33 They said to him, “John’s disciples often fast and pray, and so do the disciples of the Pharisees, but yours go on eating and drinking.”
34 Jesus answered, “Can you make the friends of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? 35 But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; in those days they will fast.”
36 He told them this parable: “No one tears a piece out of a new garment to patch an old one. Otherwise, they will have torn the new garment, and the patch from the new will not match the old. 37 And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the new wine will burst the skins; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. 38 No, new wine must be poured into new wineskins. 39 And no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for they say, ‘The old is better.’”
Luke 5:33-39 (NIV)
14 Then John’s disciples came and asked him, “How is it that we and the Pharisees fast often, but your disciples do not fast?”
15 Jesus answered, “How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them? The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast.
16 “No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch will pull away from the garment, making the tear worse. 17 Neither do people pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.”
Matthew 9:14-17 (NIV)
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?”
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.”
Mark 2:18-22 (NIV)
The first recorded parable of Jesus (technically it’s two) is one that I haven’t always understood. I am not claiming to have brilliant insights into it now, but I do think I have a better grasp on what is being taught here. I have been fortunate enough to study under some really good professors at both Mid-Atlantic Christian University and Liberty University. One of the things I was taught is that I should do my best to look at the original context of any given passage. I should make every effort to identify the speaker, the audience, and the purpose for what is being said. I try to do this whenever I study and I have found that some of the more difficult passages don’t seem so difficult when I use this approach.
When you look at this parable (or parables) you see that it is Jesus’ response to a question concerning fasting. There is a comparison made between the disciples of Jesus and the disciples of both John the Baptist and the Pharisees. Apparently, people have noticed that Jesus and his disciples don’t appear to fast as much as the others. The question is simple: Why?
In The Chronological Life Of Christ, Mark Moore suggests that Jesus makes two very important statements here. The first is that it is inappropriate for his disciples to fast while he is still with them. They should be joyful and celebrate while the Lord is there. He even points out that there will come a time when he will be gone and they will mourn and fast. Jesus uses imagery from a Jewish wedding feast. The guests rejoice while the bridegroom is there with them. They have no reason to fast and grieve. For Jesus’ disciples that day was coming.
The second thing Moore points out is the clash between the old and new. The religious leaders of the day were the guardians of the old, legalistic system. Jesus represented a new way of thinking that pointed to authentic worship of God. He spoke of grace and love where the established system was centered around keeping the laws and rules. The result was guilt and oppression. Both the new patch and the new wine represent the true kingdom of God that Jesus came to establish. He wasn’t attempting to patch up the old system or reform it. Either one would have disastrous results. Jesus was bringing something new.
Luke adds an interesting detail in verse 39. He says that people prefer the old wine, even after tasting the new. That definitely seems to be the way many people respond to Jesus. They prefer to cling to the old, familiar, comfortable way of doing things. It doesn’t matter that Jesus is bringing something better. It doesn’t matter that he’s replacing guilt with grace. People are either offended or frightened by what he is teaching. They want no part of it.
My goal for the next several weeks is to look at the parables of Jesus. I may veer off topic some and go down a rabbit trail or two, but I really feel like I can benefit from revisiting these teachings. Some of them are very familiar to me but I find that I see something new each time I dust them off. There are also a few that are puzzling. Hopefully I can gain new insight to those.
Grace and peace.