Summary: The teaching that Jesus gives to His disciples at this time concerns fasting. Then He gives a parable to illustrate His purpose for coming into the world.
Harmony of the Gospels
Title: Disciples Defended Via Parable
The teaching that Jesus gives to His disciples at this time concerns fasting. Then He gives a parable to illustrate His purpose for coming into the world.
Then came to him the disciples of John, saying, Why do we and the Pharisees fast oft, but thy disciples fast not? (Matthew 9:14)
The Jews observed two great national fasts, however the pious Jews voluntarily fasted twice a week, “I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all I possess.” (Luke 18:12) The Pharisees and the disciples of John were a part of the group that fasted often. Some of Jesus’ disciples had been with John the Baptist, but they joined themselves to Jesus after John’s death. Andrew and Philip were two that we know of. These men had been observing Jesus and the other disciples and it was apparent that they did not fast, so they asked Jesus, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast oft, but thy disciples fast not."
John was an Old Testament prophet, who stepped into the New Testament, and his purpose was to make the way ready for the Lord Jesus Christ. John said that He (the Messiah) was close at hand, and now He was there speaking to them. Our Lord is going to declare a great principle, and reveal that they have moved from the old dispensation, where they were under the Law to a glorious new dispensation, and with this He will also answer their question.
And Jesus said unto them, Can the children of the bridechamber mourn, as long as the bridegroom is with them? But the days will come, when the bridegroom will be taken from them, and then shall they fast. (Matthew 9:15)
Both Jesus and John the Baptist declared that the Kingdom of God was now with them. It was there in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. Now He tells them that the coming of the Kingdom was like a wedding. It is an occasion for rejoicing, and fasting is not appropriate. However, He tells them that the time is coming when He will be taken from them, and then His disciples will have reason to fast. He is speaking of the cross.
Today, there can be value in fasting if it is done for the right reasons. We should fast, because we are in need of His mercy and His help. Fasting doesn’t involve only giving up food, but it also has to do with how we use our time. We should prostrate ourselves before God in prayer and saturate ourselves with His word. This is the thought behind fasting. However, there is one other element, and that is secrecy. No one should know when you fast. It is between you and God only.
Now the Lord continues by explaining that there is a change in dispensations. He will move them from the Old Testament of law to the New Testament of Grace.
No man putteth a piece of new cloth unto an old garment, for that which is put in to fill it up taketh from the garment, and the rent is made worse. Neither do men put new wine into old bottles: else the new break, and the wine runneth out, and the bottles perish: but they put new wine into new bottles, and both are preserved. (Matthew 9:16-17)
What our Lord is saying is this: He has not come to continue the old dispensation that placed men under the law. That is the old covenant, and it is ending. He has brought a new covenant of grace, where whosoever will trust Him receives a robe of righteousness. He said, “I haven’t come to patch up an old garment, but I have come to bring you a new garment.” This is entirely new and radical. John summed it up when he said, “For the Law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.” (John 1:17)
And the disciples of John and the Pharisees used to fast: and they come and say unto him, Why do the disciples of John and of the Pharisees fast, but thy disciples fast not? (Mark 2:18)
They were under the law, but God had not instructed them to fast. He had given His people seven feasts, but not one fast day.
And Jesus said unto them, Can the children of the bridechamber fast, while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. But the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken away from them, and then they shall fast in those days. (Mark 2:19-20)
What He is telling them is that it is more important to be related to Him and to have fellowship with Him, than it is to fast. That is also true today; it is one thing to be religious and to put up a front, but it’s another thing to enjoy fellowship with the Lord Jesus and to love Him.