This statement by Jesus follows a question. Here is the question and the situation:
"Can the servants of the bridechamber fast while the bridegroom is with them? They can’t fast. But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them and then they will fast on those days." (Mark 2:19-20)
Then John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting. So they asked him, “Why do the disciples of John and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples don’t?” (Mark 2:18)They are speaking of the act of devotional fasting. This type of fasting is an ancient practice - done for special holy days - notably those days of the birth or disappearance day of a prophet.
Jesus is now utilizing an analogy - or parable - to answer the question.
Who are the servants of the bridegroom?Jesus is referring to the servants of the bridegroom as his disciples. Those who were assisting him in his efforts to teach love of God to the people. This is confirmed by the question being asked in Mark 2:18 (above).
The word "servants" is being translated from the Greek word, υἱός (huios). Interestingly, this same Greek word is the word that has been inaccurately translated to "son" in the phrases, "son of God," "son of David" and "son of man" among most Bible versions.
But as we see here, this word does not necessarily mean "son." It certainly can, but only within the context of a person being the physical offspring of another. This is confirmed by the Thayer lexicon definition:
"in a restricted sense, the male offspring (one born by a father and of a mother)" - otherwise "used to describe one who depends on another or is his follower."
The word υἱός (huios) is also translated to words other than "son" in most New Testament versions:
"your people" (Matt 12:27)So we can see that depending upon the context, the word υἱός (huios) was used variably by Jesus depending upon the context. Elsewhere we discuss its translation to the "son of God" and "son of man."
"people of this age" (Luke 20:34)
"children of the resurrection" (Luke 20:36)
"the children" (Matt. 17:26)
"the friend who attends" (John 3:29)
"friends of the bridegroom" (Luke 5:34)
Given the above, the word "guests" - as translated in some Biblical translations - would not be an appropriate translation for υἱός (huios), given the context of Jesus' parable. Rather, υἱός (huios) indicates a subservient role - "who depends on another or is his follower."
Furthermore, the translation of the word υἱός (huios) to "friends" in some translations) would also not make sense, as this is a subservient role - as υἱός (huios) indicates. We can see this even among the different versions of the Bible, as the King James version says "children of the bridegroom" and the American Standard Bible says "attendants of the bridegroom" for Luke 5:34.
So is Jesus talking about the friends, children, or attendants of the bridegroom here?
The reality is that in ancient weddings, each party - the bride and the bridegroom - was attended to by servants who made appropriate preparations and maintained the affairs during the wedding. Ancient weddings were often extravagant affairs, lasting at least a full day, and sometimes multiple days.
Also during these times, larger estates typically employed servants who took care of their houses, and in the circumstance of a wedding, took care of the affairs of the wedding on behalf of either the bride or bridegroom.
Otherwise, wedding servants or attendants were retained specifically for the wedding.
In modern Western marriages, this custom still prevails in the form of bridesmaids and the groomsmen. However, these roles are typically taken up by friends of each rather than servants. Nevertheless, their roles are still being attendants, as we can see within the words "bridesmaids" and groomsmen." After all, a "maid" is traditionally a servant.
Thus the more appropriate translation of the word υἱός (huios) in this context would be "attendant" or "servant" rather than "guests" or "children" or "friends" in Jesus' parable.
And such a translation now gives Jesus' parable meaning:
"Can the servants of the bridechamber fast while the bridegroom is with them?"
Why can't the servants of the bridegroom fast?
The servants of the bridechamber can't fast because they need the strength to take care of the arrangements for the wedding. Can you imagine trying to work all day while you are fasting? It would be very difficult because you would have a lack of energy. And the servants need energy in order to lift things and carry things and so on - because they were servants.
Besides, why would guests or friends of the bridegroom fast? They are simply guests or friends. They would have no obligation to fast. But an attendant or servant be differently qualified. A servant is subservient. A servant would fast to honor their master when he was gone.
When the servants are attending to the needs of the bridegroom they would also have to eat in order to keep their strength up, would they not? If they were fasting they would become weak, and they could not properly attend to the various responsibilities of an exhaustive wedding. In ancient times, weddings could last upwards of 8 hours.
Who is the bridegroom?
Jesus is speaking of himself here, as God's representative. The question brought to him was:
"How is it that John's disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees are fasting, but yours are not?"Thus we see that the question is speaking of Jesus' disciples - John's disciples versus "yours." And as Jesus is referring to the attendants or servants of the bridegroom - analogous to Jesus' disciples - Jesus is referring to the bridegroom as himself - God's representative.
In other words, Jesus is saying that his followers are busy working on behalf of Jesus - as he was working to preach to others. Their mission was to assist him just as attendants of the bridegroom would be assisting the bridegroom in their mission to be married.
Jesus is speaking of that day when he will be leaving his physical body and returning to the spiritual realm. That day of disappearance from the physical eyes of the spiritual teacher's followers will from that point forward be celebrated by his followers with fasting.
This refers to the custom of ancient Judaism of fasting on the day of the disappearance of a former prophet, which was why the Pharisees and John's disciples were fasting in the first place.
Jesus is indicating that Jesus' followers were busy helping him in his mission. Thus they could not fast, as that would interfere with their efforts to serve. But Jesus also indicates that it would be appropriate that they fast on holy days after his disappearance.
Fasting versus 'Easter' on Jesus' disappearanceJesus clearly indicates that after his disappearance, his followers will resume fasting:
"... and then they will fast on those days."So where is that commemoration among today's supposed followers of Jesus? Today we find that most of the so-called followers of Jesus do not pay any attention to Jesus' instruction here. They do not fast on those days of remembrance. They don't even fast on Jesus' disappearance day.
Instead, today's supposed followers of Jesus refer to the day Jesus was persecuted as, "Good Friday." And they celebrate this day along with Easter with a mad rush for materialism.
And what is so "good" about Jesus' physical body being tortured and grotesquely murdered?
Instead of commemorating Jesus's life and teachings with fasting and devotion, they worship materialism in the form of the Easter bunny. Instead of fasting in remembrance, they gorge on big feasts with candy and Easter egg hunts. What does the Easter bunny have to do with Jesus' teachings?
In fact, the Easter bunny originates from the pagan Saxon celebration of the idol/demigoddess called Eastre - considered the goddess of the spring.
So this materialistic celebration not only has nothing to do with Jesus: it is based upon idol worship.
So a mad rush for materialism is how we should remember the life of the person who came to save us from materialism?
Jesus' teachings were the opposite of materialism. He taught that we are not these physical bodies and the physical world will not make us happy:
"And don’t fear those who can kill the body but are unable to kill the soul." (Matt. 10:28)Jesus taught that we are not these temporary physical bodies. We are the living beings - the spirit-persons - within these physical bodies. We are each spiritual in essence, and our happiness cannot be found by putting our love upon the forms and things of this temporary physical world.
Our happiness, Jesus taught, is found by putting our love upon the Supreme Being:
“The most important of all the instructions is, ‘Hear O Israel – the LORD our God is our only Lord – and you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength’ – this is the most important instruction." (Mark 12:29-30)