Why Fast, The Bridegroom Is Still Here

The attack on Jesus in His early ministry emanated mostly from the Pharisees and the Scribes. This was the case when Jesus was in His house and many publicans and sinners went out to meet with Him. He was having supper with the “disreputable guests” and more than likely many of them had become His followers. To this, the religious scholars were not happy (Jesus sat to eat with these undistinguished guests) with the relationship between the Jewish, Jesus and “sinners” because it was spelt out as part of their creeds not to relate with people who weren’t Jews.

The Pharisees were the separated ones; they were the true defenders of the orthodox Hebrew religion. Their forte majored round separation, doctrinal purity, they fasted twice a week, they paid their tithes and attended public worship. They will never break the Sabbath, they prayed often, never associated with sinful people and held fast to the traditions of the elders. They also believed the Old Testament scriptures to be the Word of God, they believed in eternal life and death, in angels, demons and the supernatural; they also believe in resurrection but declined to believe that Jesus was the Christ.

To the Pharisees, Jesus was already in the wrong eating with sinners and publicans and the next thing was to approach Him to register their displeasure. They had in their company the disciples of John because they were loyal to their traditions. They came to Him and asked for the reason why His disciples would not fast knowing that it was a tradition adopted by the Pharisees through the Mosaic Law. The Law prescribed only one fast on the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16:29-31). They had to fast on this day, looking sober so that their sins would be covered as the High Priest approached the mercy seat.

Jesus in response to the people who had come to accuse Him, answered by giving three short parables.

First, He asked them a question about the wedding feast. He asked if the guests at a wedding feast fast while the bridegroom is with them? His hearers knew what happened during wedding ceremonies as in the time and effort invested in it. According to their culture, two invitation cards were sent out, one to let the invited guests know or become aware of the wedding and the second invitation card would be sent when the food is ready (they had no refrigerating set at that time).

At the stage of His statement, the wedding was already in place and it would be pointless for the invited guest to fast at that time. As long as the wedding was going on, they cannot fast. When the bridegroom leaves the father-in-laws house, the attendants will be filled with sorrow. He referred to Himself as the bridegroom who will be taken away when delivered to the Jews and the Gentiles (the days of His death).

While the bridegroom is still around (to continue to fast with Jesus was akin to fasting and being mournful during a wedding celebration in which the groom is present), they should all be merry and eventually He would become the Passover lamb slaughtered for the remission of our sins. Jesus was already making them understand that the Old Testament was or is fading away and drew their attention to the coming of the New Testament. So it should be a time of celebration, because He is the fulfillment of their Mosaic prophecies.

Secondly he answered their question by presenting another very important parable to drive His point home about the Old and the New Testament. “For no man,” says Jesus, puts a piece of new cloth unto an old garment.” He is again establishing His argument by illustrations from common life. Trying to patch a new piece of cloth using an old piece of material would render the whole cloth worse than it used to be. And what He says is like this, “The disciples have not yet become resilient, but still need much condescension. They have not yet been renewed by the Spirit, and on persons in that state one ought not to lay any burden of injunctions.”

As far as Jesus was concerned, there would always be a difference between the Old and the New. The Old would remain the Old while the New will remain the New. There would be no interjection between the two Testaments as they stand apart from each other. The debacle between Apostle Paul and Apostle Peter was because Peter was trying to mix Judaism with the New Testament. Jesus is here making a demarcation between the two and any attempt to cross mix would become an abomination, which would be contrary to the lesson laid by the Master.

The two testaments carried two distinct and separate ordinances and it would be impossible to live in the New as though one was in the Old. This was also the struggle the Pharisees and the Sadducees had; they became rigid to the Old Testament and when the New Testament came they opposed it and refused to believe in the coming of the Messiah. They stuck to the Old and the New did not mean anything to them; this is the reason why they came castigating Jesus and all He stood for.

Finally, He nails the coffin by giving a third analogy. He speaks of New Wine, Old bottle relationship. There is a danger in putting New Wine into an Old Wine sack (bottle). Wine ferments and the danger of putting the New in an Old wine sack is when the New Wine ferments, the old sack might not be able to contain it; the old wine sack will burst causing a spillage of the New Wine.

Jesus, while He speaks of the present, He foretells also the future; as they shall hereafter be new but until that comes to pass, nothing austere and grievous ought to be imposed on Him and His disciples. For he, says Jesus, that seeks to instill the high doctrines before the proper time, hence not even when the time calls will he find them to his purpose, having once for all made them unprofitable. And this comes to pass not by any fault of the wine, nor of the deceivers, but from the unseasonable act of them that put it in.

Here Jesus contrasts the old Jewish system (old wine) to the message of the kingdom and the revelation that was to follow (new wine).  He’s making a simple statement of fact.  He’s not saying He agrees that the old is better; He’s saying that people think the old is better.  He’s warning against the tendency in people to hold on to the old, oppose and contest change, over value the old or find false refuge in it.

The word translated “old” is palaios, and is used to designate something whose time has past or that which has lost its efficacy or is worn out.  The old Jewish system had lost its usefulness (this same word is used to describe the “old” garment in the second parable).  At any rate, the old system had its time, but now its time was past.  It had lost its usefulness and was being substituted with something better.  It was worn out and the time had come for those who had ears to hear to begin asking for the new (John 2, the marriage at the Cana of Galilee). The word translated “new” is neos, and is used to designate something that is fresh and latest. Therefore New Wine must be put in new Wine sacks or bottle.

Having said all these, it would therefore mean that when we try to mix our newly found love in Christ with the Old testament Laws, we swing into abomination, the old wine skin will burst pouring out the New Wine in wastage. This is what we have found in the Church today, Christians trying to sustain their salvation with the laws of the Old Testament gravitating into works and not grace.

If any man be in Christ it is not only said that he is a creation, but a new creation, and the word here translated “new,” as has been well observed, does not signify recent, but something altogether different from that which previously existed. The old nature never does improve, it is as earthly, and sensual, and devilish in the saint of eighty years of age as it was when he first came to Christ; it is unimproved and un-improvable; towards God it is enmity itself: every imagination of the thoughts of the heart is evil, and that continually – C H Spurgeon

Be Refreshed!


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