Luke 5:35

ESV The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in those days.”
NIV But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; in those days they will fast.'
NASB But the days will come; and when the groom is taken away from them, then they will fast in those days.'
CSB But the time will come when the groom will be taken away from them--then they will fast in those days."
NLT But someday the groom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast.'
KJV But the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken away from them, and then shall they fast in those days.

What does Luke 5:35 mean?

Jesus is explaining why His disciples don't fast like the Pharisees and John the Baptist's followers. In short, it would be inappropriate for them to mourn while He is with them. Devout Jews fast on the Day of Atonement and twice each week. Jesus' disciples don't. Jesus explains that fasting for the purpose of mourning (Matthew 9:15) while He is present would be like groomsmen fasting at a wedding feast when the bridegroom arrives (Luke 5:33–34).

There will be a time when it is appropriate for His followers to fast. He is going to leave, and it will be as sad as if a bridegroom were taken away before the wedding ceremony. If Jesus is the bridegroom, then "the days" could refer to the three days after the crucifixion, the church age after His ascension, or both. Scholars note that Matthew ties the fast with mourning (Matthew 9:15). Jesus denies that His ascension is a time for mourning because His followers receive the advantage of the Holy Spirit (John 16:7). Indeed, the New Testament does not record the church fasting for mourning, so it may be that "the days" refer only to the time between the crucifixion and resurrection.

Still, the issue of fasting in the church is confusing. In Matthew 6:16, Jesus says, "When you fast…" which suggests He assumes His followers would fast at some point. Jesus, Himself, fasts before His temptation (Luke 4:2) and fasts from wine after the Lord's Supper (Luke 22:18). The early church fasted and prayed to receive the Holy Spirit's guidance on important decisions, such as the commission of missionaries and elders (Acts 13:2–3; 14:23). But the New Testament doesn't demand or regulate fasting—there's no assigned time or process.

Jesus shows He is not averse to fasting at the appropriate time; when He is present, however, is not the appropriate time. The Old Testament only specifically requires one fast, though the word more literally applies to humbling oneself, represented by the command that the Israelites "afflict" themselves on the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 23:26–32). Tradition added a fast in remembrance of the fall of Jerusalem as well as personal fasts, sometimes twice a week.

Later, Jesus will use the idea of waiting for the arrival of someone from a wedding to warn His followers to wait diligently for His return (Matthew 25:1–13; Luke 12:35–36).
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