How to reconcile fasting (Matthew 9) with the Eucharist (Matthew 28)? Jesus talking only temporary fasting?


Was Jesus answering John’s disciples in Matthew 9 only regarding the period between His death and Resurrection? This interpretation strikes me as a rather shallow reading of the text, as if there ought to be a deeper meaning here than “Don’t you worry, they’ll fast Friday and Saturday night a year or so from now!” If Jesus is referring to us today, then how can we affirm Jesus’ promise in Matthew 28, and claim its fulfillment in the Eucharist? Is the answer breakfast, that we fast one hour before the Eucharist?

My problem with these passages is that the second appears to contradict the first, and the second does not appear fulfilled today: The Eucharist appears as bread, not Jesus, and only appears to act as bread, not as friend, master, lover, brother, lord, or God; the Eucharist something that lasts only a few minutes before it’s back in the Tabernacle – which, to be frank, strikes me horribly as like an idol, rather than God, since it’s apparently an inanimate object that relies on the priest to move around and be cared for.

I would appreciate your help in understanding these passages and their relationship (and the Eucharist, though discussion of the Eucharist apart from its connection to these passages would be better for a new thread or else PM).

Knox Matthew 9:

14 Then John’s disciples came to him, and asked, How is it that thy disciples do not fast, when we and the Pharisees fast so often? 15 To them Jesus said, Can you expect the men of the bridegroom’s company to go mourning, while the bridegroom is still with them? No, the days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them; then they will fast. 16 Nobody uses a piece of new cloth to patch an old cloak; that would take away from the cloak all its pattern, and make the rent in it worse than before.[4] 17 Nor is new wine put into old wine-skins; if that is done, the skins burst, and there is the wine spilt and the skins spoiled. If the wine is new, it is put into fresh wine-skins, and so both are kept safe.

Knox Matthew 28:

16 And now the eleven disciples took their journey into Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had bidden them meet him. 17 When they saw him there, they fell down to worship; though some were still doubtful.[5] 18 But Jesus came near and spoke to them; All authority in heaven and on earth, he said, has been given to me; 19 you, therefore, must go out, making disciples of all nations, and baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, 20 teaching them to observe all the commandments which I have given you. And behold I am with you all through the days that are coming, until the consummation of the world.


Interesting question. It is obvious that the early Church did not interpret Matt. 28:20 as meaning that Jesus was with them in a way that they did not have to fast. They promoted fasting (not just abstinence from flesh) every Wednesday and Friday.



And clearly the fasting is either temporary or periodic, as otherwise we would all be dead.

I think, like a lot of other things Jesus said, there is supposed to be a paradox or tension there between reality already present and reality not yet fulfilled. So Jesus is always with us – not just in the Eucharist, but in us as the Body of Christ, in our hearts guiding us, and so forth – but He has also been taken away from us, in that we do not see and interact with Him as the Apostles did. It is the same sort of thing when we affirm that sin and death were already defeated by Jesus on Calvary, and yet our full experience of their defeat remains to be fulfilled. We know that as Christians, through Him, we have the power to overcome sin and death, but the day when we will never sin and never die is yet to come.



I get how one can regard this thinking as, “Oh, paradoxes are cool, so yay Christianity for having these paradoxes – its strangeness makes it seem more likely correct!” but to me this appears to be mental gymnastics, evidence that Christianity is false. Either Jesus defeated death or He didn’t. Either “It is finished” or it isn’t. Either Jesus is with us or He isn’t. To declare “both X and not X” robs the sentence of meaning and is to declare a nonsensical proposition – and nonsense “isn’t even false”, worse than being wrong.


A paradox isn’t just a contradiction; it’s a situation that appears to be contradictory but actually isn’t. Because there are multiple senses in which death can be defeated or in which Jesus can be with us, it is indeed possible for those propositions to be true in one sense and false in another without running afoul of basic reason.




Fasting is a tradition carried over from our (Christian) roots in the Jewish religion. It represents a conscious denial of earthly pleasure in preference and deference to God. (That’s why gluttony is one of the deadly sins.) Jesus Himself fasted quite frequently and either while praying or just before praying; the most memorable being the 40 days in the desert prior to the start of His 3 year earthly mission. Fasting is a way to holiness and prepares our bodies for our communion (spiritually and physically) with Jesus. No one should confuse fasting with starvation; one is a means to holiness and the other is slow suicide.

The tabernacle also reminds us of our Jewish roots. Like the holy of holies area of the temple where no one is allowed, the tabernacle is where the priest stores the consecrated hosts. Once consecrated by the Holy Spirit, the bread is no longer bread (transubstantiation) but is the Real Presence of Jesus (just as the wine is no longer wine but is now the Blood of Christ.)

As to your confusion between the two passages you cited, in Mark 9:15, Jesus is telling those who observe the Mosaic Law of fasting, that His followers do not fast because they are with the “bride groom” Jesus Himself. This is a time of celebration because God chose to Incarnate and live among us. Towards the end of His life on earth, He institutes the Eucharist (literally “thanksgiving”) by taking, blessing, breaking, and eating the bread with His Apostles. And we continue to do so because Jesus ordered us to “do this in remembrance of me.” Not do this until the Apostles die or do this until you forget. Do this for all time. Each and every day; that’s why we have daily Mass and share in His Body.


So, returning to these passages and my questions: What do these passages mean, and how do they relate to my life? Is Jesus with me or not, and “in what sense”? How and when are we to fast if Jesus says fasting is inappropriate while He is with us?

Isn’t it true that, by virtue of Baptism, all three Persons of the Trinity are indwelling within us? Then why is it appropriate for us to fast? After all, we seem to be in an even better situation than the Disciples: They were only with the Second Person, whereas we are with all three. If you will say, “Jesus was with them physically, and is not with us physically. Therefore we should physically fast,” then what good is it for God to be indwelling within us if we must nonetheless hurt ourselves in order for spiritual growth?


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