Old and New

“Then they came and said to Him, ‘Why do the disciples of John and of the Pharisees fast, but Your disciples do not fast?’”—Mark 2:18 (NKJV)

As Christ’s ministry began to impact more and more people, it inevitably prompted some questions. Jesus brought something completely different into the religious context of Judaism. His wisdom and power were undeniable, but there was also a lot about His ministry that didn’t register with what they were used to under their spiritual system of the law.

Case in point: fasting. Christ’s closest followers didn’t seem to practice fasting the way the pious Pharisees or even the disciples of John the Baptist did. So, they asked Jesus, “Why?” Understand that within the simple question there is also a bit of an insinuation that they were slacking in their righteousness under the law. As He often did, Jesus answered their question with a question: “And Jesus said to them, ‘Can the friends of the bridegroom fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them they cannot fast. But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast in those days’” (Mark 2:19-20 NKJV).

This seems to have nothing to do with what they had just asked. But Jesus is using this word picture to reveal a contrast between the law they trusted in for their righteousness and the system of righteousness by grace through faith in Him. What He offered was worth celebrating . . . just as a bridegroom’s friends celebrate on his wedding day. This was a time to feast, not fast! There would be a time for His followers to fast, but not now. He then illustrates this reality even further: “No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; or else the new piece pulls away from the old, and the tear is made worse. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; or else the new wine bursts the wineskins, the wine is spilled, and the wineskins are ruined. But new wine must be put into new wineskins” (Mark 2:21-22 NKJV).

The “old” speaks of the righteousness by the law, and the “new” speaks of righteousness by faith in Christ. And just as you can’t combine something old and new in the natural, the systems of righteousness through the law and faith in Christ can’t be combined in the spiritual. One must be displaced entirely by the other. Those bugged by the lack of fasting would have to eventually see this and set aside their trust in the law for a newfound trust in Christ. Sadly, most wouldn’t.

Our takeaway in all of this is to be open and yielded to the “new” that the Lord wants to do. That goes for every aspect of life, not just the means by which we’re declared righteous before God. And we’re wise to do so, because God’s “new” is always better than our “old.”

PAUSE: Why did Jesus answer their question with a question?

PRACTICE: As you pray this week, ask the Lord each day to present you with the “new” He has for you, and be open and available to His work.

PRAY: Lord, please help me to trust that the new work You’re doing is better than anything I want to cling to. Amen.

About the Author

Dan Hickling