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  • Monica DuBois

34. Feasting or Fasting

Matthew 9:15 and Mark 2:19 Can the children of the bridechamber mourn (fast), as long as the bridegroom is with them? I just came from nine weeks in a Cancer clinic in Mexico. I was diagnosed in October and since then had lost about 20 pounds and became anemic. I was sick! I could not fast. Even though my appetite was waning, I had to eat to help my body fight the things it was facing. As of now I eat 5 meals a day and am never hungry and have gained five pounds. Its not time to fast. I’m still sick but getting better. Healing takes time.

I tell you all of this because Jesus’ question is about fasting. Only healthy people have the luxury to fast, sick people cannot afford to do this.

Let’s look at the surrounding text to get a better understanding of why Jesus asked this question and said what He said in this passage. I don’t believe He wanted to focus on fasting, but on the differences between these two groups of people: the Pharisees, scribes, even John the Baptist’s disciples in the group who are waiting for the Messiah to come and the group of publicans and sinners sitting with His disciples at the feast.

The Pharisees, the scribes, and John’s disciples asked Jesus why his disciples were not fasting like they do but were indulging in a feast at this time (See verses 11 and 14). Jesus gave them the comparisons but did so in a way that was a bit confusing. He separated the Pharisees, scribes and John’s disciples into one group He referred to as "whole." Then he talked about his disciples and the people at the feast as the "sick" group.

They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick. But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but the sinners to repentance. Matthew 9:12-13

In doing so, He references Hosea 6:6 I will have mercy and not sacrifice: and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.

Sacrifice and burnt offering are the same thing. This is what the Pharisees were doing, in fact making sure the sacrifices were done correctly was their life, to follow the law to a “t.”

Jesus refers to the Pharisees as “whole” and “righteous.” They are the well people that don’t need a doctor. Now we know they are not whole but lacking much. They just think that they are whole because they know the law and do it, to a degree and force others do it too. They are busy. They are so busy they don’t even know that the Messiah they have been waiting for is standing right before them. Their lives consisted of straining at a gnat and swallowing a camel. They were fat with their “good life”, and could stand to fast.

He then refers to the publicans and sinners with him as “the sick.” I can tell you after my illness experience, these people were needy and knew it. They were searching for answers and didn’t like the ones given them by the Pharisees. They could tell the Pharisees didn’t have their best interest in mind. They could sense the Pharisees were hypocrites. They didn’t like the “publicans and sinners.” When they labeled these people, it set them apart. There was no gaining trust between them after that. The division was evident and firm. Yet this group were the curious ones. They were willing to get close to this man, Jesus. They could tell that the Pharisees were putting him into a category like they did them. Maybe even the same category. So, they felt safe and accepted. They feasted on what this man had to say while He was near. He was "the bridegroom" in His question.

Right after He offered the question about the bridegroom being with them, He gave a discourse on old garments and new garments and then old wine bottles and new wine and wine bottles. This might be confusing to us, but the people knew what Jesus was talking about.

The old and the new. What is He referring to? The old ways, which include the law, the Pharisees, even the disciples of John the Baptist. An old garment is worn in places to threads that become holes, easily torn and in need of repair. It is shrunk and faded. The Old Testament could not bring life, even if it was holy and given by God. A new garment, the gospel of Jesus Christ, is bright, clean, ready to use, not washed yet or used. Jesus was bringing in the New Testament: a different way.

These two materials could not be put together as in a patch on the favorite, old pair of jeans. The new fabric patch, when washed would shrink and cause a worse hole in the jeans. (today fabrics don’t fade or shrink like fabrics did then) Jesus knew these Pharisees and scribes were so set in their ways they could not bend enough to accept a new way. They resented Jesus, they were jealous of him, His presence threatened their livelihood. He was a snare to what they stood for. They were losing their respect and authority over the people. They had dedicated their lives to the law. They could not be persuaded to view Jesus as anything but a threat. “A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still.” The two fabrics could not and would not mesh together peacefully.

Jesus said, men don’t’ put new wine into old bottles. Keep in mind the bottles were not what we picture as bottles these days. They were skins, which would expand as the fermentation process happened. The old skins would already be stretched out. They could not withstand yet another expansion process. They would break or burst. Everyone knew that in His audience.

He went on to say you put new wine into new wine skins and both are preserved. There would be no spilling or waste. Jesus was saying He was filling up the vessels that had not studied the law and made the law their lives. These were new vessels that were ready to receive the new wine and grow and expand as the wine of the gospel fermented, changed into something new and grew within the vessel.

Old garment, old wine skins, Old Testament were representatives of flesh, and the death (See Romans chapters 7-8). But the new garment, new wine skins, the New Testament represented Jesus, the Holy Spirit and the gospel which represented LIFE! Jesus’ question: Can the children of the bridechamber mourn (fast), as long as the bridegroom is with them?

Where are you in the two groups?

Are you mourning? Are you fasting? Is this passage helping you see whether you are like the Pharisees that questioned Jesus, or more like the publicans and sinners that ate with the Savior of the world?

Are you an old wine skin that will burst if new wine is put into it?

Or are you a new vessel, empty, clean, and prepared to be filled with the Spirit, and abundant life?

Leave me a comment or tell me your story by email.

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Jun 13, 2021

Love this post!!! You are so right, we need to be new wine skins, ready to be filled with the outflow of the spirit. We need to feast in His presence and fast when we get puffed up on religious knowledge or worldly understanding. Very good post!! Thank you for putting the time into all your posts, bless you!!


Linda Tarkington
Linda Tarkington
Jun 13, 2021

Very insightful, Have not heard it explained this way. thanks for sharing your thougths.

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