Summary: Jesus was not out to reform Judaism but to transform Judaism into something new. He was not out to give life to old form but to give life to a new form, a new way to God.
MATTHEW 9: 14-17 [THE MESSIAH REVEALED SERIES]
DON'T REFORM BUT BE TRANSFORMED
Here is another incident that goes along with the preceding 2 which shows Jesus in conflict with current opinion & practice. Jesus did not conduct His ministry as the Pharisees thought He should, & even the disciples of John the Baptist failed to understand His unusual style of spiritual leadership, so Jesus again breaches with traditional religion rather than compromise to gain popular support.
Many in that day, such as John & his disciples, realized the faults & failures of Judaism. They also realized their own faults & failings. Thus they were wanting to reform themselves & reform Judaism. Jesus was not out to reform Judaism but to transform Judaism into something new. He was not out to give life to old form but to give life to a new form, a new way to God (CIT).
In this passage as substantiation of His right to change man's way to God, Jesus makes another bold assertion, supported and validated by His miraculous works. He is the Divine Bridegroom of honor. Just as with the Divine Physician it is another claim to be the long awaited Messiah-King. (Isa.62:5; Hos. 2:20).
I. THE NEW QUESTION, 14.
II. THE NEW BRIDEGROOM, 15.
III. THE NEW GARMENTS, 16.
IV. THE NEW WINE, 17.
Not only did the Pharisees question Jesus' participation in this feast with tax collectors and sinners, but disciples of John the Baptist also came and asked Jesus in verse 14 a question about taking part in such feasts. "Then the disciples of John came to Him, asking, "Why do we and the Pharisees fast, but Your disciples do not fast?"
Jesus had been responding to the Pharisees and was still close by the tax collectors and sinners, when a group of followers of John the Baptist came to question Him. They asked why Jesus' disciples did not fast. The Pharisees fasted twice a week (Lk. 18:12) and John's disciples fasted as well. Jesus and His disciples were not conforming themselves to the practice of committed religious people of the day.
Both groups knew each other since certain disciples of Jesus were former followers of John. So the question was a sincere one as they could not understand based on Old Testament teaching how a holy man and His disciples could not fast. Were not the times bad? Were they not seeking God and demonstrating their sincerity by refraining from food in order to find Him? So again the basic issue is the relationship of Jesus, His teaching, and His disciples, to Moses, his law, and his disciples (the Pharisees saw themselves in this role).
II. THE NEW BRIDEGROOM, 15.
Jesus answered them in verse 15 that the kingdom is like a great feast, like a wedding banquet. "And Jesus said to them, ‘The attendants of the bridegroom cannot mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them, can they? But the days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast."
Jesus answers with reference to a Jewish wedding feast. The attendants of the bridegroom [lit. sons of the bride chamber] are those who act for him, in his interest, and bring the bride to him. Then Jesus takes the figure of the bridegroom for Himself, which John the Baptist also previously proclaimed Jesus to be in John 3 :29. John even calls himself a friend of the bridegroom. The Old Testament pictures the relationship of God and His people as a marriage (Hos. 2:16-29; Isa. 54:5-6) as does the New (2 Cor. 11:2; Eph 5: 22-23; Rev. 19:7- 9, 21:9-10, 22:17). Jesus liked to use analogy of a wedding or marriage to describe His relationship to His people (Mt. 22:1, 25:1-13). What a dowery of riches and wonder are foreshadowed in this encouraging emblem which will never really be understood until the Marriage Supper of the Lamb when His bride is made ready.
Jesus' presence on earth was like a wedding feast with Jesus as the bridegroom. His disciples were filled with joy. It would not be right to mourn or fast when the bridegroom was present. There would come a time though when fasting would become appropriate, and that is when the bridegroom is taken away. [Jesus did teach His followers how to fast (6:16-18).]
The statement about Jesus being taken away from them is an early indication in Jesus' ministry that He would not reign in His first coming. The taking away of Jesus anticipates His death. It is a hidden allusion to a tragic end of Jesus' full and free life as well as the loss and despair His followers would experience.
There are still experiences in life that cause us to grieve over the absence of Jesus and long for His presence and power, Fasting grows out of the circumstances of life (Mt. 4:2; Acts 3 14; 2 Cor. 11:27). It is an expression of the inner cry of the heart for greater comfort or blessing from God. When people are born again by faith in Jesus they renew their faith by fasting. They had not yet experienced new birth, so there was no reason to fast.