Something New (And by New I Mean NEW!)
14Then the disciples of John came to him, saying, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?”
15And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.
16No one puts a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch tears away from the garment, and a worse tear is made.
17Neither is new wine put into old wineskins. If it is, the skins burst and the wine is spilled and the skins are destroyed. But new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved.”
Today, I carry an iPhone. In fact, I love my iPhone (even though we aren’t supposed to say we ‘love’ inanimate objects.) But I am old enough to actually remember a time when the phone hung on the wall and all you had to do was pick up the earpiece and speak to a living operator who would hook you up with the person you wanted to call. You didn’t even dial a number! (And everyone else who had access to that line could listen in to your entire conversation!) Now granted I was very young, the memory is vague and we were in rural (and I mean rural) South Dakota. But that’s where phones started out. A few years later someone predicted that you might even be able to see the person you were talking to in later years. I didn’t think I would live that long! Now imagine if I were to insist that the only phone to use is one that resembled that ancient phone on the wall. I would be missing out on something incredible.
As Jesus and His disciples are hanging out together, the disciples of John the Baptist come to Him with a question. These disciples of John even align themselves with the Pharisees as they wonder why Jesus’ disciples don’t fast. (It was the practice in the Jewish culture to fast on Monday’s and Thursday as a part of their religious practices.) Jesus then uses 3 examples or parables of what instigates this new behavior. First, He associates Himself with the picture that is drawn in the Old Testament of God as the Groom and the His people (or what we call the Church) as the Bride. He claims for Himself the roll of Groom thus also claiming the position of God. This would have been a mind blower from the start. To fast during a wedding celebration would have been so extremely offensive that the people would have been shocked. Jesus disciples are with the Groom. To fast would have been inappropriate.
Then Jesus gives two concrete examples of placing something new into/onto something old. Dr. Jeffery Gibbs has an interesting and insightful comment about that in his commentary on Matthew. “Jesus’ second image, that of the dangers of putting a new patch on an old garment (9:16), entails a sober note of warning to His hearers. They are in danger of trying to take something new – Jesus Himself – and simply adding Him or stitching Him onto their old way of life in Judaism. No one does such a thing with a garment, and for good reason: the only possible result is that the old garment will be ruined. Jesus cannot be ‘a patch,’ something small and secondary that merely ‘repairs’ the larger structure that was already in place; that was what these disciples of John and the Pharisees wished to make of Jesus. But Jesus is and must be primary, first, central. He has not come to fix a small breach in the existing religion, nor just to supplement it. Rather, He has come to fulfill the entirety of the Old Testament Scriptures and inaugurate the promised new covenant in Himself. Any other approach to Him results in something even worse than before.”
Gibbs, J. A. ©2006. Matthew 1:1–11:1 (p. 479). Saint Louis, MO: CPH.