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Mar 06, 2016

New Wineskins

Passage: Mark 2:18-22

Speaker: Scott Jeffreys

Series: Mark: An Action Packed Gospel

In John’s end time vision of the of the new heavens and new earth in the book of Revelation, that time when Christ returns to execute God’s judgment and mercy, and renewal in the world, forever crushing the power of sin and death, we hear these words from our Lord, “Behold I am making all things new!”[i]

In the Apostle Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians he says this about Jesus. “Therefore if anyone is in Christ he is a new creation, the old has gone, the new has come.”[ii]  

Our morning prayer of praise began like this: God of all glory, on this first day of the week you began your creation, bringing light out of darkness, and on this first day you began your new creation, raising Jesus Christ out of the darkness of death.

Newness and Jesus Christ walk together hand and hand. They fit like a glove. They are two sides of the same coin. You will not find one without the other.

In our text today Jesus is questioned by some of John the Baptist’s followers (obviously these guys had not gotten the point because John had told them to follow Jesus and not himself) and some Pharisees (an influential religious group during Jesus’ day) about why he and his disciples were not fasting.

Jesus gives them an answer they could understand. Basically, our Lord answered their question by saying that right now my disciples are at a wedding party, and nobody fasts at a wedding party.

A Wedding Party

The wedding party is the one time that even God himself might turn a blind eye to gluttony.

At wedding parties we celebrate with lots of food and lots of drink because it is a joyous occasion when God brings together a man and woman in holy matrimony, to reflect the two separate, distinct, and different halves of the image of God coming together like two pieces of a puzzle to reflect the oneness and the fullness of God’s image in the most intimate of human relationships, marriage. When a wedding happens all diets go out the window. This is no time to fast, it’s a time to feast!

Back in Jesus’ day when a marriage occurred Jewish family and friends would get together at the new couple’s home for a week’s worth of celebration. The couple did not fly to Jamaica for a honeymoon, but rather they stayed home with their friends and partied like it was 1999! Even stodgy old religious people like myself loosened their ties, put down their spiritual disciplines, and joined in on the wedding celebration.

What Jesus was saying to his questioners was that now was not the time for his disciples to be skipping meals. I’m only going to be with them a little while (a three year earthly ministry) so while I got them we are going to celebrate and feast together. By doing this as their bridegroom, I am going to give my bride, the disciples, a healthy dose of what it is going to be like in God’s eternal Kingdom when I make all things new.

As I thought about this text this week I was reminded of the loss of our dog Rudy.

About a month ago we found out Rudy had bone cancer and we learned that at some point we would likely have to put him down. That was a tough day for our family when we got the news. There was much weeping. But then a day or two later everybody’s demeanor began to change.

We all knew that Rudy was going to die but we were not going to fast and mourn because right now we had him and we were going to celebrate. We were going to enjoy his presence among us. We knew the time was short for him and we knew the day was coming when we would mourn and fast, so to speak, but for this last month we did not do that, rather we feasted with Rudy. On Wednesday, we had to put him down and that is when our family went into fasting and mourning.

There Is a Time and Season for Everything

This is what Jesus was saying to his questioners. He was saying to them, “I can assure you that the day is coming when my disciples will fast and mourn but not now because right now I got them with me and we are going to feast together in joy as I teach them, forgive them, and make them right with God through my life, death, and resurrection.”

That’s what Jesus meant when he said in v. 29-30 of the text, “How can the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? They cannot, so long as they have him with them. But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them, and no that day they will fast.”

As King Solomon said in the book of Ecclesiastes, “There is a time and season for everything.” There is a time to be born and a time to die. There is a time to laugh and a time to cry, and there is a time to fast and there is a time to feast.

You see, if Jesus and his disciples were to fast and mourn during the time God had given them to feast in joy it would be like sowing a new, unshrunk piece of cloth on an old pair of shrunken, worn-out jeans. After a few washes it would tear a hole in the pants. Or it would be like pouring new wine into old wineskins.

Back in Jesus’ day there were no glass bottles so wine had to be stored in an animal wineskin bottle. That new wineskin at first was soft and flexible, so when the wine was poured in it the wineskin would expand as the wine began to ferment, but after the wineskin had been stretched and was empty, it could not take another refill. If you poured new wine into an old wineskin you would stretch it to the hilt and the wineskin would burst like a balloon.

In short, what Jesus is saying is that it is a damaging thing to try and force a new thing in your midst into the old thing, and it is also a dangerous thing to misunderstand the time and season that is before you in your life.

So Jesus has no beef with fasting. He himself fasted for 40 days in the wilderness, in preparation for the beginning of his public ministry. His only problem with it would be if you did it for show, which he did criticize in his Sermon on the Mount, or if you got the time and seasons mixed up. But for now it was not time for the disciples to fast, the day was coming for sure, but it had not yet arrived. Now was the time for feasting and rejoicing in the Lord because the Lord was with them.

Applying the Text

I would make two brief points of application from this text for your daily living.

First, right now you are alive and breathing. One day you will not be. What are you doing with Jesus Christ right now? When you die there will be a time of mourning and fasting but now you are alive and the one who has come into this world to “make all things new” has come so that you may life and life to the full.[iii] Jesus is your true bridegroom and you are his bride. Have you run and left him at the altar? Is the seat reserved for you at your wedding party empty? What are you running for? Christ has come to give you a feast! Now is the time. Today is the day of salvation. Don’t miss it. If you keep missing the time, time will run out and you will miss the feast. Come to Christ! He wants to pour new wine into your old life and he wants to make all things new!

Second, right now you are alive and breathing, one day you will not be, and neither will your loved ones. What are you doing with them right now? When you and they die there will be a time of mourning and fasting for sure but for now you and they are alive, don’t miss the feast. Time is short.

Paul tells the church in Ephesus to “redeem the time because the days are evil.”[iv] By this he means the world is fallen, the days are short, and one day we will all die; therefore it behooves us as the redeemed sons and daughters of Jesus Christ to make the most of our short time on this earth. We don’t have forever to enjoy the time God has set aside for us to feast with those whom He brings in our lives.

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, amen.    


[i] Revelation 21:5

[ii] II Corinthians 5:17

[iii] John 10:10

[iv] Ephesians 5:17