“John’s disciples often fast and pray, and so do the disciples of the Pharisees, but yours go on eating and drinking.” — Luke 5:33
John the Baptist’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees followed ironclad traditions of fasting and praying as signs of closeness to God. When they fasted, they made sure there was no joy associated with it. When they prayed in public, their faces were somber and serious. Holiness, in their minds, was not something to enjoy but to measure a disciple’s devotion to God, often in comparison to others.
But Jesus and his disciples were different. By not overemphasizing fasting and prayer, Jesus crossed a theological line that was taboo for most rabbis. Instead of merely following tradition, Jesus challenged the status quo. His opponents concluded he was out of line. Jesus used wedding celebrations to illustrate his point. Weddings were about celebration, laughter, food, and dancing—joy and happiness for the bride and bridegroom.
Jesus changed the focus from fasting and praying as ends in themselves to the means of entering into the joy of the Lord, who celebrates life with us all. When traditions are drained of purpose, they become mere rituals. John’s disciples and the Pharisees missed the joy of the Lord hidden in plain sight. We have a reason to celebrate with joy!