Today, I preached on Mark 2:18-22. Until I the audio edited and uploaded to my church wehebsite, I’ve decided to post a portion of the sermon below. Here’s the download link for the PDF version of the whole sermon.
Now John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting. And people came and said to him, “Why do John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in that day. No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. If he does, the patch tears away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear is made. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins—and the wine is destroyed, and so are the skins. But new wine is for fresh wineskins.”
Following our Lord’s defense and explanation of why he ate with sinners and tax-collectors, immediately following upon his explanation and defense, in fact, Mark tells us that he is questioned for another reason: Namely, the fact that he does not fast. The question, Matthew tells us, was presented by the disciples of John, but, as many commentators note, they were very likely being manipulated by the Pharisees and their disciples. The Pharisees first want to know why our Lord ate with sinners; now the disciples of John want to know why our Lord didn’t fast with sinners. And the hearts of the unbelieving are exposed here as being unsatisfied with any act of our Lord.
Whereas the prior question of why our Lord ate with sinners suggested that the problem was not with eating but the company with which our Lord ate, it now has shifted to be that he was eating at all. This is the nature of unbelief, it is like a table with uneven legs: As one excuse for unbelief is pressed down upon, another excuse rises with it, expressing itself as a concern with some other issue. The unbeliever will say: “The Scriptures have been translated and retranslated so many times that we can’t know what they mean, and I can’t, therefore, believe them.” And as the well-meaning Christian corrects the unbeliever’s attack, exposing its logical, historical, and Scriptural errors, the unbeliever is readying himself to reply with another excuse, immediately blurting out: “But how do you know you have the right Bible books? There’s no way to know that….” and so on and so on and so on.
Now, the disciples of John may have honestly desired to know why our Lord’s disciples did not fast. However, we know that the Pharisees did not have honest intentions. And so when we read this passage, as we go over its details and listen to God’s teaching for us in this text, let us keep this in mind. Their questions arose from a hatred of the God in whom they claimed to believe. Did they care that Christ dined with sinners? Only if they could claim his actions were sinful and warranted their lack of faith in him. Did they care that Christ’s disciples did not fast? Only if they could claim the disciples’ actions warranted not believing in Christ.
If the Pharisees were the cause of this question raised by the disciples of John, and given their wicked insinuations just a few verses earlier it seems to be unquestionably the case they were behind this question as well, then their intention was to appear to be on the side of John’s disciples, as it were, and thereby insinuate that Jesus was not behaving in a righteous manner. They sought, in other words, to pretend to be in theological and moral union with John’s disciples only in order to drive a wedge between them and Christ.
But our Lord addresses the question put forward by the disciples of John, carefully explaining to them that he was the One of whom John the Baptist preached, the One of whom the whole canon of Scripture testified, the Bridegroom of Israel in the flesh coming to purchase his bride with his own blood. Let us now consider the salient lessons contained in this text.
Soli Deo Gloria