Everything Changes

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Mark 2:18-22 (Jesus Questioned about Fasting)

INTRODUCTION: On June 12th of this year thousands of people across the United States will turn on their TV sets only to find out they don’t work anymore. That is the new date set by Congress for when over-the-air signals will switch from analog to digital. Starting June 12th you will need either a new television set or a converter box in order to continue watching TV. The old equipment will no longer work with the new system. Why? Because when it comes to over-the-air TV signals, on June 12th everything changes.

In the same way, when Jesus comes, everything changes. The old ways don’t work anymore. The old patterns don’t fit. This is true both historically and personally. Historically, when Jesus came, everything changed. And personally, when Jesus comes into your life, everything also changes.

Today’s passage begins with a question about fasting, specifically, why don’t Jesus’ disciples fast? And although Jesus’ answer includes fasting, Jesus uses this particular question to teach us a much broader truth: that with his coming, everything changes.

I. Everything changed when Jesus came (verses 18-20)

Let’s look at this historically first. Everything changed when Jesus came. Look at verse 18:

Now John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting. Some people came and asked Jesus, “How is it that John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees are fasting, but yours are not?” (Mark 2:18)

So let’s talk about fasting for a moment. The Old Testament only commanded people to fast one day out of the year, the Day of Atonement, but people fasted at other times too. Fasting was an expression of sorrow, either for a loss in your life or as part of repentance for sin. It was usually associated with prayer, and sometimes the whole nation would fast and pray together.

Now the Pharisees in Jesus’ time fasted twice a week, on Mondays and Thursdays. They considered this to be a religious act of piety, and often went to great lengths to make sure that other people knew they were fasting. Jesus described them as purposely looking somber and sad and disfiguring their faces to show men they were fasting. He said of them, “I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full.” [“When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full.” (Matthew 6:16)]

Apparently John the Baptist’s followers practiced fasting, too. But their fasting was a little different. John’s message was a message of repentance in preparation for the coming of Christ, and so it is likely that their fasting was an expression of repentance for their sins in preparation for Christ.

And so here we have two different groups, probably fasting for two different reasons, but they both had something in common. They were fasting, while Jesus’ disciples were not. And they wanted to know why.

Jesus answered their question with another question. Don’t you love to do that? “Where were you last night?” “Where were you last night?” “I was at home. Where were you?” “What were you doing at home?” It’s a great way of avoiding an answer! But Jesus answered their question with a question, not to avoid giving an answer, but in order to make a point. Look at verse 19. They asked him, “Why don’t your disciples fast?”

Jesus answered, “How can the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? They cannot, so long as they have him with them.” (Mark 2:19)

Jesus asked what we call a rhetorical question, that is an obvious question with an obvious answer. “How can the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is still with them?” The answer is obvious. They can’t. A wedding is a time of feasting and joy. It’s a time of celebration. It’s a time to gather family and friends. It’s a time to break out music and song. But fasting is a time of sorrow and self-denial. It wouldn’t make any sense to fast while the bridegroom is right there. There is a time to fast and a time to feast, and the wedding celebration is a time to feast. Now granted, fasting might make the reception a whole lot cheaper for the bride’s father, but it would be completely inappropriate to the occasion.

So what was Jesus saying by all this? Jesus is saying that he is the bridegroom! He is the one that Israel has been waiting for all these years. So yes, it made sense to fast before when they were waiting for him and preparing for his coming, but now that Jesus has come, everything changes! The bridegroom is here! This is a time to rejoice!

In the Old Testament the imagery of the bridegroom or husband was used of God in relation to Israel. In the New Testament it is used of Jesus in relation to the church. This was not a time for fasting because the bridegroom was present. “How can the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? They cannot … so long as they have him with them.” (Mark 2:19)

Jesus goes on to say in verse 20:

But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them, and on that day they will fast. (Mark 2:20)

This phrase “taken away” is the same verb used in Isaiah 53 which speaks of Jesus’ death: “By oppression and judgment he was taken away.” (Isaiah 53:8) Jesus uses a bit of foreshadowing here. He is talking about his death. The disciples are rejoicing in his presence now, but the day will come when they will mourn his absence. Then they will fast.

Some people think Jesus is speaking here about the period between his death and resurrection, but I believe his words apply to today as well. Yes, Jesus is present with us today through the Holy Spirit, but we still long for his appearing. And so it is still appropriate to fast as an expression of our longing and desire. But our fasting is different than the fasting of the followers of John and the Pharisees. We no longer fast in mourning, waiting for our Savior to come. We fast in anticipation, waiting for our Savior to return.

You see, everything changed when Jesus came. The Old Testament laws no longer applied in the same way. The Jewish ceremonies and sacrifices were fulfilled in Christ’s death on the cross. All of the Old Testament looked forward to the coming of the Messiah. But now that Christ has come, everything changes. Everything is different. Everything is new.

