Summary: “Jesus revealing power forced a new decision for His kingdom people: choosing between old or new ways of doing things & between fasting for show or fasting for refreshing."
OUT WITH THE OLD, IN WITH THE NEW
Proposition: “Jesus revealing power forced a new decision for His kingdom people: choosing between old or new ways of doing things & between fasting for show or fasting for refreshing."
Objective: My purpose is to challenge God’s people to understand that Jesus came to give us something new in our spiritual life.
Everyone thinks they understand what religion is all about. It’s about stopping doing bad things and doing good things. You stop swearing, and stealing, and womanizing, and drinking. You conquer your addictions, and you start going to church, and giving to charity, and staying at home with your family in the evenings, and reading the Bible. That is what almost everyone judges religion to be; you stop doing bad things and in their place do good things.
That is what people thought in Jesus’ day too. They looked at Jesus with his disciples & they noticed that they were a decent gang of men. They didn’t fight & get drunk; they didn’t fool around with women. Then they noticed how they said grace before they ate their food. They were always in the synagogue on the Sabbath. They talked a lot about the Scriptures, and so they were ‘very religious men.’ However, then they spotted an inconsistency, that there was one thing they didn’t do that every other group of ‘really religious’ people whom they knew about certainly did. Jesus’ disciples didn’t fast. The Pharisees also fasted and they did so because they were serious about religion, and they wanted to abstain from temptations of the flesh. Everyone knew when the Pharisees were fasting; they paraded the fact by putting white ash on their heads as they walked down the street. They decided to fast twice a week, Mondays and Thursdays, although God required fasting on just one day in a year, Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, but the Pharisees with their commitment to being serious about religion had to multiply that requirement a hundred-fold.
Our text is a continuation of the dialogue between Jesus and the Pharisees and their scribes. What is the lifestyle to follow? Which comes first, fasting or feasting? Fasting was one of the three most important religious duties, along with prayer and almsgiving. Jesus knows there’s a time for fasting and a time for feasting (or celebrating). Do you take joy in the Lord’s presence with you and do you express sorrow and contrition for your sins? Jesus goes on to warn His disciples about the problem of the "closed mind" that refuses to learn new things. Jesus used an image familiar to his audience — new and old wineskins. What did Jesus mean by this comparison? Are we to reject the old in place of the new? Just as there is a right place and a right time for fasting and for feasting, so there is a right place for the old as well as the new. The Lord gives us wisdom so we can make the best use of both the old and the new. He doesn’t want us to hold rigidly to the past and to be resistant to the new work of His Holy Spirit in our lives.
I. A NEW DISCIPLE: The Inquiry (v. 33) “Why do…”—If you want to know how upset the Pharisees were with Jesus for enjoying himself as guest of honor Levi’s feast, these are the verses to read. They immediately struck back with a biting accusation. They challenged Jesus’ standing as a spiritual man.
1. The complaint “Then they said to Him”—This is Jesus’ response to the dialogue of the Pharisees & the scribes. The religious leaders (v. 30; Mark 2:18) and John’s disciples (Matt. 9:14; Mark 2:18) raised the question of fasting. They did so because it was another practice, besides eating with sinners, that marked Jesus and His disciples as unusual (cf. 7:34). Since Jesus preached repentance (v. 32), why did He not expect His followers to demonstrate the accepted signs that indicated it?
2. The comparison “Why do disciples of John fast often and make prayers…and those of the Pharisees”— What they were really asking was: "Why are your friends so happy looking when they’re supposed to be religious?" The Pharisees wanted to know why Jesus’ disciples did not fast like they & John the Baptist’s disciples did. They were doing something new. They fasted on Mondays & Thursdays & often whitened their faces so that people could see what they were doing. The idea was to call God’s attention to the faster. Their ritual prayers were at noon, 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. daily. Usually these prayers were in public so that everyone around them knew they were praying.
3. The celebration “But Yours eat and drink”—The fast to the Pharisees meant mourning. To the Pharisee, you could not be spiritual unless you were uncomfortable. Spirituality consists of doing things you do not want to do & refraining from the things you want to do.