Matthew, Mark and Luke give us the account of Jesus’ analogies of the old and new cloth and the old and new wineskins. I love it when the Lord provides us different accounts, three in this case, of the same incident. It’s like three different people taking a photograph from different angles. All are accurate, but with different perspectives. So we get a broader understanding of the account. Since we weren’t there, and they were, it provides us a better understanding of what took place and what was said. So let’s read of this as witnessed by Matthew, Mark and Luke.
“Then John’s disciples came and asked him, “How is it that we and the Pharisees fast often, but your disciples do not fast?” 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. “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. Neither do people 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.” (Matthew 9:14-17 NIV)
“Now John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting. Some people came and asked Jesus, “How is it that John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees are fasting, but yours are not?” Jesus answered, “How can the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? They cannot, so long as they have him with them. But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them, and on that day they will fast. “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.” (Mark 2:18-22 NIV)
“They said to him, “John’s disciples often fast and pray, and so do the disciples of the Pharisees, but yours go on eating and drinking.” Jesus answered, “Can you make the friends of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; in those days they will fast.” He told them this parable: “No one tears a piece out of a new garment to patch an old one. Otherwise, they will have torn the new garment, and the patch from the new will not match the old. And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the new wine will burst the skins; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, new wine must be poured into new wineskins. And no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for they say, ‘The old is better.’” (Luke 5:33-39)
Obviously, attaching a new piece of cloth to an old piece of cloth won’t work. The aging and wear and tear of the old cloth will eventually tear away and disintegrate from the new cloth.
As for the wineskins, the people of that day would use animal skins to keep wine because of the elasticity of the animal skins. That was important because as the wine fermented, it would expand, but would not burst through the animal skins due to the elasticity.
So what does all this have to do “with the price of beans,” as my wife sometimes says? To answer that, let’s go back to the original question asked by John’s disciples and the Pharisees. (By the way, these particular disciples of John were not the same who left John and followed Jesus. These particular disciples stayed with John.)
The original question was, “How is it that John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees are fasting, but yours are not?” Also notice from Luke that John’s disciples and the Pharisees were also praying. So they were all fasting and praying while Jesus’ disciples were doing neither. Then Jesus’ seemingly out of nowhere provides them these two analogies of the old and new cloth and the old and new wine. It seems on the surface that Jesus pulled these analogies out of thin air and they are totally unrelated, but are they? Not by a long shot.
Jesus was telling them by these analogies that it is time to rejoice because the Bridegroom is here. His disciples did not fast or prayer, because there was nothing to be somber or sad about. However, the time would come, at the cross, when the Bridegroom would be taken away. Then, at that time, they could fast and pray.
John’s disciples and the Pharisees were not recognizing who stood before them. They were still clinging to the old, the old hope that the Messiah would come. But alas! He was standing in their midst! Don’t fast! Don’t pray! Worship! He is here!
And there’s more. The time had come that the Old Covenant of works was being replaced by the New Covenant of grace. The old rituals and ceremonial fastings were quickly coming to an end. A new day was developing in which God would deal with people differently. The dispensation of the Church age was preparing to arrive on the scene, and it would be introduced at the cross, and then fulfilled at Pentecost with the arrival of the Holy Spirit.
In the meantime, the Bridegroom had certainly arrived, but His departure would be soon after the sacrifice of Himself for the sins of all mankind. The Savior had come, and would soon be leaving, but would be sending His Spirit too indwell all those who believed on Him, the Son of God.
So Jesus message to them was, “It is now time to rejoice, not to fast. Put aside the old rituals and ceremonials and rejoice with my disciples.” That is His message today also. Are we rejoicing or still tied up with old rituals and ceremonies?
The apostle Paul said about thirty years later, “Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day.These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.” (Colossians 2:16-17)
John’s disciples and the Pharisees were still walking in the “shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.” Many today are doing no differently than these disciples in question.
To me, it is like sitting outside on a cloudy day as opposed to sitting outside on a sunny day, feeling the warmth on your face. I for one would much rather enjoy a beautiful sunny day. Have you ever noticed how a cloudy day and a sunny day affect your personality? Our very being is always happier on a sunny day as opposed to a cloudy day.
This tells me that those who understand and live in the freedom that only Christ can give are the truly happy folks. The others are curmudgeons.
Let us not mix the new life of grace in Christ Jesus and His Holy Spirit with the works of old rituals and meaningless ceremonies. Jesus lives, and it is time to rejoice, not fast.
Pre-Rapture Commentary: http://grant-phillips.blogspot.com