This Sunday Brad spoke on Mark 2: 18-22. Teaching on this passage Brad explains how Jesus uses parables of wineskins and bridegrooms to teach that He alone is our joy and righteousness.
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?”
This passage begins with John’s disciples and the Pharisees fasting. The people come to Jesus and ask him why John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but his disciples don’t. To give context, in the Mosaic Law, there was only one time people were commanded to fast, and that was the Day of Atonement. We talked about the Day of Atonement on Thursday night, it was one day once every year where all of the sins of Israel are atoned for and taken away. There was a big ritual and lots of sacrifices that took place, and all the sins of the people of Israel were taken care of, they were dealt with. So on this day, the people were supposed to fast.
In addition, prophets fasting is seen as a form of mourning, to mourn loss or sin or tragedy. This is probably the fasting tradition that carried into the first century when Jesus was on the earth.John has been arrested, and we learn in other gospel accounts that he is executed. So it is likely that John’s disciples were fasting in this way, mourning the loss of John the Baptist, their leader. This is further supported by Jesus’ response later.
We also know that through Jewish history fasting became a part of the tradition where twice a week, every Monday and Thursday, they would fast. It eventually became a symbol of mourning, but to show how religious you were. It became an outward expression of self-righteousness instead of an inward repentance. That was more likely the fasting the Pharisees were doing.
Johns disciples were fasting in mourning of the loss of their leader, and the Pharisees and their disciples were fasting according to the Jewish ritual of displaying your piety to God and others. And people see that this is happening, that these two groups of people are fasting, and they ask Jesus why his disciples aren’t doing the same. Jesus’ response is interesting.
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.
Jesus uses an example of wedding guests and a bridegroom. He says that no one fasts while the bridegroom is with them, because if the bridegroom is with them then its a party! The wedding is taking place, it is a celebration. There is no time for mourning, only time for joy and excitement, because the bridegroom is there. Jesus is saying that he is the bridegroom. The bridegroom is there, with his disciples, so they have no reason to fast. There is no reason to mourn because the bridegroom is with them. It is a time of joy and celebration because the kingdom of God is here.But, there will be a time, there will be a day when the bridegroom is taken from them. And then, on that day, they will fast. They will fast because the bridegroom has been killed. The one who claimed to be the Messiah will be taken away from them. There will be mourning on 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.”
Then Jesus talks about sewing a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment and putting new wine into old wineskins. In both cases, the old thing is destroyed because it cannot hold or contain the new. So what is going on here and how does it relate? Jesus has addressed the fasting of John’s disciples and has said that his disciples have no need to fast because he is still with them. Now he addresses the Pharisees fasting. Because with the coming of the bridegroom, since Jesus is here, the kingdom of God has come. The old way of doing things, the old rituals and ceremonies and the things that Jews added to the law to show off their piety and righteousness will not be able to contain the new life that Jesus is bringing.
Jesus is changing the way people relate to God. There is no more need to fast or do sacrifices or offerings or anything like that right, because Jesus is fulfilling all of that. And in the same way, fasting for the purpose of showing off your piety and righteousness has no room in the message that Jesus is preaching. Jesus is preaching a message of repentance and confession, where you acknowledge your failure to be righteous before God and receive the righteousness of Jesus instead. The old way of doing things, the old fasting of the Pharisees has no room for this. In fact, the new message that Jesus is bringing will destroy the old container that a relationship with God was held in.
So this is great and all, but what does it mean for us?
First, maybe you are like John’s disciples. You have put your faith into a person or a thing, and that is what you find your joy in. Maybe you associate your relationship with God with your parents, or a friend, or your small group leader. Or maybe you find joy in sports, or school, or music. There are a lot of things that we can find joy in, or put our faith in, and they aren’t always bad, John the Baptist was a good guy, but what happens when they get taken away? Everything on this earth will fade away. There will be a day when you can’t play sports anymore. There will be a day when you no longer go to school. There will be a day when the people in your life who you associate your faith with are no longer with you. What will your response be when those things are taken away? If you aren’t sure what those things in your life are, ask yourself how you would respond if it was taken away. When we take stock of the various things in our life, we will often find that we are finding our joy in things that don’t last instead of in Jesus.
John’s disciples had faith in John the Baptist. They found joy in following him. So when he was taken away they mourned. Jesus’ disciples had no reason to mourn, because Jesus was with them. There would be a day where they would mourn when he was killed and placed in the tomb, but that mourning only lasted until he rose from the dead. And that is where we live now. We live after the cross and after the resurrection. Jesus is with us. The king is here. We have reason to rejoice and celebrate because the bridegroom is here. Jesus is where we find our joy, not in people or things or activities.
Now, this doesn’t mean we never mourn. There is a time to mourn, the Bible even says so. But, if our mourning lasts forever, or if we fail to continue to see Jesus as king in the midst of our mourning, then we should question how important the thing we lost was to us.
Or maybe you’re the Pharisees. You relate to God in a “ritualistic” way. You know all the right answers on Thursday night, you read your Bible every day, you pray before meals, you do all the right things. And you should. These are good things. But if your faith is defined by what it is that you do, then you are missing the sweetness of Jesus. The Pharisees were trying to relate to God through mundane rituals that were supposed to prove their righteousness, but there is no room for Jesus in that. Jesus brings a message of humility. A message in which one has to realize they are unrighteous to accept. So are you trying to prove your righteousness by reading your Bible or answering all the questions or praying all the time, or do you do those things because you realize you are unrighteous and are in desperate need of Jesus? See the difference?
Jesus can offer us his righteousness because he became a righteous sacrifice on our behalf. He lived a perfect life with no sin but was killed on a cross, suffering the punishment for our sin. When this happened, the disciples mourned. They had put their hope and their faith in this man, and now he was gone. But he didn’t stay gone. He rose from the dead giving the disciples and you and me, even more reason to rejoice. He proved that he was the Messiah and that he could offer righteousness to those who believed so that you and I don’t have to read our Bibles or pray in order to be accepted by God, but instead we believe in Jesus and are accepted by God. Our response then is to read our Bible and pray because we want to communicate with the God who has saved us from our unrighteousness.
Jesus is our one true joy, and our only hope for righteousness.