Fast & Silent
On a hot summer day, there are two things that will get my attention when I set next to a window, or I am outside working on stuff. They are the sounds of a roaring engine of a motorcycle and vintage muscle cars. Like the television show, I like them both fast and loud! You can hear them at a great distance, that low-throaty pop of combustion coming out of the exhaust. It announces that you have a mean machine, and you care nothing about your hearing if you are driving it. And I think this is why motorcycle and car shows are always such a huge draw. I think this is why NASCAR is such a huge draw. I think this is why tv shows like the Dukes of Hazzard and Knight Rider are still popular and movies like the Fast and Furious series, Smokey and the Bandit, and dare I say Christine as so well liked. I still love monster trucks and a grew up cheering for Bigfoot and Grave Digger. Wyatt and I had the chance to get a ride in War Wizard at Tri-City Speedway when he was 5. Like Richard Rawlings’ business Gas Monkey Garage, there are people who love things that are “Fast & Loud”.
Today’s message from Jesus is kind the opposite of that. Jesus’ message is more like Herbie the Love Bug. Remember Herbie? A Volkswagen Bug, that unlike the care in Christine, had a quiet personality that nobody expected anything out of, yet he won many races with some comedy in-between. Or think of it this way. Remember the old story, the Tortoise and the Hare? Remember how braggadocios the Hare was? Yet the quiet tortoise wins the race. Jesus directs his audience on proper etiquette when is comes to religious fasting.
Matthew 6:16–18 (NIV): 16 “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18 so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
Matthew 6:16-18 Greek NT ῞Οταν δὲ νηστεύητε, μὴ γίνεσθε ὥσπερ οἱ ὑποκριταὶ σκυθρωποί· ἀφανίζουσι γὰρ τὰ πρόσωπα αὐτῶν ὅπως φανῶσι τοῖς ἀνθρώποις νηστεύοντες· ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν ὅτι ἀπέχουσι τὸν μισθὸν αὐτῶν. (17) σὺ δὲ νηστεύων ἄλειψαί σου τὴν κεφαλὴν καὶ τὸ πρόσωπόν σου νίψαι, (18) ὅπως μὴ φανῇς τοῖς ἀνθρώποις νηστεύων, ἀλλὰ τῷ πατρί σου τῷ ἐν τῷ κρυπτῳ, καὶ ὁ πατήρ σου ὁ βλέπων ἐν τῷ κρυπτῳ ἀποδώσει σοι ἐν τῷ φανερῷ·
Νηστεύω- nēsteuō nace-tyoo’-o: From G3523; to abstain from food (religiously): – fast.
Matthew 6:16- νηστεύητε is spoken of by Jesus in second person, he is saying them, YOU.
νηστεύοντες· is spoken of as first person, the ACT of fasting from food.
Matthew 6:17- νηστεύων is spoken by Jesus as YOU fast from food and ONLY God and YOU know.
Matthew 6:18- νηστεύων is spoken again by Jesus that fasting from food is between GOD and YOU.
First off, this type of fasting is dealing with food. It is the completely going without any food. Now, there are seven different types of fasting in the Bible. They are Partial Fasting, The Daniel Fast, Complete Fasting, Absolute Fasting, Sexual Fasting, Corporate Fasting, and a Soul Fast.
Partial Fasting- you choose something to fast from (soda, chocolate, television, electronics)
The Daniel Fast- you only eat fruit, nuts, and vegetables and only drink water.
Complete Fasting- no chewing! Only liquids.
Absolute Fasting- nothing!
Sexual Fasting- needs no description, self-explanatory.
Corporate Fasting- everyone fasts doing the same thing of their choosing, whether it is an entire church, a study
group, or husband and wife.
Soul Fast- evaluate and get rid of all your time wasters. These must deal with media items, electronics,
magazines, social media, podcasts, internet, and television. (This is an important fast right now!)
Jesus is talking about a complete fast and notice that Jesus opens his statement establishing the motive of a fast. Jesus starts out by saying that YOU are ACTING, and it has no meaning, and your rewards are the pats on the back that you get because they appreciate your acting, and they celebrate fasting the same way. It should surprise no one that in one sentence Jesus uses terms for acting and the term for an actor, a hypocrite, in the same sentence. The motive is the recognition of your fasting and Jesus says, that’s the wrong motive. You fast for God’s attention.
This outward confession began with the idea of mourning by wearing sackcloth and putting on of ashes for repentance. We read about these two things working together in Esther chapters 3 and 4. However, fasting began to be involved with these two. Look at Jonah 3:5-7:
Jonah 3:5–7 (NIV): 5 The Ninevites believed God. A fast was proclaimed, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth.
6 When Jonah’s warning reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, took off his royal robes, covered himself with sackcloth and sat down in the dust. 7 This is the proclamation he issued in Nineveh:
“By the decree of the king and his nobles:
Do not let people or animals, herds or flocks, taste anything; do not let them eat or drink.
And here is the response:
Jonah 3:10 (NIV): 10 When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened.
And Jonah wasn’t happy about it either…
So, by the time when Jesus is teaching, fasting had become a religious ritual that has lost all its meaning. They celebrated fasting but not underlying meaning, getting God’s attention. Instead, they liked the celebration and the pageantry and the pats on the back. They remembered the stories of the past but forgot the messages, the theology that is interwoven in the stories.
Jesus says that the sackcloth, and the ashes, and the fasting lacked an important item, humility. Those items where to reveal an outward and genuine confession of an inward problem. It is a somber and humble thing. When done correctly, it can be what David discovered, it got God’s attention and in Psalms 30:11:
Psalm 30:11 (NIV): 11 You turned my wailing into dancing;
you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,
Therefore, true fasting is simply looking within yourself. Be honest with yourself and be honest with God. Fasting means putting the work in to cause change. For you to want to get God’s direct attention and to allow God to do what only he can do; change what you cannot change. Transform and progress into someone better.
To be complete and lacking nothing. Fasting is a private assessment wanting God’s benevolence.