The Book of Mark #11 chapter 2:18-22
The Book of Mark
The Distinctiveness of the Gospel
Mark 2:18–22
 
Last week we looked at the verses where Jesus called Matthew Levi to be His disciple. That was an unheard of event.  There was no one more separated from normal life and certainly religious life than a tax collector, and yet Jesus not only calls him to be a follower, he goes to his house for a celebration with his friends.
 
And because of that, the Pharisees conclude that Jesus comes from Satan.  His religion is so far removed from theirs, and theirs is of God, then He must be of Satan.  In fact, they would be the first ones to say there is no compatibility between Judaism and the message of Jesus Christ.
 
In fact, His message is so foreign and alien and destructive that Jesus needs to be killed.  And in a lot of ways they were absolutely right.  Christianity, the teachings of Jesus Christ, stand absolutely unique and different to anything else before or since.
 
Now tonight we come to verses 18-22 in the aftermath of the calling of Matthew and what we find here is important enough that Matthew and Luke record it also.  And when one gospel writer includes something it is worth reading and knowing, but when three of them do it, we should really perk up.
 
Right on the heels of Jesus declaring that He had the authority to forgive sin, and then demonstrating that the sinners that He forgave were the worst of the worst, Jesus then takes some time to explain that what He's preaching is completely opposite of what the Pharisees are preaching.
 
Verses 18-22
 
What we have here is a discussion about the exclusivity of the gospel.  May we never lose sight of the fact that Christianity is absolutely different from any other system of religion before or since.
 
Now it all starts with
 
1. His Accusation
 
Verse 18
 
It looks like a question but it is really a kind of critical, rhetorical statement.
 
Notice the reference to John’s disciples.  That is John the Baptist.  Now you might think that everybody who was a follower of John the Baptist automatically became followers of Jesus, but that wasn’t necessarily the case.
 
Chapter 1 tells us John had quite a following and they didn't necessarily shift their allegiance to the Messiah. I'm sure most of them didn't even know who he was since it was only one day he appeared there and that John identified Him as the Lamb of God. And John was out there for months and months and months.
In fact, even in the nineteenth chapter of Acts, long after these events had taken place, we still meet a group of the disciples who didn't even know about Jesus Christ.
 
The ministry of John the Baptist was primarily Jewish in nature, founded on Old Testament teaching and the followers of John the Baptist were actually being baptized with a Jewish baptism so there was a lot of compatibility between the preaching of John and the Jews.
 
So it’s not surprising to hear what they say here in verse 18.  And there is a very obvious distinction between the followers of Jesus and the followers of John and in this case it is made by the observance , or lack of observance of the fast.
 
They are deeply disturbed that Jesus' disciples aren't fasting.  In fact, they look more like they're partying. In verse 16, Jesus and His disciples are eating and drinking with tax collectors and sinners and that is a long way from a solemn fast.
 
So why aren’t they fasting? How can they be celebrating, and especially with those kinds of people? So the question is really not intended as an objective question, but more of a severe, judgmental criticism.
 
Why is Jesus running so contrary to the current religion?  After all, isn’t He a Jew?  Who does He think He is? Why does He ignore the required separation from sinners? Why does He ignore the required fasting?
 
And when I say required, I mean it was really required, at least by the establishment.  Now God only required one fast and that was on the Day of Atonement.
 
The Pharisees, however, had gone beyond that and designed twice a week fast days on Monday and Thursday and made a big show of it.
 
So God didn’t require it but they did and that is a critical point to make.  As far as the Law of God was concerned, Jesus was perfect.  He violated their man-made amendments to the Law and that’s what the accusation involves.
 
Well the critical accusation deserves a response, so in verses 19-20 Jesus gives
 
2.  His Answer
 
Now in response, Jesus provides a simple illustration for them which they would all understand to make His point.
 
verses 19-20
 
Everyone would understand that. You don't fast at a wedding. A wedding is a celebration. This is not a time for mourning. This is not a time for sorrow. Now keep in mind the only fast God required was on the Day of Atonement and Yom Kippur, as they would have called it, was all about mourning and sadness.  It was a time for sorrow over sin.
 
 
 
But a wedding was party time!  It took about seven days to really do it right.  Once the bridegroom arrived with his attendants, the wedding was launched. Take the word “fasting” and add an “e” in the middle changing it to “feasting” and you were ready for the wedding!
 
