Devotional: September 13, 2021
The disciples of John and the disciples of the Pharisees made a practice of fasting. Some people confronted Jesus:
“Why do the followers of John and the Pharisees take on the discipline of fasting, but your followers don’t?”
“When you’re celebrating a wedding, you don’t skimp on the cake and wine. You feast. Later you may need to pull in your belt, but not now. As long as the bride and groom are with you, you have a good time. No one throws cold water on a friendly bonfire. This is Kingdom Come!”
He went on,
“No one cuts up a fine silk scarf to patch old work clothes; you want fabrics that match. And you don’t put your wine in cracked bottles.”
Mark 2: 18-22 The Message
Differences can divide people. Here, Jesus is asked why his followers do not fast, while the followers of John the Baptist do. People had noticed the difference between the two groups. They asked Jesus for an explanation.
Jesus is remarkably kind and thoughtful in his response. He doesn’t say that one group is wrong, and the other group is right. He doesn’t belittle the followers of John. He is not at all quick to criticize.
Instead, he simply says that there are times when one feasts, and times when one does not. Different times and situations call for different approaches. Jesus uses examples drawn from life to make his point. Since not all fabric is the same, It would be silly to try to patch a pair of jeans with a silk scarf. It simply would not work! That doesn’t mean that there is no place in the world for silk scarves, or work clothes. Instead, there are times and places for both. Jesus merely points out the futility of combining such different fabrics. A patch of one upon the other just wouldn’t last.
Why don’t Jesus’ followers fast? The subtle message Jesus is conveying here is that he is the bridegroom. He is the long-awaited Messiah. All His followers will eventually come together and become the church, the bride of Christ. While Jesus is physically with them, it is a time to celebrate, and not to bicker!
Jesus is the Messiah. He wants to define himself primarily by what he adds to people’s lives, not what He takes away. While He came to take away our sins, He also came to help people come together. He did not get entangled with “who is right and who is wrong” on insubstantial matters. Instead, He encouraged people to set aside their minor differences, and focus on Him. After all, he came to save all people. Jesus used His ministry to unite people on the solid foundation of His love.
In our deeply divided and hyper-critical world, we all could learn much from Jesus’ response. When asked about differences between his followers and the followers of John, Jesus responded with kindness, graciousness, and love. May we do the same…
Forgive me when I am tempted to criticize others, instead of focusing on what we have in common. Help me to offer my thoughts with humility, kindness, and love. So often, the world tries to alarm us, and divide us. Help me to resist this “divide-and-conquer” strategy, remembering always that love builds others up, rather than tearing them down. I pray this prayer in Jesus’ name. Amen.