Jesus had every reason to be bitter and angry when he stood before Pilate. He had been betrayed and denied by his own disciples. The Jewish leaders had him arrested on trumped up charges. The people had preferred that Pilate release a murderer. The guards mocked him, placing a wreath of thorns on his head, before spitting on him. Yet Mark portrays him as calm and detached.
The guards expected bitterness and anger. Such a response might have eased their gruesome task: nailing him to a cross.
Anger can be a dangerous emotion. One that unleashes harsh words that can’t be recalled. Words that can have an impact that lasts far beyond their usefulness.
The Prophet Isaiah provides an alternative response:
The Lord God will help me and prove I am innocent.
My accusers will wear out like moth-eaten clothes.
— Isaiah 50:9 (CEV)
Fasting from bitterness and anger requires learning to take time to think through how I might respond, using my advanced human brain, rather than my animal instincts. Daily meditative prayer allows me to practice letting stray thoughts amble through my mind, without dwelling on any one thought. So that when circumstances might evoke a strong emotional response, I might allow those thoughts to amble through, I might be able to give God time to help me and prove my innocence, to wear out my accusers.
Fasting from bitterness can lead to forgiving others. Not letting them off the hook, ignoring the pain that they have caused in harming, but letting go of the string that binds us together, giving me time to heal. Forgiveness need not deny guilt, merely responsibility for retribution, allowing me to separate from the incident lest my bitterness eat in to my spiritual health.
When have you forgiven someone who hurt you?