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This question is a follow up from yesterday’s question; “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and ‘sinners’?” (5:30). Now they say; “John’s disciples often fast and pray, and so do the disciples of the Pharisees, but yours go on eating and drinking.” Jesus’ answer gives an insight into his position, his purpose and his mission.
There are plenty of New Testament references where Jesus is pictured as a bridegroom and his people the bride. John said; “The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete.” (John 3:29) The picture is clear, Jesus is the man, he is the one, the Messiah. This is a time for celebration and feasting and not fasting.
Amidst the joy there is a warning; the bridegroom will be taken away. There have been echoes of his ultimate destiny already; in his name (Jesus means the Lord saves), the preaching of John, the warning of Simeon, but this is the first reference from the Lord Jesus that he will die, there will be many more. His purpose was always that he should give his life as a ransom for sin. The disciples didn’t seem to pick up the warning. They certainly had no idea of the terrible suffering he would endure. Jesus said that when he was taken away, after his death and resurrection, his disciples would fast. Perhaps that’s a call to us to be serious in prayer.
The Pharisees had a rule for everything. They took the Law of Moses with all its regulations and then added their own oral Law, which they placed on equal terms with scripture. Thousands of rules to govern human behaviour in every possible situation were added. Some of these interpretations were an absurd exercise in box ticking, as we shall see tomorrow. Jesus used two allusions, the new patch in an old garment and new wine in an old wine skin, to state that he had no interest in playing this game. He didn’t come to prop up Judaism, or even reform it. He came to announce the kingdom of God and it could not be contained by religion.
Thank you Lord that Jesus did not come to improve religion, he came to save us. Thank you too that he did not bow to the pressure to become part of a dead system. Help us Lord to be the new wine that cannot be contained and help us to live in relationship with you.