To eat or not to eat - that is the question.

The disciples of John and of the Pharisees were fasting. Then 
they came and said to Jesus, "Why do the disciples of John
fast, but Your disciples do not fast?"

Jesus said to them, "Can the friends of the bridegroom fast
while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the
bridegroom with them they cannot fast. But the days will
come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them,
and then they will fast.

"No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment;
or else the new piece pulls away from the old, and the tear
is made worse. No one puts new wine into old wineskins, or
else the new wine bursts the wineskins, the wine is spilled,
and the wineskins are ruined. New wine must be put into
new wineskins."

It happened that He went through the grainfields on the
Sabbath. As they went Jesus' disciples began to pluck the
heads of grain. The Pharisees said to Him, "Look, why do
they do what is not lawful on the Sabbath?"

But Jesus said to them, "Have you never read what David
did when he was in need and hungry? He and those with
him went into the house of God and ate the showbread,
which is not lawful to eat except for the priests?

[{Matt. 12:7} "If you had known what this means, 'I desire
mercy and not sacrifice,' you would not have condemned
the guiltless.] The Sabbath was made for man, and not
man for the Sabbath. Therefore, the Son of Man is also
Lord of the Sabbath."

                                             Mark 2:18-27 NJKV, condensed

              Patches, Wineskins and Hungry Stomachs

Life is a mixed bag. Sometimes life is like a wedding, full of joy
abundance. Sometimes life is as meager as a period of fasting.
now, Jesus felt like the groom at his wedding, sharing a
wealth of 
goodness and joy with all who would receive it and
celebrate with him. 
In the future there would be ample time for
fasting and prayers, but for 
now, "Come and rejoice with me."

John's disciples and the Pharisees were strange bedfellows. The 
Pharisees were doing their typical thing - judiciously protecting
the purity of their religious laws and beliefs. You may remember
that John the Baptist had some harsh and condemning words,
not only for the 
Pharisees but for king Herod as well.  Herod had
him arrested; he shut 
John up by putting him in prison. John's
disciples mourned their loss 
with fasting and prayers.

They were two diverse groups united on one issue, so they 
Jesus with this question, "We fast, why don't you?
Why are you and 
your disciples having a merry time instead with
the likes of Levi?" Jesus 
was not against fasting. He knew its
value. After all, he had withdrawn 
to the desert and fasted for
40 days before he began his ministry. But 
now was not the
time for those around him to fast. 

Wisely, Jesus was careful not to diminish the value of the old
Instead he framed his answer like this. It's like a new
piece of cloth 
which someone wants to cut up in order to patch
a hole in an old 
garment! Picture in your mind an old jacket with
a big hole in the pocket. 
"Do you use a new piece of cloth to
patch an old garment?" In Jesus' 
day, the obvious answer was,
"No, you don't sew new cloth onto an 
old garment. New cloth
is not for patching, it's for making a whole 
new garment."

Or, Jesus asked, "Do you pour new wine into old wineskins?"
Everyone knew the answer to this question too. "No, you can't
put new wine into an old and rigid wineskin. If you do that,
the old wineskin will burst and you will lose both the wine and
the wineskin. New wine must be stored in a new wineskin."

Jesus experienced pressure from all sides to conform to the 
well-practiced traditions of his day. But Jesus was the piece of
cloth. He was the new wine. Jesus was like a new piece of
cloth that 
couldn't be matched up to an old garment. He was like
new wine that 
needed to be poured into a new wineskin. Did
Jesus come to patch up 
old clothing? Probably not. Neither did
he come to pour new wine
into old wineskins.

On another day, a Sabbath, Jesus and his disciples were walking 
through a grainfield. The disciples plucked some grain and ate it.
Pharisees called Jesus on this. It was considered work to
grain on a Sabbath day, so they were breaking the
4th commandment.
This time, in response to the critics, Jesus used
the lawyer's method 
of establishing precedent. Even our great
King David,when hungry, 
ate what was unlawful on the Sabbath 
and gave some to his famished 
companions too.

Our Lord requires mercy, not sacrifice--these Pharisees still did
know what this means. And we are much the same as we
watch the 
behavior of friend and foe. We criticize and compare.
We express 
objections and pass judgment. How do we get
beyond criticism and 
condemnation and move toward
understanding and appreciation? 
Jesus said we need to learn
what mercy is all about.

Life is a celebration of God's goodness and grace! Life is like
an old 
coat with a hole in the pocket! Life is like new wine being
poured into
an old wineskin, or maybe a new wineskin! Life is
a great debate over
who is right and who is wrong! Life is a
study of what this means,
"God desires mercy and not sacrifice."!


Use the following questions for small groups, journaling, further 
study or reflection.


Icebreaker: We all have something which we wish could just stay the 
                   same as it always was.-- A favorite fishing hole; a familiar 
                   circle of people; equipment we have mastered; a real person 
                   on the other end of the line; . . . 
                   What is it that you wish would never change?


The scribes and Pharisees wanted to protect what they thought was 
important to save, namely their religion with its customs and traditions. 
            Is there anything about your religion which should never change?
            Were the Pharisees right to question what Jesus said and did?


Name some things which you are critical of.
            How do you determine if your criticism is valid and justified? 
            Are there any things which used to bother you, but no longer do? 
                        If so, how did your change of attitude come about?
            What is constructive criticism?
            Did you ever benefit from a criticism someone made of you?
                        How so?


The issue in this story is fasting, a common religious practice for sincere 
people who were serious about their faith. But it could have been any 
issue where people have different opinions, even opposing opinions, of
how something is to be done. 

            What are some issues that cause conflict in your congregation?
            How is that conflict resolved? 
            Why is it that Christians who serve the same Lord are so diverse 
                        in their thinking?
One of the hardest things for many religious people is to allow for
            Why is that so? 


When hungry and in need, David ate the bread from the altar in the Temple. 
This went against the religious laws of his day. 
            When is it OK to do something unlawful?

Jesus exalted the attitude of mercy above the ritual of sacrifice (Hosea 6:6).
            What is mercy? And why would God prefer mercy to sacrifice?
            How would life change if people were to place mercy 
                        above the rituals common to their religion?

Did you ever feel like new wine being poured into an old and rigid wineskin?
            If so, share something about that experience.

How did Jesus celebrate the Sabbath and keep the day holy? 
            What does it mean for you to "rest" on the Sabbath &
                         keep the day holy? 
The Sabbath was a sign that marked the people of Israel as belonging to God.
            In our society today, what marks us as belonging to God?

                  <prev                                                   next>