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?’ Jesus said to them, ‘The wedding-guests cannot fast while the bridegroom is with them, can they? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast on that day.
‘No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old cloak; otherwise, the patch pulls away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear is made. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and the wine is lost, and so are the skins; but one puts new wine into fresh wineskins.’
In the third chapter of the book of Ecclesiastes we read: For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven. These words from the wisdom writings of the Old Testament sum up the message of the words we hear from Mark’s gospel today. According to the Jewish religious discipline John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting, but this act of spiritual self-denial was not being observed by Jesus’ disciples. We should not be surprised that questions were being asked! Jesus’ response to these questions brings to mind the teaching we find in Ecclesiastes as he says: The wedding-guests cannot fast while the bridegroom is with them … the days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.
The Gospel tells us of the days when the Messiah walked amongst us, as one of us. Jesus shared in the totality of the human experience from birth to death, but he was still the Messiah, the Son of God. As he shared in every aspect of our day-to-day lives the onus was upon those amongst whom he lived to take the step into believing in his kingship, his divinity. For those who did recognize Jesus for who he truly was it would have been totally inappropriate for them to fast … being in his presence was a time of celebration and joy.
The majority of us do not like to stand out from the crowd. We like to be seen as ‘blending in’ with the society in which we find ourselves. Sometimes this involves us in adopting inappropriate practices or espousing inappropriate beliefs. Jesus’ call to us is that we should recognize that which will lead us into a closer relationship with him, even if that means being ‘different’ from those around us.
Let us pray that we might recognize the wisdom of God in our lives as we follow his path … even if that means treading a path that is not that which is being trod by the majority of those amongst whom we live.
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