In Matthew 9:14-17, John’s disciples asked Jesus, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast often, but Your disciples do not fast?” 15 And Jesus said to 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. 16 No one puts a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; for the patch pulls away from the garment, and the tear is made worse. 17 Nor do they put new wine into old wineskins, or else the wineskins break, the wine is spilled, and the wineskins are ruined. But they put new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.” NKJV
To understand what Jesus said, we can go back to Ecclesiastes 3 where Solomon explained that there is a season for everything. A few examples are: a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to tear and a time to sew, and a time to plant and a time to reap. In Matthew 9, Jesus was saying basically the same thing to John’s disciples. In other words, there is a time to mourn which is symbolized by fasting and there is a time not to mourn or fast. Jesus told them it was not appropriate for His disciples to fast because He (the bridegroom) was with them. I think we can assume it is never appropriate to fast during celebrations like weddings when we should be eating, drinking, and fellowshipping with others.
Jesus indicated a time would come when His disciples would fast. He was referring to the time when His disciples would mourn His death. When Jesus was arrested and taken away from His disciples, it seemed like the worst thing that could possibly happen. Eventually, Jesus was crucified but His body did not decay. Instead, He was raised to life after three days. Everything that took place happened for a purpose– the salvation and preservation of God’s people. This method of transferring Jesus from humanity to immortality (His own preservation) would be what would cause His disciples to fast.
We need to understand that not only is there a time for everything but there is a manner in which everything should be done in order to properly preserve something.
Why do people put patches on torn garments anyway? To make them last longer. If you don’t do it correctly the goal of extending the life of the garment will not be accomplished. If you use fabric that has not been preshrunk and sew it to an old garment, the patch will shrink when it’s washed, not lay right on the garment, and possibly tear the garment more.
Why do you need to put new wine in new wineskins? So when the wine ferments, the bags made of skin can stretch and not burst. In other words, new wineskins are necessary to preserve the new wine. Old wineskins that had already been stretched to their maximum would burst if new wine fermented in them.
Why do you need to sterilize jars and lids before canning something? To prevent bacterial or fungal growth in the food that could be poisonous or deadly to eat and to preserve something that will sustain your life.
Jesus revealed Himself to His people in order to preserve them for eternity. He knew there was only one way to accomplish this. He had to die and rise from the dead. In other words, He who was the Manna from Heaven had to be preserved. This was symbolized by the jar of manna that was kept in the Ark of the Covenant long after the day it was collected and long after the manna from heaven ceased falling in the wilderness.
Jesus is the living Torah. He is the way, the truth, and the life. Salvation is found in no one else. Those who trust in Him have been sealed with the Holy Spirit who abides within all believers and preserves them for the Day of the Lord.
Besides the Holy Spirit, God put His law in our hearts. This is the same law that was on the first and second set of tablets God originally gave His people at Mount Sinai. It was their task to keep it and instruct future generations to do so as well. Over time, traditions were added to the law that God originally gave them. Their traditions were like the worms that contaminated the manna in the wilderness. The scribes and Pharisees were highly educated men who taught the law of God and traditions of men to the people. They were old wineskins. They couldn’t recognize Yeshua, the Living Torah who was in their midst. They could not accept what Jesus taught unless their hearts of stone were removed and replaced with a heart of flesh.
Before our generation could choose to put its faith in Jesus, He chose 12 uneducated men who had expandable hearts of flesh to be His disciples. He began to properly educate them in the original law that God gave to those who came out of Egypt. They were like new flexible wineskins in which Jesus was pouring new wine. Jesus’ wine would spread, nourish, and preserve those throughout the world who came long after He returned to heaven.
Many Christians believe the old wine is the teachings of the Old Testament and the new wine is that of the New Testament. This is very far from the truth. Just as the source of both old and new wine is grapes, the terms of both the old and new marriage covenants are the original law–just like the second set of tablets contained the same laws as the first). The difference between the two is that the original was written on stone tablets and now the law resides with in those who believe; it is written on their hearts (Jeremiah 31:33). In addition, the Holy Spirit who lives within the hearts of believers is their Counselor and teaches them the law of God.
We must be new wineskins. We must not be old wineskins that add burdensome rules, traditions, or improper applications of Scripture to our faith that God never intended. We must learn and obey God’s original commandments and not take away from them. For those of us who were raised to follow various traditions that come from pagan forms, we may find it difficult to cast them aside but we must. We have to continually renew our minds and be like new wineskins so we can always receive new wine. All of these things encompass working out your own salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12).
Many years have gone by since Jesus poured new wine into His disciples. It’s been almost 2000 years since His death and resurrection. Our bridegroom is in heaven and we are waiting for His return. It is a time when it is occasionally appropriate for us to fast on earth. We may choose to fast today because we:
- Are mourning a past tragedy or dealing with a current one. Just think, these may be part of God’s method to purify or preserve us!
- Are mourning the sinfulness of our nation. This shows we have a heart like His!
- Are mourning His absence and long for His return.
- Want to draw close to Him because we love Him.
- Want to be heard by Him to rescue us in our greatest hour of need.
- Want to be taught by Him so we will not be deceived or be part of the great apostasy.
- Want to be comforted by Him to experience His love and tenderness.
Whether you fast or not, praise the Lord because He is sustaining and preserving us for eternity!