18 Now John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting. Some people came and asked Jesus, “How is it that John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees are fasting, but yours are not?”
We should be bursting out of our skin to share our Saviour, with people.
19 Jesus answered, “How can the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? They cannot, so long as they have him with them. 20 But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them, and on that day they will fast.
21 “No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. Otherwise, the new piece will pull away from the old, making the tear worse. 22 And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins.”
Fasting, at least as when I was growing up, didn’t seem to be something that was all that common. I believe it is making a bit of a comeback. I myself tried it, during a time of uncertainty and decision-making in my life and found that it really helped to focus me and make me more aware of God’s voice. I will not use this post to discuss the benefits or the process. There are many types of fast and there is plenty of information available. I will however, recommend fasting as a spiritual discipline, something that can help to focus your spiritual walk, give you a humble sacrificial attitude to intercessory prayer, and remind you to focus on Christ.
In this story, Jesus is challenged that His disciples are not fasting. His response? They can’t (and shouldn’t) fast while He is with them. What are the principles we can learn from this story?
- When Jesus is with you there is a need for celebration and energy. This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t fast but we probably shouldn’t fast on Sabbath (a day given as a gift to be enjoyed). It means that we shouldn’t use fasting as a measure of our own righteousness, which seems to be the measuring stick that Jesus’ disciples were using.
- There is still need for fasting today, especially in situations where the bridegroom seems absent. Now we often rationalise this point away, saying Jesus lives in all of us through the Holy Spirit so He is always with us but there are definite scenarios where fasting invites the bridegroom back into a situation. Think about fasting for others who don’t have Jesus, think about fasting for a sick relative or an employment situation that is causing grief.
- What about the garments and wineskins? Well here is my take on it. Maybe when we encounter new disciples, those who have just met Jesus and are still basking in the presence of the bridegroom, we shouldn’t push them into old wineskins or expect them to fit into our definitions of sacrifice. Instead of demanding they give up meat or smoking and wear suits to church, we should accept them and allow the Holy Spirit to do the convicting. Now I am not saying that standards are not important or should be compromised. I am just trying to work out for my own life what the Saviour meant by this parable, and I think it is don’t try to fit new grapes into old skins. Let them mature into their skin.
I think Jesus is saying that religion and its practises were made for man, not in spite of him. So we as believers and those who strive after the Kingdom, should treat people appropriately, and use the gifts God has given us in an appropriate manner. We should be bursting out of our skin to share our Saviour, with people. It is a concept I believe Mark emphasises in the next few stories that we will look at in the next few days.
Father, help me to follow you with joy, not as a burden but as an honour. May I be flexible with the external but not the internal and may I reach someone today with your love and understanding. Amen.