MAIN TEXT: MARK 2:18-22
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?” 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. The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in that day.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. 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.”
As we’ve explored the Gospel of Mark, we’ve been following the cues of the author John Mark as he is showing us who Jesus is by displaying for us what Jesus has done. Right out of the gate, Mark declares that Jesus is the Son of God. This title is perhaps Mark’s main point in his Gospel, that Jesus is God. Mark shows us over and over again the truth of this statement by allowing us to have glimpses into the life and ministry of Jesus while on earth.
Our section today occurs within a larger framework of sections that show Jesus being confronted and opposed by the religious people. In our text, we see Jesus being questioned by people who were likely incredibly influenced with the religious leaders of that day. They come to Jesus and ask him why Jesus and his disciples do not practice fasting as other disciples they know of practice fasting. These people are trying to figure Jesus out.
What Jesus communicates in this section is that he is unlike any other teacher they know. He is unmatched among men and his presence is entirely unique.
In our culture and society, there are popular notions that would suggest that there is not a single way to attain fellowship with God, go to heaven, find satisfaction in the life after this life, etc., but rather, there are many various ways to gain these things. This idea is called pluralism and is a reflection of the state of our society.
However, more particularly, even within the context of those that would call themselves “Christ-followers” there is a notion that is equally–if not perhaps more–damaging as pluralism. This notion is that Jews can be saved through strict observance of the Torah and the law and Gentiles (meaning everybody else) must be saved through Jesus. This idea is called “Dual Covenant” because it states that God now has two active covenants or promises. It essentially says that there are two paths to God, not one.
Our church is centered on the truth that is there is only one path to God. Our very name reflects this truth, Via Church. Via means “way” and its reference verse is John 14:6, where Jesus says, “I am the way”. There are no other ways. The new covenant has fully and finally fulfilled and made obsolete the old covenant. We do not pursue God by trying to resurrect ancient Jewish practice and observances, but rather, we are promised a new spirit that dwells in us, marking a new era of operation as God’s People.
Jesus’ arrival marked a new time, a new era, a new age. As Christians, we must be aware of this newness and embrace the all-encompassing change that Jesus brings to our lives, our church and our world. Mark shows us that Jesus has many points of conflict with religious people over what he was teaching and how he was living. You may find that as you mature in Christ, you have more conflict and tension with highly religious people than you do with irreligious people. This is what occurred with Jesus and as his disciples, we should expect no less.
Jesus came to bring joy, not sorrow
One important truth that we must realize is that the arrival of Jesus is cause for celebration. Jesus compares his coming and presence to that of a bridegroom, showing that it would be improper for his disciples to fast (which usually indicated mourning) during the time when he was with them. This was rather an occasion for joy and celebration! This was essentially, a time to party.
The Pharisees had developed very strict regulations for their lives. They were the epitome of religiosity. Their lives were ones that were lived out to prove to others and to God that they were worthy of respect, honor, spiritual clout and praise. They didn’t have eyes to see Jesus or ears to hear Jesus, because they already had their Messiah–they were their own savior.
They may have appeared super-spiritual, but they were actually very self-deceived. Without a repentant heart, fasting is a useless exercise. It may help you lose a little weight, but it will not accomplish a thing in your heart by itself. Ultimately, the confrontation between Jesus and the Pharisees was not simply over fasting, but over the traditions they had grown to embrace, declare and practice.
Jesus radically changes everything. As a Christ-follower, you are not your own, but you’ve been bought with a price (1 Corinthians 6:20). You are called to honor God with your bodies, meaning the totality of your being now must exist to reflect his glory (his worth, his praise, his love, his character) to creation. When we consider what our sin cost, we should mourn and we should fast. When we consider the change that was wrought in our soul through the work of Christ, we should celebrate, party, dance and sing!
Jesus came to make things new, not to perpetuate the old
Mark then brings to the forefront two parables that Jesus shares, which highlight the misunderstanding about the integration of this new way that Jesus is declaring. The old cannot contain the new. Your old systems will destroy (and will be destroyed by) the new. You cannot add Jesus on to your mix of beliefs, this shows that you do not see Jesus truly.
Theologian James R. Edwards says concerning these two parables: “The new patch and new wine are incompatible with the old cloth and wineskins; and if the attempt is made to combine them, the new substances will destroy the old.” The beauty of this imagery is that Jesus makes all things new (2 Corinthians 5:17).
In his person, he perfectly fulfills what was required of Israel in the law, and through his death, he fully atones for the sins of his people. We do not need to observe practices that were pointing to what was fulfilled in Christ. Our focus must be on reflecting Christ and exalting him, so that the world can see that the all-satisfying way to God is not found in a concoction of practices, sayings, observances, rituals, etc., but rather in a person, Jesus Christ.
Everything changes with Jesus!
APPLY TO LIFE
This week, as you reflect on the message, utilize this section to help you apply what has been taught to your life. Think of friends, co-workers, neighbors, family etc., that you could meet with to have a time of mutual sharing as you open God’s Word together.
This simple acronym (BLESS, B - Bless, L - Listen, E - Eat, S - Speak, S - Sabbath) should help you to frame your life according to the great commandment “love God” (Matthew 22:37) and the expression of that commandment in loving your neighbor (John 13:34). Each time you meet, start by discussing the rhythms of your life according to B.L.E.S.S.
Intentionally bless: Christ-followers, non-believers and those different than you.
Listen to what God is saying to you, through His Word and others.
Share a meal with a Christ-follower and also a non-believer.
Talk to God through prayer and to others about Jesus through witness.
Be intentional about taking time to both rest and recreate.
DISCUSS THE MESSAGE
Read: Mark 2:18-22
How would you respond to someone who asked if there weren’t several roads that lead to God?
How is our life before salvation like an “old garment” that cannot be merely patched up?
How is our relationship with God in Christ like “new wine” that cannot be contained within our old way of life?