Summary: Two problems creating conflict with Christ
To Feast or Fast
Woodlawn Baptist Church
June 11, 2006
Why do you attend church? What is all this about to you? What does Christ mean to you, and why do you keep coming back to Him? These are only a few of many such important questions I think we fail to ponder frequently enough, or long enough. But they are questions worthy of your time and effort. I do not suggest that they can be answered in a few moments. Anyone who can give quick and simple answers has in my opinion not wrestled with them the way they deserve – both to the detriment of the faith and to their own faith.
As Jesus walked the earth, many people walked with Him. We are aware of the disciples, but there were also always others. Some got it and some did not. Some grew to understand what Jesus offered, others did not. Some were changed, others were not, but still they walked on.
Jesus addressed the reason why some got it and others didn’t in today’s text. I want you to listen carefully because God wants us all to “get it,” to understand what Jesus offers and to be changed through what He wants us to understand.
The other day I was speaking with someone about the condition of one of our sister churches. Where it had once been a thriving, energetic body of believers who were spreading the gospel and ministering to families today it struggles to keep going. Once it was packed out; today it is pitifully empty. In the conversation I was asked this question: “So is that what lies in store for Woodlawn?” You should know that I have been asked that question several times in the last couple of years, only once by someone outside our church. It is a question that is asked because these people see something they fear others do not see or do not want to see.
What is my answer to the question? Is that what lies in store for Woodlawn? I’ll tell you in a moment. For now I want you to read with me Luke 5:33, where we find the scribes and Pharisees at odds with Jesus.
“And they said unto him, Why do the disciples of John fast often, and make prayers, and likewise the disciples of the Pharisees; but thine eat and drink?”
Their question, this conflict the Pharisees have sets up everything Jesus is about to say. But keep in mind that this episode began when Jesus healed the man with palsy and forgave his sins. He then called Levi and was the guest of honor at the feast that followed.
So put it all together. “Why do you eat with sinful people who are socially and morally unacceptable? And why is it that while everyone else is fasting and praying your disciples are feasting and not praying? Let’s read what Jesus says in verses 34-39.
“And he said unto them, Can ye make the children of the bridechamber fast, while the bridegroom is with them? But the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken away from them, and then shall they fast in those days. And he spake also a parable unto them; No man putteth a piece of a new garment upon an old; if otherwise, then both the new maketh a rent, and the piece that was taken out of the new agreeth not with the old. And no man putteth new wine into old bottles; else the new wine will burst the bottles, and be spilled, and the bottles shall perish. But new wine must be put into new bottles; and both are preserved. No man also having drunk old wine straightway desireth new: for he saith, The old is better.”
The Old Problem
The Pharisees and scribes were at odds with Jesus because of two problems they had.
First, they were fasting when they should have been feasting. These were very pious men. Luke 18 tells us of at least one Pharisee who fasted twice each week, which may have been the normal practice. Twice each week the Pharisees would mark themselves and their dress with evidence of mourning and sorrow while they abstained from food. It isn’t hard to see why. They had once been among the mightiest and wealthiest nations on earth. Now they were under Roman rule, the fourth of four empires to rule over them in many years: Babylon, Medo-Persians, Greeks and now the Romans.
Had God forsaken them? After all, they hadn’t had a word from the Lord for 400 years. To put that in perspective, remember that our own nation gained its independence only 230 years ago. For 400 years God was silent, so the people fasted and prayed, pleading for His intercession.