The Old and the New

Mark 2:18-22: Jesus is faced with another criticism of His work and the actions of His disciples. People were wondering why Jesus’ disciples weren’t more spiritual because they weren’t fasting like the Pharisees and John’s disciples. Once again people were confusing outward appearance and inner spiritual reality. We’ve already discovered that Jesus put more importance on the inner spiritual life but as usual people expect appearances and practices to accompany the spiritual life. Jesus’ response to the question of fasting seems to overlook the question itself but it’s always worth thinking a little more about what Jesus, the Word, had to say. So what do bridegrooms, clothing patches and wineskins have to do with fasting? I’m not sure why the Pharisees and John’s disciples were fasting but it might have been an act of effort or discipline, self-denial, that they were imposing on themselves to be more spiritually minded. While Jesus was with His disciples there was no need for this, the Word was with them and was teaching them everyday what the Kingdom of God was like. It would have been pointless for Jesus’ disciples to be fasting with the same motives as their peers. The new teaching of the Kingdom was bringing new meaning to what a spiritual life was all about so it was important to not mix the old practices and the new teaching together. Once the disciples had understood what the Kingdom was about then they could take the practice of fasting and give it new meaning. The new would then not face the resistance of an old practice that could not handle the spirituality of the new Kingdom teaching.
We all know that we can also be resistant to the teaching of the Kingdom of God as it continually confronts our habits and traditions. Habits and traditions always seem to be the right thing to do, however, just like in the Jesus day they can be devoid of the truth of the Kingdom of God. We need to be willing to experience the renewal that God can bring to our lives after which we can fully experience His Kingdom. God has the capacity to make us like the new wineskin ready to receive the new wine of the Kingdom but we have to be ready to lay aside our traditions to receive the renewal He has awaiting us.

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