18 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?”
19 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. 20 But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them, and on that day they will fast.
21 “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. 22 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.”
If you could ask Jesus any question, what would you ask Him?
This is the third story in a row where a question is the heart of the story. What you realize as you read the gospels is that Jesus is often questioned.
Does Jesus allow us to ask him questions today? What if we don’t get an answer from Him or what if we get an answer but don’t like it? Then what? This is precisely the situation that the Jewish leaders find themselves in. They have questions and more often than not, they do not like the answers that Jesus gives. Let’s take a brief overview of the different questions.
- Questions are Common
- Before and after this incident
7 “Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
(Who does Jesus think that He is?)
16b: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
(Why does Jesus not act like us?)
18b: “How is it that John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees are fasting, but yours are not?”
(Why would anyone act differently than Jesus?)
24: 24 The Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?”
(Why do you not agree with our understanding of the law?)
Each question is the foundation of the new section. The questions all speak about the understanding of the questioner and their understanding of the Kingdom of God. Which really means their understanding of Jesus’ part in establishing the kingdom of God in their lives.
- Questions relate to expectations
There are expectations of what a teacher would know and do. (They have teachers, and they teach. There should be agreement.)
There are expectations of what a prophet would know and do. (A prophet will not be against them, surely. They do not see themselves as being against God.)
There are expectations of what God’s will is for Israel. Sovereign control of the Promised Land is pretty basic.
There are common understandings about what God will and won’t do. Those common understandings are filtered by them. They are the ones who decide what is true about God and His will. (But this is not uniform. Sadducees, Pharisees, Essenes, Herodians and Zealots all exist.)
There is the expectation that they are right! (Can they be wrong?)
- Jesus acts differently than they do
He speaks about forgiveness differently than they do.
He reacts to the sins of others differently than they do.
He approaches spiritual disciplines differently than they do. (Consider Matthew 6) Prayer, Giving and Fasting as examples.
Jesus does not treat the Sabbath the way that they do.
And this is just the beginning. At the end of Jesus’ ministry, after three years of arguing and avoiding being arrested and murdered, Jesus says things like this:
2 “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. 3 So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. 4 They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.
5 “Everything they do is done for people to see: They make their phylacteries[a] wide and the tassels on their garments long; 6 they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; 7 they love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and to be called ‘Rabbi’ by others.
8 “But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers.
11 The greatest among you will be your servant. 12 For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.
And a summary of what Jesus thinks of the effectiveness of the ministry of the religious leaders of His day:
13 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.
So, there are many questions that are directed toward Jesus. His ministry is popular, His power to heal and deliver is unquestioned. But He is not accepted by the religious leaders.
What is the pathway to relating to Jesus correctly when find ourselves with questions and don’t understand what He is doing?
- Answers are Found in Identity not Understanding
- Bridegroom analogy
When the bridegroom is around, you feast. You don’t fast. It is time to celebrate! Fasting is not the action of celebration!
Fasting is for discipline to manage our weaknesses.
If Jesus is the bridegroom in this analogy, how should the religious leaders respond to him?
- There is a coming event that is all about him.
- The coming event is one of celebration and the celebration begins before the event.
- Celebrations are times of feasting, not fasting!
- Is Jesus’ identity greater than yours?
In many ways this is a question of authority. If Jesus has a greater identity, then He should be giving the instructions. It requires appropriate humility.
The question of Jesus as a Teacher or the question of Jesus as a prophet is one that should be judged by those who are in spiritual authority. Jesus does not question the spiritual authority of those who are in authority.
Matthew 23: 2 “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. 3 So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach.
- You alone have the words of life
Those who have resolved the identity of Jesus question learn to wait for understanding. To look for understanding where we know that it is not makes no sense.
John 6 as the classic passage:
60 On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?”
61 Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, “Does this offend you? 62 Then what if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before! 63 The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life. 64 Yet there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him. 65 He went on to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them.”
66 From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.
67 “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve.
68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69 We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.”
Those who reject the identity of Jesus in our culture today pursue many different avenues of life that lead to confusion and conflict in ever greater ways. Once you abandon the standard of truth, you must create your own. And once people are the judge of what is right, true and good, those things die.
Because God does not answer our questions when we want, we are called upon to trust in Who He is!
Why do we ask the questions in the first place?
III. Asking in Order to Judge
- Be careful judging God
If you don’t understand, ask in humility. Consider the book of Job.
God requires us to trust Him even though we do not see Him.
God requires us to trust Him even though we do not like what is happening to us.
Jesus is well acquainted with these experiences.
Consider Jesus in the Garden. Two separate issues that are really a challenge for Him:
- He is concerned for His Apostles. He knows that Peter will deny Him three times. He knows that you strike the Shepherd and the sheep will scatter. But He does not know the end of that. The first thing He says to the women at the tomb is to go and tell the Apostles. We find the Resurrected Jesus on the road to Emmaus tracking down followers. Jesus appears to 500 at one time. What do you think He is doing there? Explaining what His ministry is and what their purpose is going to be without Him.
- He is concerned for the open ended torture and suffering He will endure. He endures the Cross despising the shame.
- You need flexibility for what is new
New wine goes in new wineskins. The issue is flexibility. Old wineskins have already flexed. They will not stretch again. They must be new.
Jesus is saying that what He is revealing is something new. And that the people who will enter into the kingdom of God must move beyond what is already understood in the Old Covenant.
The biggest thing really relates to an earthly political kingdom.
Another huge issue is that of the reality and importance of their religious rituals. They are living in shadow of which Jesus is the reality.
- Old wineskins spill new wine
If they don’t change, they will not be able to experience the kingdom of God. And the change relates to Who Jesus is and What He has come to do.
Are we old or new wineskins? Are we flexible enough for God to teach us new things about ourselves? Can we learn to love what God loves? Can we learn to will what God wills?
The only way that we will be able to change and mature in Christ is to be flexible enough to recognize what God says and then obey. Some will warn you that if you are flexible that you can be lead astray. This is true. But you must be led!
How can we be led by Jesus?
John 8: 12 When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
31 To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
Matthew 13: 52 He said to them, “Therefore every teacher of the law who has become a disciple in the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old.”