Text: Mark 2:18-28
You Should be Fasting!
Parallel Texts: Matthew 9:14-17; Luke 5:33-39
The next scene Mark jumps to is one in which we find both John’s disciples and the Pharisees fasting, while Jesus and His disciples are going on as normal. Curious about this, one of John’s disciples asks about it; why aren’t you fasting? There is a fairly clear implication that they should be, at least in this man’s mind, but Jesus doesn’t think so.
Jesus gives the man three answers to one question, beginning in verse 19. Likening Himself to a bridegroom, and His disciples to guests of the bridegroom, Jesus indicates to the man that fasting is not appropriate at that current time, for they are in a mood of celebration, yet the day will come when the bridegroom is no longer with His guests, and they will have occasion to fast then.
The second and third answers to the question begin at verse 21:
“No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. Otherwise, the new piece will pull away from the old, making the tear worse. And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins.”
In essence, Jesus gives two short parables that are designed to draw a profound distinction between the ministry of John, the Law and the ministry and purpose of Christ. John’s ministry was limited to prepare the way for Jesus, it was really a transitional ministry, under the Law. Jesus, on the other hand, had an entirely different purpose, for His was the purpose of fulfilling the Law and ushering in an entirely new order; the New Covenant. There was nothing about the ministry of Jesus that would serve to patch the old garment of the Law, He was not there to refill an old wineskin; the old garment and the old wineskin had served their purpose and Jesus would replace them both.
There would be no fasting! The Kingdom was at hand in the Person of Jesus Himself. While He was on the scene, fasting was not appropriate.
I often wonder if I harp on this point too much, the point being that the New Covenant has entirely replaced the Old. Am I simply riding a “hobby-horse”?
I think not: This is a key point in the Christian faith; the Law is over. Just as John’s ministry was transitional in nature, preparing the way for the ministry of Jesus, the Law was transitional in nature, illustrating the reality that was to come through Christ in the New Covenant; that is what Jesus is telling this man in the story, and it is the point we need to comprehend as well.
Lord of the Sabbath
Parallel Texts: Matthew 8:1-8; Luke 6:1-5
Mark has shifted the scene to the countryside. Jesus and the disciples, and apparently some Pharisees, are walking through grain fields on the Sabbath. They are hungry and the disciples pluck a few heads of grain to eat as they go along, and the Pharisees object, for it is unlawful to harvest a field on the Sabbath. The law on this point is contained in Exodus 20:10 if you’d like to read it just to bring in a little context. By the way, if you do look it up, you will notice that the law doesn’t say this. It says you shall do no work. Were the disciples actually working? Well, that is the real question.
As the years went by, it became apparent that Exodus 20:10 was subject to interpretation, and many well-intentioned leaders believed that there was a great potential for misunderstanding Exodus 20:10, so they adopted a very long list of additional rules to help people avoid an unintentional violation of the Sabbath. This list of rules is not actually part of the law, but as more time went by, it was treated as if it were the law itself; this is what the Pharisees were actually referring to.
In verses 25-26, Jesus cites a well-known example of David feeding his men food reserved by the law for the exclusive use of the priests when necessity required it, with the implication that necessity required the disciples’ actions that the Pharisees were objecting to. He concludes His answer in the following verses:
Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”
I wish I could have been there to see the look on the faces of those poor Pharisees when they heard that!
As you know, there are those critics out there who claim that Jesus never said He was divine. Even if that were true, He sure implied it strongly on many occasions, and this is another of those. If the Sabbath was made for man, and that makes the Son of Man the lord over the Sabbath, then it is because He’s also the Lord over Man.