Text: Matthew 3:16-17, Matthew 4:1-4, Acts 13:1-3, Ezra 8:21-23
Do you remember the story of the four guys who dropped their paralytic friend through a roof in order to be healed by Jesus? (It’s not a part of our reading for today, but you’ll find their story in Mark 2:1-12.)
This very hopeless man was at Point A, and Jesus—the man they’d heard was healing many—was at Point B. Things would have stayed this way had his friends not interceded. They carried him across town and knocked on the door of the home where they knew Jesus was teaching.
It turns out, they weren’t the only ones with this big idea. The Bible says the home was so full of people eager to hear Jesus’ message, even the doorway was blocked (v. 2). Their intercession mission might have been short-lived had it not been for the persistence of these four friends. They did whatever they could to get their sick friend to Jesus—even if that meant carrying him to the roof of the house and cutting a hole through the branches and dried clay above where Jesus was teaching.
Jesus forgave the man’s sins right away because, no matter how sick we are, our sin is always more profound. He showed the house full of people that day that He has authority to both forgive sins and heal bodies, and he did both for the paralytic whose friends carried him to Jesus.
This is intercession. It’s working and sweating and not stopping—forsaking all worldly sensibilities because people need Jesus.
The Bible is filled with accounts of men and women fasting as a means of earnest intercession. Sometimes they intercede before long journeys, like Ezra did before Israel’s return trip to Jerusalem from exile (Ezra 8:21-23), or as the early church did before sending men out on missionary journeys (Acts 13:1-3). Other times, the intercession was in the midst of trouble, like when Nehemiah heard of the destruction occurring to the place and people of his hometown. He tore his clothes and fasted and prayed on their 800-miles-away behalf, asking the Lord to help them:
“As soon as I heard these words I sat down and wept and mourned for days, and I continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven . . . let your ear be attentive and your eyes open, to hear the prayer of your servant that I now pray before you day and night for the people of Israel your servants . . . ”
Fasting is a tangible way we can declare our utter dependence on the Lord. It can also be a way we lay others at the feet of Jesus.
When I think about the men who pursued Jesus tirelessly on behalf of their friend, and Nehemiah who petitioned and fasted and repented before the Lord on behalf of his people, I remember that however compassionate those men were, God’s compassion is greater still. Because I serve a God of compassion who answers the persistent petitions of His people (Nehemiah 2:1-9) I can approach the throne just as boldly, just as reverently, and with the same persistence, and be heard by the Almighty God upon whom no prayers are wasted.
We fast because our need is great and our God is greater. We fast in reverence of this truth. In fasting, we are saying to God, “Our spiritual need is greater than our physical discomfort and the supply for both comes from You alone.”
We fast because He listens.
Let’s lower the physical and spiritual needs of others on a mat before Jesus, trusting and remembering that He has all authority in heaven and on earth, to heal our bodies and forgive our sins.