Matthew 9:15 – 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.” NIV
This question from Jesus comes in the midst of a discussion about behavior that “religious” people expect. Jesus had not only healed the paralytic and forgiven his sins. He has called Matthew, a notorious tax collector, to follow him. Jesus was not behaving like the “religious” people of his day! Why he and his disciples didn’t even fast like John the Baptist and other religious people! John’s disciples and others were confused.
It’s at this time Jesus asked this question. He is indicating that there is a time for both. There is time to celebrate while the Kingdom is expanding, and there is a time to fast as the Kingdom is attacked or resisted. Many times in the church today we forget one or the other. We neglect fasting when we are seeking to resist a spiritual attack or challenge for a variety of reasons, and we seldom celebrate when a victory is won.
I don’t believe Jesus is condemning or condoning either behavior; but indicating to His followers that following Him is not just a set of religious behaviors, but actions that are appropriate to the situation and advancing the Kingdom of God. Each day may present us with new opportunities that will require a new and Holy Spirit guided response. Listen to Jesus’ cryptic statement following His question:
Matthew 9:16-17 – “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.” NIV
How do I try to patch old garments with new cloth? How do I try to pour new wine into old wineskins? How do I know what is advancing God’s Kingdom and what is hindering it? Do I just expect religious behavior or appropriate Christ-like behavior?