Lesson 37—October 19, 2014
To gain an understanding of Jesus’ response to those who questioned Him concerning the lack of fasting by His disciples.
As we learned in last week’s Life Focus lesson, Jesus’ ministry could be compared to a physician ministering to the sick. Matthew’s friends were patients (sick in their sins) who needed a physician (Jesus) who could help and heal them. Jesus came to minister to those in need.
• In absolute honesty, do you have a need today that Jesus can meet?
Jesus Christ comes to meet us right where we live life. He comes to meet us at the exact point of our greatest need. Jesus Christ, The Great Physician” wants to help you today with all the needs of your life.
Notice that in Mark 2, as well as various other passages in Scripture, that sin is often compared to sickness and forgiveness to health being restored. Warren Wiersbe helps us to personally understand that our Savior can be compared to a physician: “He comes to us in our need; He makes a perfect diagnosis; He provides a final and complete cure; and He pays the bill! What a physician!”
If you are suffering today because of sin in your life, please understand that you can be forgiven. If you are living under the bondage and yoke of sin, please know that Jesus Christ can and will forgive you. All you must do is be honest with Jesus. Admit you have sinned; just be honest. Genuinely repent of your sin; this is not a casual “Oh, I’m sorry.” To repent is to see your own sin as God sees it. To repent is to ask God to forgive you and help you to turn away from this sin and to walk with Him.
As you study this lesson in the privacy of your home, office, automobile, or as you read it for the first time this morning in your Life Focus class, is Jesus the Physician wanting to heal you (forgive you) of your sickness (sin)? Will you be honest with Him and just say, from your heart, “Jesus, I need You, and I need Your help”?
(V18) It should be noted that in verse sixteen a question was asked to Jesus’ disciples concerning the actions of Jesus. Now in verse eighteen, a question is asked of Jesus concerning the actions of His disciples. The question: “Why do the disciples of John and of the Pharisees fast but Your disciples do not fast”?
To help us understand Jesus’ response to this question, we must look briefly at fasting as prescribed in the Old Testament. The Old Testament law set aside only one day a year as a required day of fasting for all Jews, the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16:29). Jews of Jesus’ day were accustomed to fasting. John The Baptist’s disciples did it. The Pharisees did it. Why not Jesus’ disciples? Although the Old Testament prescribed only one day a year, the Pharisees fasted twice a week, on Mondays and Thursdays. The backdrop of this question of verse 18 may have been that Matthew’s feast of verse 15 fell on one of these days. So while the Pharisees fasted, they saw Jesus and His disciples enjoying a feast and a festive occasion. Representatives of these two groups approach Jesus wanting to know “What’s the deal?” (Brackin paraphrase).
It appears that the disciples of John The Baptist may have actually initiated and raised the question, but the Pharisees also wanted the question answered.
Hershel Hobbs says, “This was a strange coalition. The Pharisees had no love for John, who had called them a brood of vipers (Matthew 3:7). He had even called them to repentance.”
As we look at the two distinct groups posing this question, I think we can see two completely different motives in the same question.
(V19) The disciples of John The Baptist were seeking an answer to a legitimate concern. Jesus answered them directly. He responded, from His own association with John The Baptist, in terms that they would understand. Please read John 3:29. John had made reference to Jesus as the “bridegroom” and himself (John) as a friend to the Bridegroom. Now in Mark 2:19, Jesus responds using these words to help John’s disciples understand that this specific time was not a time of fasting, no matter what Jewish traditions held concerning Mondays and Thursdays. Jesus explained that at this specific time His disciples had no reason to fast. Why would the friends of the bridegroom fast while the bridegroom is with them?
• Can traditions sometimes be harmful or hurtful in and of themselves?
In verse nineteen, Jesus pointed out that now was not the time to fast. He tells them that the time will come when He will be taken away from His disciples; then they will fast. Fasting was not now appropriate for Jesus and His disciples. The Bridegroom (Jesus) had come and was present with them, so it was a time of celebration and feasting, not a time to fast. It was a time to rejoice and be glad. The bridegroom had come. Now is a time for rejoicing, but the time would come when the Bridegroom would be taken away. Then would be a time of fasting. It was all about timing!
Biblical fasting has its place. It is appropriate even in 2014, but it must be done prayerfully and properly. Fasting can be used for God’s glory, but it can also be used improperly for self-righteousness or as a substitute for genuine holiness. It can become a tool of legalism. We will study biblical fasting in detail a bit later in our study of Mark.
For the Pharisees, the whole matter of fasting posed a different question. For them it was a matter of righteousness (self-made). By their own preconceived ideas and self-made regulations, the Pharisees equated fasting with holiness (self-made); thus, they increased their practice of fasting, and they called attention to their own holiness as a result of it.
Once again we see someone, in this case the Pharisees, taking something that is right and good in the proper biblical context and turning it into something for their own self-promotion or self-interest. The Pharisees thought that holiness was marked by legalistic rules and stringent regulations. They could not understand why a holy man (Jesus) would eat with sinners and why His disciples would not fast as they and all the self-righteous holy men did. For the Pharisees, fasting was a mark of holiness. In fact, fasting was often used to call attention to their self-made holiness. This was not true biblical fasting. The Pharisees could not understand why Jesus’ disciples did not follow the common ritualistic practice of fasting, which the Pharisees held in such high regard; thus, they held Jesus responsible for the inappropriate action of neglect by His disciples.
• For Jesus and the teachings of the New Testament, holiness begins in the heart and then is appropriated into actions. How did the Pharisees miss this truth?
• What do these statements mean? (Please give prayerful explanation.)
• We (followers of Jesus) have been set free to live for Jesus.
• We (followers of Jesus) are at liberty to live and serve Jesus.
• Why is the keeping of rules, laws and regulations not the best indicator of genuine holiness?
• Please read and explain, in your own words, Romans 6:1.