14 One day John’s disciples came. They said to Jesus, “We and the Pharisees go without eating. Why don’t your disciples go without eating?” 15 Jesus answered, “How can the guests of the groom be sad while he is with them? The time will come when the groom will be taken away from them. Then they will fast. 16 “People don’t sew a patch of new cloth on old clothes. The new piece will pull away from the old. That will make the tear worse. 17 “People don’t pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst. The wine will run out, and the wineskins will be destroyed. No, everyone pours new wine into new wineskins. Then both are saved.”
This passage is an interesting question brought up by the disciples of John the Baptist, sandwiched between accounts of miracles which Jesus was doing. It seems that despite the wonder and excitement of the miracles, at least two groups of Jews had worrying questions about what Jesus was doing. That the Pharisees were opposed to Him is not new, but John’s followers are worried enough to go to Jesus and ask Him in person why His disciples do not fast like they do. Jesus uses another wedding illustration, a wedding is a celebration, not a time for self deprivation. When the bridegroom leaves on the honeymoon, then things return to normal and life and fasting can begin again. This break from fasting for His followers is temporary, not an end to fasting itself.
The ministry of Jesus is something entirely new, never before has the Son of God been amongst them. Some things would need to change, but the aim of the transition was to preserve both the new wine and the wine skins. Jesus was telling the disciples that trying to reuse or repair old ways and habits would not be good enough to contain the Gospel. They must be flexible, prepared and open to change and renewal if they are to survive.
This reminds me how important it is in our ministries to evaluate what we are doing and to be open to changing the way we do things in response to the changing needs of the world. At the same time keeping true to the gospel and the word of God.
Dear Lord please help me to hold onto your unchanging message of grace, presenting it in ways that the world will understand. Help me to be excellent for the glory of your name. Amen
Written by Dimity Milne