Richard Whitaker- Discipleship and Connections Pastor LHBC

Matthew 9:14-17
Then the disciples of John came to him, saying, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?”  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.  No one puts a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch tears away from the garment, and a worse tear is made.  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.” (ESV) Matthew 9:14-17 

As Jesus inaugurated his coming kingdom, it was natural for people to have questions.  His teachings were new, he spoke as one with authority but had no official title, and he performed life changing miracles all of which validated his inspiring message of the arriving kingdom.  

The disciples of John the Baptist, along with the Pharisees, observed that Jesus and his disciples weren’t fasting (abstaining from food).  Instituted by the Pharisees, these particular fasts were more regulatory in nature than spiritual – more of a lingering tradition than a life giving practice of devotion.

While fasting has its place in forming our spirit, heart, and will into the image of Christ, ritualistic fasting can be turned into fancy window dressing that substitutes for true faith.

Jesus’ brother James provides a helpful explanation of true religion when he writes, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” (ESV) James 1:27. 

James is saying that following him is about how we serve people and who we are becoming in our character.  Sometimes we confuse true religion with substitutes such as favorite worship styles, authors, pastors, meeting places, and church programs. Jesus wants his followers to avoid making personal preferences our true religion which leaves us spiritually empty and joyless.

Do you see how Jesus compares his coming kingdom to unshrunk cloth and new wine?  New garments and new wine signify celebration and elude to the wedding supper of the Lamb that John writes about here, 

“Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out,
                  For the Lord our God
      the Almighty reigns.
            7       Let us rejoice and exult
      and give him the glory,
                  for the marriage of the Lamb has come,
      and his Bride has made herself ready;
            8       it was granted her to clothe herself
      with fine linen, bright and pure”—
for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.  9 And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” (ESV) Revelation 19:6-9

Jesus invites us to Kingdom life that is marked by joy and celebration, not false piety that is tied to empty religious rituals and traditions.  Let us preserve the new wine of the kingdom by adopting rhythms of life that bring us into ongoing relationships with people who are afflicted and in need of Christ’s love.  May we also bring out the new cloth of righteousness and sew it like a garment around our hearts so that our lives will reflect the image of Christ and make us ready for the wedding supper of the Lamb! 

Lord Jesus, I am reminded about how easy it is for me to create substitutes for you. Please forgive the ways in which I make rituals more important than you. I know that you are all that I need and desire in this world.  Clothe my heart in a joyful righteousness that serves those in need and remains devoted to you through each season of life and make my heart ready to meet you at the wedding supper of the Lamb!  In Jesus name,  Amen.

2 Timothy 2:15
15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.