Matthew 9:14-17 New International Version (NIV)
Jesus Questioned About Fasting
14 Then John’s disciples came and asked him, “How is it that we and the Pharisees fast often, but your disciples do not fast?”
15 Jesus answered, “How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them? The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast.
16 “No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch will pull away from the garment, making the tear worse. 17 Neither do people pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.”
I shared last week how people don’t get Christianity because they don’t understand what it is about. What keeps people from believing in Jesus is a lie in one way or another. Last week we saw how people think that if they can live right then God will owe them salvation, and Jesus teaches how the reality of life is that we are all sick and need of a doctor; those who are the worst of the worst, and those who have lived an “apparently good life”. The reality is that we are all sick in our souls, none of us live up to the standards of God.
Tonight; another group of religious people come to Jesus and ask him a question which is based on a false assumption of religion; and Jesus shares how Christianity is completely different to their assumptions.
The disciples of John; these were people who had devoted themselves to follow after John the Baptist; they were very religious people; and they ask Jesus why don’t your disciples fast! Essentially their religion was expressed by self-denial; why doesn’t Jesus’ disciple show the same level of religious devotion that they show?
Again, Jesus challenges their assumptions of religion and shows them what true religion; what true Christianity is all about.
Firstly we see from what Christ preaches;
1. True Christianity is about the bridegroom
So, the religious people (John’s Disciples), these people had committed themselves completely to a religious life. Their question exposes their assumption of religion. “We are very religious, and we fast a lot!” They also pointed to the other religious people around, “The Pharisees fast a lot. “If you Jesus are true, why don’t you and your disciples fast as much as we do?”
Do you see the assumption of their religion? It was all based in what you do; your religion, your goodness, is based on your self-denial! On what you do; how much you fast!
Jesus destroys their assumptions. By saying “why would anyone fast when the bridegroom is here?” is such a focused attack on their assumptions. Because their assumption is that religion is about them; Jesus says that all our religion should be about whether we know the Bridegroom or not.
The wonderful reality about this; is twofold, firstly what have the guests done to deserve to be at the wedding? Nothing! They simply accept the gift of being able to feast with the bridegroom. Jesus is pointing to the wonderful reality of true Christianity; it is an undeserved gift!
Secondly, Jesus says, that a time is coming that the bridegroom will be taken away, then his disciples will fast! We fast church, because we are not completely with our bridegroom. He was taken away (which is a picture of the cross) however, one day He will come back for us and in Glory; in the resurrection when we are with the bridegroom again; when we are with Jesus again, there will never be need for fasting again! In that day there will be no more mourning or hurt or pain!
So, we learn that true Christianity is not about what we do but if we know the bridegroom; if we are with Him!
This is such a radical departure from all assumptions about religion; most religions are good people trying to show everyone else how good they are; proving their morality and the great critique of non-religious people of religious people is that they are hypocrites. Because all their trying to be good only mask the fact that deep down they are not!
Jesus essentially says; it is not your fasting that makes you right with God; it is not your activity, it is whether or not you are invited to the wedding; it is whether or not you know the bridegroom; now let’s ask an obvious question; who is the bridegroom? It is Jesus!
Christianity is not about trying to be good, it is about knowing that you have been made good by Jesus’ death. How this happens will be what we look at for the rest of this message.
Which leads us to the second point tonight;
Secondly we see that;
2.True Christianity is about new people
Jesus goes on with his rebuttal to the disciples of John’s question; by saying you can’t add new wine to old wineskins or patch old wineskins with new patches these things are incompatible and when you do it you destroy everything.
The illustration is brilliant; because the visual reality of this is apt; you can imagine right now trying to sow together some old piece of leather with a new one and the whole thing bursting.
Now the illustration is pointing to the fact that true Christianity cannot be an add on to your life; you cannot patch up the ideas of Jesus into your understanding of religion and life; they are incompatible, and you will lose everything.
I have said this before; but Christianity is not about making you a nice you, it is not about making better people; it is about making new people.
Jesus will not be shared with any other idea of religion, with any other philosophy or any of your plans for your life; these things are in contradiction it will cause the whole thing to fall apart.
Church we cannot add the gospel to our idea of life, the gospel should and does turn our ideas and ideals of life upside down! Our ideas of righteousness are flipped; we have an idea that you have to earn righteousness; the gospel says you cannot and therefore have to receive it as a free gift. Our idea of happiness is bound in what I can get out of life; the gospel says it is better to give than to receive; we have an idea that it is good to be served to be at the top, the gospel says if you want to be great you must become a servant of all. We have this idea that the only thing that matters is me and getting by; Jesus says unless you give up on your life you will not inherit the kingdom of God.
