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Study of Mark: Mark 2:18-22 April 30, 2009

Posted by Warren in The Gospel of Mark.
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18 Now John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting. And people came and said to him, “Why do John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” 19 And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. 20 The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in that day. 21 No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. If he does, the patch tears away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear is made. 22 And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins—and the wine is destroyed, and so are the skins. But new wine is for fresh wineskins.”

A little bit about the fasting: Jews in Christ’s time were expected to fast twice each week. Old Testament law only established one fast day each year — the Day of Atonement. Jesus didn’t expect his disciples to follow the extra-biblical rules and regulations of the Pharisees. Fasting was commonly associated with mourning — Jesus made the point that there was no reason to fast, since He was still with his disciples. There would come a time when He wasn’t with them, and that would be the appropriate time to fast and mourn.

Jesus then teaches in two parables — the cloth and the wineskins. The point of both parables is the same — the Gospel cannot be associated with or tied to the self-righteousness and man-made traditions of the Pharisees. God’s grace made any man-made attempts at pleasing God irrelevant, and in fact showed that any such attempts always fell short.

Old wineskins didn’t have the elasticity to hold new wine as it fermented. In the same way, the traditions of men often hampered the spread of the Gospel, as Judaizers tried to keep believers bound to the letter of the law. as Christians, we must be careful that, while teaching believers that there is a lifestyle of holiness that we are called to, we do not make holiness a condition of salvation — as many tend to do. Christ forgives us of our sins, and His righteousness is imputed to us — it’s nothing that we can do ourselves.

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