II. The old is incompatible with the new (verses 21-22a)

And the old ways are incompatible with the new. That’s what Jesus says in the next part of this passage. Look at verses 21-22:

“No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. If he does, the new piece will pull away from the old, making the tear worse. And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined.” (Mark 2:21-22)

Jesus uses two matching illustrations here to make the same point: the old is incompatible with the new.

First, the illustration of the unshrunk cloth. Most of our clothing today comes preshrunk, but it was different back in Jesus’ time. So, if you had an older garment that had been washed multiple times, it would already have shrunk as far as it was going to shrink. But let’s say you got a hole in that garment and sewed a patch of unshrunk cloth over the hole. Your garment is not going to shrink anymore when you wash it, but the patch will. And when the patch shrinks, what is it going to do? It is going to tear an even bigger hole in the garment. What is Jesus saying here? The old is incompatible with the new. No one would sew a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. It wouldn’t make sense.

The second illustration has to do with wineskins. Jesus was talking about the goatskin containers that people used to hold water or wine in those days. When these wineskins were new, they were flexible and had the ability to stretch. So if you filled a new wineskin with new wine that was still fermenting and still expanding, no problem. You could fill it right up, and the skin would expand along with the wine. But you can only stretch a goatskin so far. As the skins got older, they were already stretched out and became brittle. So if you poured new wine that was still expanding into an old wineskin, it would burst the skin and you would lose the wine as well.

Once again, Jesus’ point is exactly the same here. The old is incompatible with the new. If Jesus were giving this illustration today, he would use more modern examples. He would say you can’t play a DVD in a VCR. He would say you can’t watch digital signals on an analog TV. And you can’t just keep on living as if Jesus never came.

God spoke through the prophet Jeremiah:

“The time is coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them,” declares the LORD. “This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time,” declares the LORD. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, `Know the LORD,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the LORD. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” (Jeremiah 31:31-34)

God said, “The time is coming when I will make a new covenant.” Jesus said, “The time has come.” God’s new covenant is a covenant he made through his Son, Jesus. It is a new covenant in Jesus’ blood. Jesus died for sins, and everyone who puts their faith in Jesus will be saved.

The new covenant is incompatible with the old. The time of the old covenant is over. It is finished. It is done. The book of Hebrews says the old covenant is “obsolete, and what is obsolete and aging will soon disappear.” (Hebrews 8:13) In fact, the whole book of Hebrews is just one big explanation of how everything has changed now that Jesus has come, and how everything is better now that Jesus has come. That is its major theme. And that is the theme of these two parables. The old is incompatible with the new. When Jesus comes, everything changes.

III. Your life must change to accommodate Christ (verse 22b)

And that brings us to our final point this morning. Your life must also change to accommodate Christ. Look at the very last part of verse 22. In the first part of the verse Jesus said, “No one pours new wine into old wineskins.” Now he finishes by saying,

“No, he pours new wine into new wineskins.” (Mark 2:22)

When Jesus comes, everything changes. Remember, we said this is true both historically and personally. Historically, we no longer approach God through the feasts and sacrifices of the Old Testament. All of that was fulfilled when Jesus came. Now we approach God only through his Son, Jesus Christ. That’s historically.

And then personally, when Jesus comes into your life, everything also changes. There are two ways in particular that your life must change. First, there is the change that only God can bring. No amount of self- effort, self-change or self-reformation will make your life adequate to accommodate Christ. God must bring a change in you first. That’s why Jesus said, “You must be born again.” You must become a new person. And that happens when you put your faith and trust in Jesus Christ as your Savior. The Bible says, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

But once you have come to Christ, there is a second way your life must change. And that is the whole series of changes you make in cooperation with God. This is what the Bible means by working out your salvation. It is a lifelong process of confessing and turning away from sin, yielding to the influence of the Holy Spirit, and growing in grace.

In other words, you cannot come to Christ and keep living the same life you lived before Christ. A sinner can be reasonably happy in his or her sin. But a true believer will never be happy in their sin. Sin will only make you miserable. But that’s a good thing! God doesn’t leave you in your sin, because the old is incompatible with the new. And so your life must change to accommodate Christ.

CONCLUSION: Let me ask you this morning. What changes do you need to make in your life right now? What things in your life are incompatible with Christ?

Are you resisting Christ and the changes he is trying to bring in your life? Resisting Christ is like that unshrunk patch tearing at the patterns of your old life. When you become a Christian, you can’t hold on to your old practices and sinful habits without doing serious damage to your life. Your life needs to change.

But Jesus not only wants to free you from your old ways. He wants to lead you into new ways of living. He wants you to grow in your faith and your knowledge of God. He wants you to know the joy of Christian fellowship and service. He wants to fill your life with his goodness and love. Trying to restrain Christ in your life is like the old wineskins bursting from the fullness of the new wine. We need to let Jesus do his work in us through the Holy Spirit to make us new vessels for his glory. We need to let God expand our lives to fit the new patterns of life he wants to grow in us.

Because when Jesus comes, everything changes. And that’s a good thing. Will you let Christ change you today?

© Ray Fowler

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By Ray Fowler. © Ray Fowler. Website: http://www.rayfowler.org

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