The Gospel of Matthew: a commentary & meditation 
"The day will come when they will fast"

Scripture:  Matthew 9:14-17

14 Then the disciples of John came to him, saying, "Why do we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?" 15 And Jesus said to them, "Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come, when the bridegroom is  taken away from them, and then they will fast. 16 And no one puts a piece of unsprung cloth on an old garment, for the patch tears away from the garment, and a worse tear is made.  17 Neither is new wine put into old wineskins; if it is, the skins burst, and the wine is spilled, and the skins are destroyed; but new wine is  put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved."
Meditation: Which comes first, fasting or feasting?  The disciples of John the Baptist were upset with Jesus’ disciples because they did not fast. Fasting was one of the three most important religious duties, along with prayer and almsgiving.  Jesus gave a simple explanation.  There’s a time for fasting and a time for feasting (or celebrating). To walk as a disciple with Jesus is to experience a whole new joy of relationship akin to the joy of the wedding party in celebrating with the groom and bride their wedding bliss. But there also comes a time when the Lord's disciples must bear the cross of affliction and purification.  For the disciple there is both a time for rejoicing in the Lord's presence and celebrating his goodness and a time for seeking the Lord with humility and fasting and for mourning over sin.  Do you take joy in the Lord’s presence with you and do you express sorrow and contrition for your sins?

Jesus goes on to warn his disciples about the problem of the “closed mind” that refuses to learn new things.  Jesus used an image familiar to his audience — new and old wineskins.  In Jesus’ times, wine was stored in wineskins, not bottles.  New wine poured into skins was still fermenting. The gases exerted gave pressure.  New wine skins were elastic enough to take the pressure, but old wine skins easily burst because they were hard. What did Jesus mean by this comparison?  Are we to reject the old in place of the new?  Just as there is a right place and a right time for fasting and for feasting, so there is a right place for the old as well as the new.  Jesus says the kingdom of heaven is like a householder who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old (Matthew 13:52).  How impoverished we would be if we only had the Old Testament or the New Testament, rather than both.  The Lord gives us wisdom so we can make the best use of both the old and the new. He doesn't want us to hold rigidly to the past and to be resistant to the new work of his Holy Spirit in our lives.  He wants our minds and hearts to be like new wine skins — open and ready to receive the new wine of the Holy Spirit.  Are you eager to grow in the knowledge and understanding of God’s word and plan for your life?

"Lord, fill me with your Holy Spirit, that I may grow in the knowledge of your great love and truth.  Help me to seek you earnestly in prayer and fasting that I may turn away from sin and wilfulness and conform my life more fully to your will. May I always find joy in knowing, loving, and serving you.”


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(c) 2002 Don Schwager