They said to Jesus, Come, let us pray today and let us fast.
Jesus said, What is the sin that I have committed, or wherein have I been defeated? But when the bridegroom leaves the bridal chamber, then let them fast and pray. (104)
There are certain people who have a pathological attachment to practices of self-denial, especially those that cause them discomfort. Usually this attachment is based on self-loathing and a masochistic desire for punishment. At the same time it is a way to continually draw attention to themselves. Fasting is for some reason an obsession with many, especially if it gives them a chance to publicly refuse food and tell others that they are fasting. Others of this type are continually observing silence in public where they can make a point of it to everyone. Both of these not only make themselves the center of attention, they manage to make everyone around them feel awkward and embarrassed, unsure of how to respond and act. If they can also manage to inconvenience others, it is an added bonus. Their fasting and silence are never done in private with no one else knowing about it. They are spiritual sociopaths.
Jesus has just been invited by these neurotic exhibitionists to join them in holy self-denial. He immediately and vehemently rejects the proposal on the ground that it has no purpose; that indeed such observances may have relevance when there is need of self-purification, but otherwise are pointless displays.
There are other forms of this peculiarity, almost always involved with food for some reason. The perpetrators like to refuse something offered them and ask for something peculiar and hopefully difficult to supply. (In The Screwtape Letters one of them asks for weak tea and dry toast, as I recall.) Here, too, we are dealing with a kind of Pharisee who makes a big to do so everyone knows how disciplined and self-denying they are.
Having said all that, I must add that Jesus indicates there are times when such discipline is appropriate, but only when done in private and for good (right) reasons. And he has shown us how to deal with such people. I hope you keep it in mind.
Read the next article in the Gospel of Thomas for Yogis: Daring to Know