The Gathering Church/ Pastor Barry: Gospel of Mark: Memoirs of the Naked Runner
We all have traditions that are beliefs and behaviors from the past that we pass down because of their symbolic meaning or special significance. There are family traditions, cultural traditions and religious traditions that people hold very dear. When Jesus came into this world He spoke the truth and that truth messed with many traditions. How about you and your traditions…will you allow Jesus to mess with yours?
Fasting Mark 2:18-22, Matthew 23:5-12, Matthew 6:16-18, John 3:22-30
Our lesson begins with a question for Jesus about the tradition of fasting: “Why are John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fasting but yours are not?” Matthew’s gospel reveals that it was John’s disciples who asked the question (Mat. 9:14).
According to the Bible, fasting was abstaining from food (sometimes drink) for reasons such as: Times of sorrow and grief, repentance, religious events, personal service toward God and times of making important decisions. Fasting has benefits both physically and spiritually. •It benefits ones health, by cleansing the body. •It fosters self-discipline and appreciation. •It brings focus to prayer. •It is honored by God when done in sincere dedication to Him. While there are many things we can fast for today, we are not commanded to do so under the new covenant. Fasting is beneficial but voluntary for the Christian. However, under the old covenant, a “denial of self” (translated as fasting) was commanded once a year on the Day of Atonement (Lev. 23:27-28).
The Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur): on that day, the high priest performed rituals to atone for the sins of the people. This ceremony used two goats. The blood of the first goat was sprinkled on the ark, ritually appeasing the wrath of God for another year. The second goat (the scapegoat) was chased into the wilderness symbolically removing the sins of the people. Jews today still celebrate the annual Day of Atonement (each year in September-October). The day is traditionally observed with a 25-hour period of fasting and intensive prayer, often spending most of the day in synagogue services. Under the New Covenant it is Jesus alone who is our atonement:
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! Romans 5:8-9
As we get back to our primary text, we must realize that we have two different groups of people fasting for different reasons. Pharisees were famous for making up new laws from their man-made traditions and trying to bind them on others. One of these man-made traditions was fasting. The Pharisees ritually fasted on Mondays and Thursdays (Luke 18:12). Most of what the Pharisees did was for an outward show, and recognition (Matt. 23:5-12). Their fasts were not sincere. Jesus’ instructed that fasting should be done in secret (Mat. 6:16-18). To be recognized only by God.
The disciples of John were likely fasting out of sincerity. John was in prison and his life was in danger (Matt. 4:12). The question that they asked Jesus about fasting was sincere but it was likely prompted by the complaining of the Pharisees. Jesus answered them, “Can the friends of the bridegroom mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast.” His answer was directed to John’s disciples and surely made them recall a time when John referred to Jesus as “the bridegroom” (John 3:22-30). It was time for John to decrease and for Jesus to increase, but the time would come when Jesus too would be taken away from His disciples and then they would fast.
Jesus continued on with illustrations that don’t seem to fit the context of the question, but you will see that they do. In each illustration Jesus is saying “you cannot mix the new with the old”. Regarding the new cloth on the old garment, we need to keep in mind that most clothing then was made from wool. Before wool can be sewn it must be shrunk first. If a person was to repair an old garment with a new unshrunk patch it would eventually tear away and make the hole bigger. Regarding the wine skins, these usually came from a goat. Once a wine skin is used, especially for fermenting wine, it becomes stretched out and brittle. The residue left in the wine skin will cause the new wine to ferment to quickly breaking the old wine skin and ruining the wine.
Jesus was saying that we cannot make the old and the new covenants work together. John’s disciples were living by the old covenant which was passing away. John was the last Old Testament prophet. The Pharisees were also living by their old covenant traditions as well. Like John the Baptist, those works of the law had to decrease so that the grace of God in Christ would increase. Jesus did not come to carry on the traditions of the old covenant. Instead, He came to fulfill those laws (Mat. 5:17) and establish a new covenant of grace.
Lord of the Sabbath Mark 2:23-28, 3:1-6, Matthew 12:3-8 , 2 Corinthians 3:17
One of the foremost traditions of the Jews is the observance of the Sabbath (Ex. 20:8-11): “On it you shall not do any work”, and yet Jesus and His disciples were gathering grain to eat.The Pharisees and teachers of the law were incensed! The gospel of Matthew gives Jesus’ response to them in better detail (Mat.12:3-8). Jesus was saying that He was greater than the Law because, as God in flesh, He is the Author of those laws. Jesus came to provide us rest from laboring to achieve our own salvation through tradition and works. Jesus is our Sabbath rest (Hebrews 3-4)! Because of His sacrifice on the cross, we can now forever cease laboring to attain God’s favor and rest in His mercy and grace. To drive this message home Jesus went into the synagogue on the Sabbath and healed a man with a shriveled hand. Instead of embracing the truth of Christ, the Pharisees plotted Jesus’ death.
How about your family, cultural or religious traditions? Do they reflect the new covenant in Christ? If they do not then strip them off and be free! Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom!