Church of Christ
Locks Cross Roads
3) Matthew 9 - Fasting
It is this notable difference in attitude seen in the disciples of John, in contrast to the Pharisees, that makes the
difference in the way the section is considered.
This portion of the Gospel is fundamentally a lesson, the first of three on Christian liberty.
These three lessons will be studied in their separate texts:
1) Fasting (here)
2) Ceremonial purifications prescribed by tradition (Matthew 15:1-20). The significance of these is the fact that out
of just these situations grew the religious revolution and spiritual freedom that characterize Christianity. Jesus'
revelation was made in these historic situations, in contrast to the views held by the people of the period. The
fundamental difference between Jesus' revelation and all legal religions, (religion that is based upon perfect
fulfillment of an infinite number of regulations, but having no assured guarantee of personal mercy for all failure).
3) Proper observance of the Sabbath (Matthew 12:1-15). From the point of view of Jesus' disciples themselves, as
they developed into Apostles under Jesus' leadership, this non-conformity towards the established usages and
customs of "proper Jews", is a solemn crisis in any man's life.
Matthew 9:14 this critical question comes from an entirely different source than the usual carping Pharisees, the
disciples of John. John's ministry is entirely eclipsed by that of Jesus (see John 3:26) and practically terminated by
his imprisonment (Luke 3:19-20). But why did they come? Several factors may help answer:
1) All three Evangelists unite in including this section immediately after their reporting the feast of publicans, almost
as if to display the two sections by contrast: "feasting versus fasting."
2) Mark's observations (Mark 2:18), so whether it was the self-imposed empty stomach that gnawed at John's
disciples as they hungrily looked in on Jesus' feasting disciples, or whether they merely heard of Jesus' general
reputation (Matthew 11:19), the question came.
3) In the absence of the guiding force of their master, were these John's disciples developing a sectarian mentality
of rivalry and jealousy?
Jesus calls attention to a very definite and accepted exception to the rule of fasting - wedding guests do not have to
Jesus changes from the word "fasting," as asking by John's disciples, to "mourning." By this change Jesus shows
that fasting must be the expression of an afflicted heart. Thus, the question of fasting cannot be solved by a
Matthew 9:15 how did they receive these ominous words? Their own ideas of the Messianic Kingdom did not differ
greatly from those of the disciples of John, even of all Israel. If they viewed God's Kingdom as one continuous,
external victory by which the Messiah asserted invincible Jewish power over the world, they were completely
mistaken. If they assumed that Jesus' presence among them were permanent, they needed correction (John
12:32-34, John 7:33, John 13:36, John 16:16-22).
Matthew 9:16 the old cannot be kept by adding a little of the new, nor by combining all of the new with it. But again
both illustrations speak of conserving: the first, the old robe; the second, the new wine. In this respect the
illustrations are opposites, but showing the same idea.
Jesus is saying the content of the new relationship with God cannot be confined within the vessel of Judaism. There
is such power and vigor in the Gospel, that, by its very nature, it bursts the constrictions of Judaism, or of any other
legal system with which it is put.
Jesus was perfectly conscious that He came to men with new ideas and a new conception of the truth, and He was
well aware how difficult it is to get a new idea into men's minds at all. Our minds must be elastic enough to receive
and contain new ideas.
Look how Jesus dealt with His objectors. He practiced what He preached: mercy and not sacrifice. In mercy the
Lord here gives us a beautiful example by which we may grasp the truth that, "the Lord's servant must not strive, but
be kindly to every one, an apt teacher, forbearing, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps
grant that they will repent and come to know the truth"! (2nd Timothy 2:24-25).