Mark 2:18-22 – Jesus About Fasting

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Mark 2:18

  1. According to the Pentateuch, the Jewish people were to fast once a year, on the “day of atonement” (Leviticus 23:27).
    1. The Jewish people also fasted on other occasions for various reasons.
    1. The Pharisees had instituted a number of extra days of fasting and boasted that they fasted two days a week (Luke 18:12).
    1. Fasting is usually associated with repenting of one’s sinful life or asking God for guidance (1 Sam 7:6).
  2. Jesus expected his disciples to fast when his mission was completed.
    1. As long as Jesus was in the midst of his disciples, he saw no need for further repentance and guidance.
    1. Fasting should be based on the personal relationship with God. One should be careful not to fast just because people think it is important.

Mark 2:19

  1. Jesus compares his own presence to a wedding where Jesus is the bridegroom and the disciples are the wedding guests.
    1. A wedding should be fun and involve a lot of food, so it’s not appropriate to fast.
  2. The wedding theme also appears in other parts of the Bible:
    1. Isaiah calls Israel the bride of God (Isaiah 54:5).
    1. Paul calls the church the bride of Christ (2 Corinthians 11:2).
  3. In the same way that the couple getting married says “Yes!” to each other, Jesus and man need to say “Yes!” to each other.
    1. Jesus has said his “Yes!” to you, you have said your “Yes!” to him?

Mark 2:21

  1. Jesus now addresses the relationship between the old and the new covenant in two parables.
  2. David H. Stern writes in his book “The Jewish New Testament Commentary” that the “unshorn cloth” is the new covenant and the “old garment” is the old covenant.
    1. For the “old mantle” to be whole, faith in Jesus is needed.
    1. But faith in Jesus must be consistent with the Old Testament or it risks not lasting, and the tears may even be worse than before.
  3. The bottom line is that the Old Testament is not without Jesus and that Jesus needs to be understood from the Old Testament.

Mark 2:22

  1. According to Stern, the “new wine” symbolizes faith in Jesus and the “old skin sacks” the old covenant.
    1. If faith in Jesus must conform to the Old Testament in the previous parable, then the Old Covenant must now conform to faith in Jesus.
  2. What Jesus is trying to say is that the many rules and laws of the Old Testament are no longer necessary because Jesus has come.
    1. For a Jew who believes in Jesus, for example, it is unnecessary to sacrifice in the temple to receive forgiveness for one’s sins because Jesus has forgiven all one’s sins on the cross.
    1. But if a Jew adapts his religious traditions to fit the faith in Jesus, it is not wrong to continue living according to Jewish traditions and rules.
  3. Another way of looking at this parable is that the “new wine” symbolizes the kingdom of God and the “new sacks of skins” symbolizes the new environment or culture in which the kingdom of God is preached.
    1. The gospel is successful only when the kingdom of God is preached in a way that the new environment understands. The kingdom of God needs to be explained to young people in a way that young people understand, and the kingdom of God needs to be explained to Norwegians in a way that Norwegians understand.
    1. A missionary who travels to a new environment thus needs to explain the gospel in such a way and in such language that the audience understands. A missionary needs to spend a lot of time learning the culture, customs, language and beliefs of the new environment and to communicate the message of Jesus in a relevant way without watering down or changing the message in the process.
    1. Paul is a prime example of this because his missionary method was to become like those he preached to (1 Corinthians 9:19-23).
      1. When Paul missioned among the Jews, he conducted himself and preached the gospel in such a way that the Jews understood (Acts 13:14, Acts 16:2, Acts 17:1-2, 18:18).
      1. When Paul was missionary to the Greeks, he preached the gospel so that the Greeks would understand (Acts 17:16-34).
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