18 Once when John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting, some people came to Jesus and asked, “Why don’t your disciples fast like John’s disciples and the Pharisees do?” 19 Jesus replied, “Do wedding guests fast while celebrating with the groom? Of course not. They can’t fast while the groom is with them. 20 But someday the groom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast. 21 “Besides, who would patch old clothing with new cloth? For the new patch would shrink and rip away from the old cloth, leaving an even bigger tear than before. 22 “And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. For the wine would burst the wineskins, and the wine and the skins would both be lost. New wine calls for new wineskins.” ~ Mark 2:18-22
Today, we return to our study of Mark 2 where in v.18, the Lord Jesus was questioned why His disciples did not fast. Now, the purpose of biblical fasting is to gain deeper fellowship with God. Mind you, fellowship, not relationship. We can not do a thing to gain relationship with God. This is why the Lord Jesus came to die on the cross. When He died He paid the penalty for our sin. Even though we can not produce a relationship with God, we can contribute to our fellowship with Him. We can go deeper in our fellowship or daily walk with Him.
In today's passage, the Lord Jesus provides three illustrations that show why fasting for His disciples was inappropriate at that time. In this passage, the Lord Jesus taught that He came to this earth not to polish up the old system, but, to give something totally new. He came to this earth in order to grant the believer "new birth" wherein eternal life is realized within the believer.
In v.18-19 of today's passage we read, "18 Once when John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting, some people came to Jesus and asked, “Why don’t your disciples fast like John’s disciples and the Pharisees do?” 19 Jesus replied, “Do wedding guests fast while celebrating with the groom? Of course not. They can’t fast while the groom is with them."
In this passage, the Lord Jesus compared Himself to a bridegroom, and His friends or those who believe in Him, He likened to His wedding guests. And, we all know that a wedding is a time for celebration, not for mourning. The prophets Isaiah & Hosea predicted that the coming of the kingdom of God would be like a wedding in which God, the bridegroom, would marry His people. In the Lord Jesus, God was there to marry His people. If ever there was a time for joy, this was it.
In v.20 of today's passage we read, "But someday the groom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast."
There was coming a day when the Lord Jesus would hang on that accursed tree for six hours so that the willing of heart could be forgiven by the righteous arbiter of the truth, God Himself. While the Lord Jesus was with His disciples, they were to rejoice. But, when He would soon leave them, after His death, it would be necessary for them to fast which is to give up certain things so that we can see Him with our hearts more acutely. Learning to see Him with our hearts is the work of the Holy Spirit and we do not do that naturally.
In v.21-22 of today's passage we read, "21 “Besides, who would patch old clothing with new cloth? For the new patch would shrink and rip away from the old cloth, leaving an even bigger tear than before. 22 “And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. For the wine would burst the wineskins, and the wine and the skins would both be lost. New wine calls for new wineskins."
In these two verses we discover that a new piece of cloth, when it shrinks, causes an old garment to tear; and new wine causes old wine skins to burst. In each case the new forces a response that the old is unable to produce. For the disciples, to fast while the Lord was with them would be like sewing a new patch of cloth on an old garment or pouring new wine into old wine skins.
Religion is here illustrated by old garments and old wine skins. The old was analogous of those who resisted the free gift that God offered through His Son. The Lord Jesus wanted to stretch those who were trapped by their religion, but they had become too hardened of heart.
On the other hand, the new speaks of "eternal life" delivered into the believers life through the Holy Spirit. When we believe on the Lord Jesus to be our Savior, it is then that the Holy Spirit makes us alive to God. The beauty of eternal life is that only God can produce it in us. We can not manufacture it. The bridegroom gives us new clothes to wear for the wedding, and, He pours the new wine of his joy into our hearts.
The Lord Jesus has always been opposed to man's attempt to reach the eternal. Generally, we do this through being religious, thinking somehow we can impress God enough to make Him accept us. Very often man has been known to utilize fasting to try to earn God's favor but this is not the way it works.
Like the religious leaders of Israel, we have been known to use the Bible as a self-improvement manual, but our self-improvements have never impressed God. And, if we use the Bible as if it were a manual on trying to impress God, then we will miss what it means to have a personal relationship with God. This is not God's idea of eternal life.
On the other hand, if we view the Bible as a means to knowing Him, then this analogy of the bridegroom and the bride will be relevant and pertinent to us. It is through this type of human relationship that we can understand the relationship with Him that the Lord Jesus died to give us. This relationship known as "eternal life" in the Bible is a magical experience with God wherein we on a daily basis we are given the ability to see His heart for us. It is pictured in that moment during a wedding when the groom sees his bride coming down the aisle. The purity and the joy involved in the union of the two is most powerful! This is what the Lord Jesus came to offer mankind, and sadly, the religious leaders of Israel did not get it.