Reading the Word
Mark 2:18–22 (ESV)
18 Now John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting. And people came and said to him, “Why do John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” 19 And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. 20 The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in that day. 21 No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. If he does, the patch tears away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear is made. 22 And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins—and the wine is destroyed, and so are the skins. But new wine is for fresh wineskins.”
Parallel Texts: Matthew 9:14-17; Luke 5:33-39
Understanding and Applying the Word
John the Baptist’s followers asked Jesus about fasting. They wondered why Jesus’ disciples did not fast, while the followers of John and the Pharisees all did. Fasting was seen as a pious religious activity at this time. The Pharisees were said to fast twice per week (Luke 18:12).
Jesus began by saying that as long as the bridegroom was present, it was a time for celebration, not fasting. Jesus’ disciples were in the presence of Christ and fasting is a display of desperation, not celebration. So, fasting was not appropriate while Jesus was present with his followers. However, the day would come when Jesus would no longer be present and his disciples would fast.
Jesus then goes on to talk about sewing unshrunk cloth to an old garment and putting new wine into new wineskins. This seems odd at first. What does this have to do with fasting? Jesus’ illustrations demonstrate the same point. A new piece of cloth would shrink and tear the old cloth that had already shrunk. Also, new wine, when it would ferment, would break old wineskins that had already expanded as far as they could. The new wine needs new wineskins and new cloth can only be attached to new cloth.
With Jesus, we have entered into a new era. No longer do we relate to God in the same way as the people who lived prior to the cross. Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection have forever changed how we access God. We go through the finished work of Christ and that is cause for celebration.
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