Today we are focusing on Mark 2:18. In this verse, John the Baptist's disciples and the Pharisees were fasting but Jesus' disciples were not fasting. They asked Jesus why his disciples were not fasting. The Pharisees regularly fasted two days a week, on Mondays and Thursdays (see Luke 18:12). The Jews often fasted when mourning or specifically seeking the Lord for some purpose or need. Why Jesus' disciples were not fasting is a matter of conjecture. I'd guess Jesus didn't want this spiritual discipline to become rote and mere legalism like it had become for he Pharisees. He later says there will be a time for fasting, after he is gone. But for now he wanted them to enjoy the relationship they had with him and then learn the needed disciplines.
The same is true for us today. God never wants the Christian faith to be reduced to mere formalisms and rituals. They have their place. But God desires the heart first to be in an intimate, loving relationship with him. Then we learn and practice the spiritual disciplines.
One of these disciplines is fasting. It has a purpose for someone in relationship with God. It is the denial of something we enjoy on this side of eternity so we can fully focus on God for a period of time. It can be food, or sports, or television...anything upon which we really enjoy, perhaps enjoy more than God himself! If it's food, every growl of the stomach reminds us that God is the only one who can give us true spiritual food that satisfies forever. If it's sports, it reminds us that God alone is worthy of praise.
People often fast for a great need in their lives. Sometimes a problem is so great that it needs focused times of prayer and fasting for our breakthrough to come.
How often should we fast? There should be no rule. It is birthed from a heart of love toward God. The fasting is to draw us closer into intimacy with our great God. It is a means to an end, not the end itself. Fasting should be a part of the follower of Jesus' life. Have you ever done it? It will draw you closer to Jesus.
The Pharisees especially had made it into an end, to prove their proper spirituality. Jesus calls them on it in this verse and the ones to come.
Love God first with all your heart. Then everything in life flows from this, including fasting!