Read Mark 2:13-22
Fridays, especially during Lent, are traditional days of fasting. In today’s reading, the questions about eating with tax collectors and fasting all took place around the table in Levi’s home. As we saw in the story on Ash Wednesday, the tradition of the Pharisees was to fast twice a week. But here is Jesus, in the home of a notorious sinner, feasting on what was probably one of those fast days. Jesus is asked why neither He nor His disciples are keeping the tradition. He said, “How can the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them?” It would be inappropriate to fast at a feast. But Jesus adds that “the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them and on that day they will fast.” Jesus is no longer with us in the flesh, so now is an appropriate time for fasting. But what does putting a new patch on an old garment, and putting new wine in old wineskins have to do with fasting?
Mark has placed these two parables as a transition between the questions about fasting and those about the sabbath, which we will discuss tomorrow. Our Lord’s statement about old cloth and old wineskins refers to old traditions. Jesus is not suggesting that the Old Covenant be ignored, rather that the Pharisaical traditions associated with it are not incumbent upon the faithful in light of the New Covenant. The old traditions were about rigidity and legalistic ritual. The New Covenant in Jesus is about relationship with the Bridegroom. It is about grace! We are to put on the new garments of salvation. We are to put the new wine of the Holy Spirit in new wineskins, not brittle and aged traditions.
Should we fast? The more relevant question is: “Does the fasting that we choose help us focus more closely on our relationship with Jesus?” If fasting is distracting, don’t do it. If it helps you, then by all means it is a healthy discipline and worthy to be practiced. It is a season of fasting. It is also a season of grace.