In fact, there were even ancient rabbinic rules forbidding wedding guests to fast. Why? Because these people who were such hypocrites who wanted to put on their display of spirituality would even go to a wedding and say, "Well, I'm sorrow, I can't eat, I'm fasting."
 
So the rabbis had to make rules that you couldn't fast at a wedding. That is why it is so emphatic in verse 19, that they cannot fast and then repeat it at the end of the verse, "They cannot fast." It's emphatic, you can't do that.  It's unacceptable.  It's forbidden.
 
 
Well they would understand the analogy. And although the Messiah is never referred to as the bridegroom in the Old Testament, there are some , beautiful images of weddings that refer to God's relationship to His people and particularly to God's relationship to His people in Messianic times. Isaiah has several of them, Ezekiel as well.
 
So our Lord is simply saying, in effect, the Messiah's here, this is not a time to fast. It is completely inappropriate for Jesus' disciples to fast and moan while He, the long-awaited Messiah is present. He has come.
 
But they don't get it. They don’t accept that He is the Messiah.  But He's the truth. He's the life. He's the only way to God. He is the Messiah, the Son of God, the Savior and His disciples are celebrating and they should celebrate. And that is not a time to fast.
 
Then notice verse 20.
 
The days will come. There will be a time in the future when the wedding joy will end. To put it simply, the bridegroom will be taken away, He will be killed in our place. This then is the first reference by Jesus to His death in the gospel of Mark.
 
And when that happens, then they will fast and it won't be a ritual, and it won't be a Monday, Thursday show.  It will be a day of heartbreak and grief.
 
And that is really a vivid illustration of the difference between Judaism and Christianity. Judaism with all its connection to the Old Testament, all its desire to revere the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, is completely out of touch with God and salvation and is nothing more than a ritual.  Christianity is the reality of a relationship.
 
And on the day Jesus Christ was arrested and crucified, you see the reality of that relationship as His followers, from a broken heart, grieving their losa, fast and pray and weep and mourn.  They had ritual, He offered a relationship.
 
And then to make clear to them how different these two were,
 
 
 
3.  His Analogies
 
verses 21-22
 
He uses analogies that they would understand and they really required no explanation at all.  No one sews a patch of unshrunken cloth on an old garment.  Otherwise the patch pulls away from it and a worse tear results. You can't mix new patch, unshrunk with an old piece of cloth.
 
The point being that Judaism's rituals and ceremonies are a worn-out old garment and you cannot patch the holes in it with a piece of the gospel. It's not compatible. Jesus didn't come with a message to patch up the old system. He came with a message to replace it all together.
 
He brought a new internal gospel of repentance and forgiveness by grace that cannot be mixed with the old Judaism of tradition and self-righteous works, or with any other religion.
 
The old garment, by the way, is not God's Law or the Old Testament.  It is the religion of Judaism and the pieces of the gospel can't be stitched into it.  Here is gospel uniqueness.  It doesn’t fit in with others.  It doesn’t get added to or tacked on.  It doesn’t accommodate various religions.  It exists in isolation.
 
There is only one was to be saved and that is through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  End of discussion.   Then He gives them another illustration pointing out the same thing and this one deals with old wine and new skins.
 
By the way, these Jews should have understood that because the process is described in Joshua 9:4-13
 
They would kill a goat, take the hide and use the neck as a spout, sew up the places where the legs were and any openings and form a large goatskin pouch to hold new wine.
 
They would leave the wine in there long enough to allow the dregs to settle out at the bottom.  They would repeat that process with additional skins until finally they had pure wine with no dregs left.  And it was really important that these skins be supple and able to contain the wine.
 
If you had old skins lying around that had been used and reused and had laid around for a while without being used, they would dry out and grow brittle and if you tried to use them again, you run the risk of them breaking open and spilling the wine.
 
They would have understood that process. And the Lord is saying you can't pour the Christian gospel into the old, brittle, cracked, split useless wineskins of Judaism because the new wine of the gospel is incompatible.
 
If you try to patch grace onto a works system, it will pull loose.  If you try to pour the new wine of the gospel into the old skin of Judaism, it will burst. The Christian gospel stands alone as the only way of salvation, incompatible with all other and every other religious system. The Christian gospel is the gospel of Jesus Christ, the only way of salvation by faith in Him through grace alone. If you're holding to anything else, it will go to hell with you.

 

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