Then the disciples of John came to him, saying, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?”And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.No one puts a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch tears away from the garment, and a worse tear is made. Neither is new wine put into old wineskins. If it is, the skins burst and the wine is spilled and the skins are destroyed. But new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved.”
(Matthew 9:14-17 ESV)
In today’s passage disciples of John the Baptist come to Jesus with a question. When Jesus began His public ministry John encouraged his disciples to stop following him and to follow Jesus [John 3:28-30]. Apparently not everyone did that.
John’s disciples wonder why they and the Pharisees fast but [Jesus’] disciples do not fast. They had noticed a discrepancy between what the current leaders were teaching and what Jesus was teaching and they wanted to know which was right.
This sounds exactly like today doesn’t it? Our culture tells us that homosexuality is an acceptable practice as is abortion, pornography, excessive debt, and myriad other activities that conflict with what God tells us.
Sadly, most people never question this. They just blindly follow the ways of the world and never stop to think about what they actually think. Credit should be given to John’s disciples for taking the time to look into it. We cannot find truth unless we take the time to seek it [Matthew 7:7].
Jesus first explains that their view on fasting is incorrect. As we learned a while back, the Pharisees believed fasting was a ritual performed to appease God. But Jesus points out that fasting is driven by spiritual mourning.
Since Jesus’ disciples were in the very presence of God there was no need for them to mourn or fast. But at some point Jesus (the bridegroom) would be taken away from them. That would be the time for them to fast. Notice that Jesus is predicting His own death here. He’s also telling them that He is not the military Messiah who will overthrow Rome that they’ve been mistakenly waiting for.
Jesus then points out that His teachings cannot exist with current philosophy. Just like a new piece of cloth cannot be used to repair an old garment because it would shrink and tear away from the garment, Jesus was not trying repair faulty worldly thinking. That would be futile.
Additionally, Jesus’ teachings were so profound that they could not even be contained in the current worldview just like new, unfermented wine (which will expand) cannot be put into old wineskins. New wine (i.e. Jesus’ new teachings) required fresh wineskins (i.e. a new way of looking at the world).
Jesus taught a message of grace and forgiveness which went against what the Pharisees were teaching. Jesus explains that the Pharisees were wrong about fasting and they were wrong about pretty much everything else.
Note that Jesus is not saying that the Old Testament is now void. We know this because He had previously told us that He did not come to abolish the law (the Old Testament). He is saying that man-made philosophy is wrong.
Things haven’t changed much in 2,000 years. The message of the Bible – God’s message – is still at odds with culture. To understand God one needs a completely new mindset [Romans 12:2].
The way the world thinks is completely at odds with what God tells us. Man has always wanted to live by his own rules. But that will never work. God is right. We are wrong.
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