that was being transmitted to them through the Bridegroom, Jesus, who makes that intimacy possible. Their spirits were celebrating in that relationship which made it impossible for them to fast at that time.
A true disciple of Jesus desires intimacy with God. That intimacy transcends religion, which merely becomes just a stepping stone or launching ramp into the true fulfillment of its purpose. As our faith causes us to leap away from the religious box or cradle that contained us in our spiritual infancy, we arise to the destiny God has desired for us to acquire all along. We were made to be living temples for our God to inhabit through His Holy Spirit, which we can only receive through faith in the death and resurrection of the Messiah Jesus. This is God’s plan of redemption which He instigated from the beginning of the world.
Face to face with the Bridegroom, Jesus’ disciples adored the presence of God in their midst, which made every meal a wedding feast not to be denied. But in those days when the Bridegroom would be taken from them, they would fast for direction and guidance in their ministries.
Jesus goes on to say in verses twenty-one through twenty-two, that new cloth cannot be sewn onto old, for the old cloth basically is not strong enough to support the new and the rent will be worsened. Likewise, new wine cannot be put into old wineskins for the same reason. Relating this to the new intimacy His life is bringing, He must be taken away, crucified and rise from the dead to be the new cloth and the new wine of the New Covenant that makes all things new. This New Covenant that was prophesied by Jeremiah (Jeremiah 31:31-33) would implant God’s word into the heart, with the Holy Spirit to reform the soul into a new creature, something that the Old Covenant’s religion was never designed to accomplish.
The intense sorrow the disciples experienced at the foot of Jesus’ cross was shattered by joy when they knelt at the feet of their risen Bridegroom.
Shortly before Jesus was crucified, He used another analogy from the Hebrew marriage customs to assure His disciples that He would return for His anxiously waiting bride.
In My Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also (John 14:2,3).
The disciples would understand that in preparation for a Hebrew marriage, the couple participated in an engagement ceremony. This ceremony would then make them viewed as man and wife, even though they were not as yet formally married. Then the bridegroom would return to his father’s house and build a home for his bride, which usually took a year. When her new home was completed, he would return for her, and they would be formally married. After the wedding feast they would enter the bridal chamber where their union would be consummated, making the two completely one.
Those disciples who are Jesus’ bride, anxiously await the time when our bridegroom returns for us. In the meantime we make ourselves ready by allowing Him to adorn our inner beings with the beautiful jewels of His virtue as we wash our robes white in the blood of His loving sacrifice He made for the church He adores.
In the book of Hebrews, chapter ten, verse twenty, the author likens the veil in the tabernacle to Jesus’ broken body. –
By a new and living way, which He has consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, His flesh;…
The veil separated the first tabernacle where the ordinances were performed from the second which was called the “Holy of Holies.” Only the high priest could enter there once a year to offer atonement for himself and the sins of the people. When Jesus was crucified, the thick veil was torn in half by an earthquake (Matthew 27:51). This symbolism is designed to show us that now because of Jesus’ sacrifice, all may enter spiritually into the Holy of Holies which represents the presence of God. It is God’s desire to transition us from dead religion to a new and living way, an intimate relationship with God where we can fellowship with Him on a daily basis and not just once a week on Sunday. Sadly, many prefer to remain in the first tabernacle of ritual and legalism refusing to enter through that severed vail.
I met a pastor’s wife who told me, "I have all of God I need.” What she meant was, “I have all of God I want.” It’s easier for some to hide from God behind a religious veil and rely on outward lawkeeping or legalism rather than allowing the Lord to take full control of their lives for their inward transformation and experience the relationship Jesus died to give us. This is why there is so much religiosity and pharisaism in the church, rather than humble yielding to the inner workings of God’s Holy Spirit. Some people are afraid of dying to self and intimacy with the Lord, and sadly like the Pharisees, they will sometimes persecute those who are seeking to walk with the Lord on a deeper level. Let us make sure we are not of that pharisaical camp that Jesus rebuked so severely (Matthew 23).
I suspect that those who object to the church as being referred to as the bride may belong to the same group that prefers a less than intimate relationship with the God they profess to love.
A true disciple is not inhibited or restrained by religion and is eager to experience the intimacy with God a relationship with the Messiah Jesus provides.
Copyright 2019 by H. D. Shively
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