Some religious people were disturbed that Jesus would eat with sinners (Mt 9:11); in a manner of speaking, others were disturbed that he ate at all (9:14). For some, holiness meant avoiding eating with ungodly people. For others, holiness meant religious practices of self-discipline like fasting. To both, Jesus undoubtedly appeared self-indulgent (11:19). Thus Jesus responds with three illustrations about appropriateness. When sinners return to God through Jesus' ministry, celebration rather than fasting is appropriate.
Jesus Shows Little Concern for Religious Customs (9:14)
Although the fasts here were not demanded in the law, they were part of current religious tradition. Most Christians today evaluate their traditions in light of the Bible so little that we generally equate the two, as some of Jesus' contemporaries did. Essentially some considered him a "liberal" (Danker 1972:72)!
Jesus Stands Up for His Disciples (9:14-15)
Ancient literature regularly assumes that teachers had to answer for the behavior of their disciples (such as Socrates for Alcibiades). When we face false accusations or opposition for following Jesus, we should always remember that if he is on our side we do not need to worry about what others will say. If David Wilkerson had allowed slander to deter him from his work with New York gangs in the 1960s, we would not have the ministry of Teen Challenge today. The key to persevering in God's call is to genuinely know that we are doing God's will.
There Are Appropriate Times for Everything (9:15-17)
Most of us might have responded, "Look, you want to talk about fasting? I fasted forty days in the wilderness." But Jesus avoids seeking human honor for what he did before God in secret (6:16-18), and makes his point instead by three illustrations.
It was inappropriate for groomsmen to fast until after a wedding banquet had ended. Weddings lasted seven days, and participants-the NIV's guests of the bridegroom means either the groomsmen (compare Jn 3:29) or the guests-were expected to participate joyfully. Sages even interrupted their schools to hail passing bridal processions (ARN 4A).
New cloth had not yet shrunk, and when it began to shrink after being patched onto a garment that had finished its shrinking, the patch would tear loose from the garment, making the tear worse (Mt 9:16). In the same way, old wineskins had been stretched to the limit as wine fermented and expanded in them. Because old wineskins had already been stretched to the limit, if they were filled with new wine it would ultimately burst them when it expanded. Traditional rituals must never become a straitjacket that hinder us from celebrating sinners' embrace of the good news of God's kingdom.
@SUBHEAD = Jesus' Authority over Disabilities and Disciples (9:18-38)
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