Religious leaders ask Jesus about fasting
Their next complaint was that Jesus’ disciples were feasting instead of fasting. “John the Baptist’s disciples are constantly going without food and praying,” they declared, “and so do the disciples of the Pharisees. Why are yours wining and dining?”
Jesus asked, “Do happy men fast? Do wedding guests go hungry while celebrating with the groom? But the time will come when the bridegroom will be killed; then they won’t want to eat.”
Then Jesus used this illustration: “No one tears off a piece of a new garment to make a patch for an old one. Not only will the new garment be ruined, but the old garment will look worse with a new patch on it! And no one puts new wine into old wineskins, for the new wine bursts the old skins, ruining the skins and spilling the wine. New wine must be put into new wineskins. But no one after drinking the old wine seems to want the fresh and the new. ‘The old ways are best,’ they say.”
John’s disciples fasted (went without food) as a sign of mourning for sin and to prepare for the Messiah’s coming. Jesus’ disciples did not need to fast because he is the Messiah and was with them! Jesus did not condemn fasting—he himself fasted (Luke 4:1-2). He emphasized that fasting must be done for the right reasons.
“Wineskins” were goatskins sewed together at the edges to form watertight bags. Because new wine expands as it ages, it had to be put in new, pliable wineskins. A used skin, having become more rigid, would burst and spill the wine. Like old wineskins, the Pharisees were too rigid to accept Jesus, who could not be contained in their traditions or rules. Christianity required new approaches, new traditions, new structures. Our church programs and ministries should not be so structured that they have no room for a fresh touch of the Spirit, a new method, or a new idea. We, too, must be careful that our hearts do not become so hard that they prevent us from accepting the new way of thinking that Christ brings. We need to keep our hearts pliable so we can accept Jesus’ life-changing message.