Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Feast, Not Fast

The disciples of John and of the Pharisees were fasting. Then they came and said to Him, “Why do the disciples of John and of the Pharisees fast, but Your disciples do not fast?” (Mk 2:18)

Fasting in Scripture was required on the Day of Atonement (Lv 16:31-34) but was used during times of distress (2 Ch 20:3; Es 4:16), mourning (Zech 7:5), or repentance (Joel 2:15). By the time of Jesus, a regular routine was in place as manifest by the weekly fasting among the disciples of both John and the Pharisees.  This common practice, then, binds two groups of disciples together into an unlikely amalgam in order that they might ask Jesus why His disciples did not also fast.

And Jesus said to them, “Can the friends of the bridegroom fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them they cannot fast. But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast in those days.” (Mk 2:19–20)

Jesus’ answer to their query would have delivered both warm delight and biting chill. On the one hand, His statement is a reference to His office and work as their Messiah. Psalm 45 prophetically tells of the marriage between Messiah and His bride. By describing Himself as the bridegroom, He announces that He is the prophesied Anointed One. As a result, the only sensible thing for the friends to be doing is rejoicing with the Bridegroom. On the other hand, He foretells, in veiled terms, His departure from them. This was unexpected because the people had a myopic view of what Messiah would accomplish. These words are hints to what would befall Him at the hands of wicked men when nailed to the cross for the sin of the world.

“No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; or else the new piece pulls away from the old, and the tear is made worse. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; or else the new wine bursts the wineskins, the wine is spilled, and the wineskins are ruined. But new wine must be put into new wineskins.” (Mk 2:21–22)

The visiting disciples needed to be educated of what Messiah’s ultimate purpose would be. Something glorious was impending, even already present. No longer would the high priest need to be replaced, because the great High Priest (He 4:14–16) would always live to make intercession for His people (He 7:25). No longer would there be a covenant with temporal measures, because the new covenant would be eternal in every aspect, changing even the heart and mind of each one who believes (He 8:10–12). No longer would a trek need to be made to an earthly sanctuary, because Christ has entered the heavenly sanctuary on our behalf (He 9:11–12). No longer would the blood of bulls and goats be required to cover sin, because the final sacrifice for all sin had been made (He 9:24–26).

The Lord gave to these visiting disciples not what they wanted, but what they needed. Both the repentant and self-righteous needed to know that their expectations and hopes were far less than what would come to fulfill the enormity and wonder of God’s redemption promised at the Fall. That group had yet to see the culmination of Good Friday through Easter, while we look back upon it, but the message is the same: Messiah has come to deliver the new covenant in His blood. Believe it. What else could His followers do but rejoice with Him?

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