33 They said to him, “John’s disciples often fast and pray, and so do the disciples of the Pharisees, but yours go on eating and drinking.”
34 Jesus answered, “Can you make the friends of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? 35 But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; in those days they will fast.”
36 He told them this parable: “No one tears a piece out of a new garment to patch an old one. Otherwise, they will have torn the new garment, and the patch from the new will not match the old. 37 And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the new wine will burst the skins; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. 38 No, new wine must be poured into new wineskins. 39 And no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for they say, ‘The old is better.’ ”
It can be hard to remain faithful to what God has said and done, and, at the same time, to not miss the new things he’s doing.
When Solomon’s temple was dedicated, God’s glory visibly filled the temple (2 Chronicles 7:1-3). Ezekiel describes a vision of God’s presence leaving the temple before the Babylonians destroyed it and took the people into exile (Ezekiel 10:18-19; 11:23). Twice a week, the Pharisees fasted in mourning and longed for God to return to his people like he had before. (They wanted the old wine again.)
Now God has come to his people. But its not like last time. It’s much more wonderful: he’s come as one of his people, in the person of Jesus. He’s healing people excluded from the community by unclean diseases like leprosy (5:12-16). He’s forgiving sins and freeing people from paralysis (5:17-26). He’s seeking the outcasts, like Levi and his tax collector friends, transforming them and inviting them in (5:27-31).
‘16 This is what the Lord says – … 18 “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. 19 See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?”’ (Isaiah 43:16,18-19).
Jesus’ response that fasting isn’t appropriate when the bridegroom is present might have reminded them of Isaiah likening God to a bridegroom coming to his beloved but unfaithful bride, Jerusalem (61:10-62:5, 11). It might remind us of John’s vision of Jesus returning and the marriage feast of the lamb (Jesus) and the new Jerusalem (Revelation 19:6-8), where God’s people dwell with him forever. I’m looking forward to Jesus continuing to do new and better things.
Jesus, I want to be part of the brilliantly new things that you are doing today and will continue to do tomorrow. Please give me the wisdom to recognise the new things you’re doing, and not be confused by things that aren’t you. Thank you for how the things you have done point to the things you’re going to do.
Written by David Cornell