14 Then John's disciples came and asked him, “How is it that we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?”

15 Jesus answered, “How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them? The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast.”

16 “No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch will pull away from the garment, making the tear worse. 17 Neither do men pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst, the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.”

Matt 9:14-17 (NIV)

It is sad commentary indeed when the observances of our religious disciplines and duties - which should be motivated and confirmed by holy love – become more of an albatross to us rather than a pleasure and a delight. You can almost hear the disciples of both the Baptist and the Pharisees conspiring together over the unfairness of their having been obedient to the spiritual discipline of fasting while the disciples of the Lord Jesus did not seem to have to. Fasting appears as a bondage to these guys. Surely, God does not look for us to relate to Him merely in a ritualistic way. He desires our obedience because we desire obedience. He calls us to walk with Him in humble fellowship - in modesty not arrogance – in desire and not duty. This is what is most beneficial for us. Faith knows God always has our best interest at heart. I am reminded of the prophet Micah’s words regarding God’s requirements of His children:

8 He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8 (NIV)

“It probably isn’t as important to say ‘you need a heart for God’ as it is to say ‘you need to know God’s heart for you’. The gospel isn’t about your goodness or your work, it’s about Christ’s goodness and work for you.” Steve Brown

Fasting is to lead us to a delight in God and a dependency upon Him. There is a tendency however to boast about our obedience to religious observances such as fasting as well as to trust in them instead of Christ for our righteousness. The Pharisees loved to fast so that others would see them and think they were spiritual. Instead of denying flesh they were glorifying flesh by seeking the praise of men over their actions. Jesus specifically taught His disciples to fast in secret so that it would not be known to man rather only to the Father in heaven who is the Rewarded of the unseen acts of righteousness. In the Sermon on the Mount we find:

16 “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. 17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18 so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” Matt 6:16-18 (NIV)

Whatever Christ’s follower’s do that gives offense carries with it a reflection on Christ either by omission or commission. This discord often kills love and sets people against ministers and ministers against people. In our verses for today, Jesus comes to the defense of His guys who were acting according to His commands and pattern. Those who faithfully follow the Lord Jesus can expect His defense. I am reminded of the words in Isaiah:

17 no weapon forged against you will prevail, and you will refute every tongue that accuses you. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and this is their vindication from me," declares the LORD. Isaiah 54:17 (NIV)

“A witness in a court of law has to give evidence; a Christian witness has to be evidence.” Geoffrey R. King

Jesus responds to their query by stating it was not a proper time for the duty of fasting for His disciples as He was still with them. This response did not condemn the practice of the others rather cleared His guys. Our Lord compared the time to a wedding when everything was joyful and displays of sadness would have been improper. There would however come a time when He would be taken from them when they would fast. The condition of the children of the bride chamber depends upon whether they have more or less of the presence of the bridegroom. The closer we are to Jesus the happier we are. In speaking of Jesus, John the Baptist states:

27 To this John replied, “A man can receive only what is given him from heaven. 28 You yourselves can testify that I said, ‘I am not the Christ but am sent ahead of him.’ 29 The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom's voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete.” John 3:27-29 (NIV)

Lastly in our verses for today, Jesus tells us the wind of the Spirit was blowing, things were changing. He came to usher in a new covenant which would be poured in to new vessels – vessels that had turned in repentance and crucified self. He was not patching up an old system; His purpose was to bring something new. He came to lead those who would follow in His steps into a kingdom based on His righteousness – a righteousness not built on following the law or on the traditions of the Pharisees - a kingdom bringing freedom and abundant life.

10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. John 10:10 (NIV)

“Before we can pray ‘Thy kingdom come,’ we must be willing to pray, ‘My kingdom go.’” Alan Redpath

What I Glean

  • My spiritual observances should be a delight not a duty.
  • God is the Rewarder of the unseen acts of righteousness.
  • Jesus is my defender.