World English Bible translation
2:18 John's disciples and the Pharisees were fasting, and they came and asked him, "Why do John's disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples don't fast?"
2:19 Jesus said to them, "Can the sons of the bride chamber fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they can't fast. 2:20 But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then will they fast in that day. 2:21 No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, or else the patch shrinks and the new tears away from the old, and a worse hole is made. 2:22 No one puts new wine into old wineskins, or else the new wine will burst the skins, and the wine pours out, and the skins will be destroyed; but they put new wine into fresh wineskins."
Mark has written about the baptism and temptation of Christ. He has written about the power to heal and the authority over unclean spirits that Jesus demonstrated. In the last two sections he has dealt with the Lord's dealings with sinners. He has written that Jesus claimed the authority to forgive sins and that he dined and extended hospitality to sinners. The message of Today's Scripture is the contrast between Jesus and all that have come before Him.
A group consisting of the disciples of John the Baptist and some of the Pharisees approached Jesus. These two groups were fasting, perhaps for one of the holy days. They asked Jesus why He and His disciples did not fast when they did. The answer that Jesus gives Him explains that He sees His own mission as being very different from that of John the Baptist or the Pharisees. Because His mission and purpose are different, so must be His methods.
"Can the sons of the bride chamber fast while the bridegroom is with them?" While Christ is active and working in the world, there was no time for fasting and morning for His disciples. He told them that there would come a time when they would mourn, but that time had not yet come. While Christ was in the world it was a time of celebration and revelation. He was bringing the Kingdom of Light into the Kingdom of Darkness and that is always a reason to celebrate. God was being revealed to the world in a new way, and that made the circumstances and situations different.
This passage goes on to express the unique quality of Jesus' ministry through two different illustrations. They may or may not have been part of the original passage, but they fit with the story of the bridegroom if one understands that Jesus was trying to show the contrast between His own work and that of the Pharisees and other groups. The first is the illustration of the patch and the second is the illustration of the new wine.
Jesus explains that one does not patch an old garment with a patch of unshrunk cloth. If one were to do this, the patch would begin to shrink and pull away. In this example, the way that the Pharisees were approaching God was the old garment. Jesus brings a new way of relating to God, the new piece of unshrunk cloth. You would not patch the old garment if you had unshrunk cloth; you would make a new garment of it. In the same way, Jesus was saying that He had not come to extend or express the old means of relating to God but had come to offer the people something completely new.
In what may be an even more expressive illustration, Jesus said that no one puts new wine into old wineskins. Old wineskins had already been stretched and aged with use. If one were to put new wine in old wineskins, it would ruin both the wine and the skins. That is why new wine is placed into fresh skins, so that the skins would age with the wine and both would be used to their fullest.
These three examples tell of a new perspective that Jesus was offering to His own disciples. They were the groom's friends at the wedding feast. They were the new unshrunk cloth. They were the new wine that was being offered up. The time had come for something completely different than what had come before.
Are you still trying to live life in the same way as before you learned about Jesus Christ? Have you experienced the extent of the change that only Jesus can bring to your life?
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