Everything about Christ and His gospel is contradictory to our ways; therefore we cannot simply add it to our lives, we must be transformed by it! We must be made new!
It is the acceptance of the free gift of God’s love in the gospel of Jesus Christ that we are “Crucified with Him.” (Gal 2:20) as Paul puts it; which means that the acceptance of the gospel redefines our views or perspectives our hopes and dreams.
This is why there is a call for repentance in Scripture; now when we think of repentance; we think of changing our mind; or saying sorry. You know, Jesus I thought that bad thing; I did that bad thing; I’m sorry!
Now repentance does mean sorrow for the wrong we have done; but church it is so much more than just changing our mind. You see when we think of changing our mind it is purely and intellectual reality; like I really felt like KFC tonight; but when I got into my car, I changed my mind and got a burger.
In the Greek (which the New Testament was written in) to change one’s mind was so much deeper than simply an intellectual reality; it was a whole being reality. The only modern contemporary understanding we can bring in is when our convictions change. You once saw the world and understood it one way, something came to you to force you to change your convictions; now you see the world, and understand it from a completely new perspective! Everything you do and think is now coloured by this new perspective.
A good example of this is the Apostle Paul. Paul was a Jew of Jews, brilliant in his generation; he was trained by the greatest mind in his generation Gamaliel. Now the only way he would have been trained by this intellectual giant is that Paul was one of the greatest minds in his day. Now, we need to see Paul in light of his Jewish understanding of the world for the radical nature of the change he when through when he was encountered by Jesus on the Damascus Road.
For the Jews God is one, He is transcendent, in other words he is unlike and separate from Creation. This is significant, because when Paul encountered Jesus it would have meant that he would have to redefine everything he previously thought to be true! Everything! How he saw and understood God, how he perceived life and godliness, how he understood life itself!
After that encounter with Jesus nothing he previously thought of was the same! That church is repentance, it is the redefining of all your previously held ideas and views in light of the new information. Everything needs to be rethought of, and reexplained. He had to become a new man.
True Christianity is by necessity the demolishing of all your world-views, all your understandings and the acceptance of a new one. Paul could not simply update his understanding of life, faith and everything, he had to scrap it completely and start again.
In fact in Philippians 3 we see that everything in his previous life he called “dung”, “rubbish”.
This is the lesson that Jesus is getting across to us tonight; we cannot come to Christ to be an add on, to be a part of our life. We have to come to him with nothing; and let Him become our everything; we have to start again!
We have to, in Biblical language, be born again; be made new creatures! The lesson Christ is giving us tonight is that there is only one way to receive this, there is only one way to engage this teaching; we must be new wine in new wine skins, we must be recreated, we must be born again!
And the only way we can do this; the only possibility is not by trying, it is by the supernatural indwelling of the Holy Spirit! The Holy Spirit of God has to remake us from the inside out!
How do we receive this Spirit? We believe in the work of God on the cross of Christ to deal with our sins!
Simply put,Christianity is not another way, another religion in the great cacophony of religions in the world; it is a unique; a new way! It stands above and apart from every idea of God and life that is found in the world!
So, that is the premise of the passage, and I want to argue tonight that it is the reality! Look out at the world, go look at all the religions of the world, go look at all the ways the world talks about meaning and life. They all stand together, they emphasis a worth of the individual in what they do or what they can accomplish. Essentially life and its meaning lie in what you can do or achieve.
Every religion says you want God to love you; go and do good. Prove your worth to him.
Every philosophy says; you want to be happy? Live; go and get it Prove yourself to the universe! Happiness is found in what you do!
Everything when you boil it down comes to your worth is bound to your actions in one way or another.
Christianity contradicts this completely! It is new wine in new wineskins; it says you want to find the meaning of life, you want to please God? Receive His gift of grace! You cannot live up! You cannot get it by your action; you must come to Him and humbly receive what He has done for you!
Church, stop adding Jesus to your life, to your ideas, to your dreams. Come to Him as your everything, as your only hope and discover that the life you were seeking, the ideal that you were striving for the dreams you were dreaming are all found fully in Him!
Come to Christ, receive His grace, and live in His grace! You cannot earn it, you don’t deserve it, yet He gives it to all that come! Come to the cross tonight!