INTRODUCTION to the topic and contextual background Since the start of the book of Matthew, He gives the message of God’s forgiveness of repentant sinners. Forgiveness, is the heart and soul of the Gospel message and one of the theme of Mathew’s Gospel. As the forerunner of the Lord, John the Baptist prepared the people for the Messiah by preaching repentance from sin, and as they confessed their sins. Jesus began His own ministry with the preaching of repentance. In His model prayer He taught His followers to continue to ask God for forgiveness. From the day of Pentecost on, the early church preached repentance from sin as an integral part of the gospel message. Forgiveness of sin and repentance is the very center of the Gospel message.
Last time we learned that the section we just read, is the different responses tothe teaching and miracles of Jesus Christ. We learned first about theI - Positive response - Where Mathew a small mokhes, the worst of all sinnersresponded positively to the call of Jesus Christ.II - The negative response – This was how the Pharisees reacted to Jesus forgivenessof sinners and his association with them. Overhearing the Pharisees negative response,Jesus counters their response with three arguments: A.) The argument from human logic - The analogy is simple. Just as aphysician is expected to go among people who are sick, a forgiver should be expected togo among those who are sinful. B.) The argument from Scriptures – Here Jesus quotes directly from theProphet Hosea how and argued that God is not concerned with outward routine physicalrighteousness but true inward conversion and a desire to repent and surrender to Him. C.) The argument from his own authority - Jesus defended His work on thebasis of His own authority. He associates with sinners because they needed him most.
III – The illustrations “Then the disciples of John came to Him, saying, “Why do we and thePharisees fast, but Your disciples do not fast?” And Jesus said to them, “The attendantsof the bridegroom cannot mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them, can they? Butthe days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they willfast. But no one puts a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; for the patch pullsaway from the garment, and a worse tear results. Nor do men put new wine into oldwineskins; otherwise the wineskins burst, and the wine pours out, and the wineskins areruined; but they put new wine into fresh wineskins, and both are preserved.” (9:14-17)”Unlike that of the Pharisees, the question of John’s disciples was sincere, but itreflected a similar concern about Jesus’ teaching and activities that did notconform to the accepted religious standards.Shortly after he baptized Jesus, John the Baptist in effect turned his disciplesover to Jesus (John 3:28, 30). Not all of the disciples of John began to followJesus, even after the Pentecost (Acts 19:1-3). John the Baptist was then inprison (see Matt. 4:12), and those of his disciples who had not begun to followJesus were left only with their traditional Jewish ceremonies and practices.
These disciples of John came to Jesusdirectly asking “Why do we and the Pharisees fast, butYour disciples do not fast?” The Old Testamentprescribed only one fast, (Lev. 16:29,31) But Jewishtradition had come to require fasting twice a week(Luke 18:12), and these disciples were careful tofollow that practice. It was very clear to them thatJesus teachings were radically different from theteachings of the religious leaders in Jesus day. Along with alms giving and certain prescribedprayers, twice-weekly fasting was one of the threemajor expressions of orthodox Judaism during Jesus’day. The scribes and Pharisees looked on thesepractices with great seriousness and were careful notonly to follow them faithfully but to do so as publiclyand outwardly appearing as possible. Outwardlyappearing as a testimony to true godliness but inreality as a testimony to their own self-styled selfrighteousness.
When they gave alms, they blew trumpets “in the synagogues and inthe streets” in order to “be honored by men” (Matt. 6:2). When they prayed “inthe synagogues and on the street corners,” they did so “to be seen by men” (v.5). And when they fasted, they “put on a gloomy face” and neglected their“appearance in order to be seen fasting by men” (v. 16). They did not seereligion as a matter of humility, repentance, or forgiveness, but as a matter ofceremony and proud display. These external rituals marked them as ungodlyhypocrites, as Jesus declared Religious ritual and routine have always been dangers to truegodliness. Many ceremonies, such as praying to saints and lighting a candle fora deceased relative are actually heretical. But even if it is not wrong in itself,when a form of praying, worshiping, or serving becomes the focus of attention,it becomes a barrier to true righteousness. It can keep an unbeliever fromtrusting in God and a believer from faithfully obeying Him. Even going tochurch, reading the Bible, saying grace at meals, and singing hymns canbecome lifeless routines in which true worship of God has no part.
To answer the questions of John’s disciples, Jesus gives threeillustrations to drive home a point:A.) The attendants of the bridegroom In those days a wedding would usually last seven days, and thebridegroom would choose his best friends as attendants to be responsible forthe festivities. The wedding celebration was not a time for them to mourn but torejoice. Jesus’ point was that it was inappropriate for His followers to mournand fast while He was with them in person. A fast is always meaningless if it isperformed from habit and does not result from deep concern and mourningover some spiritual need. Going to church on Sunday is hypocritical if it is doneapart from a genuine desire to worship and glorify God. Singing a hymn is onlya pretense of worship if it does not come from a heart that seeks to praise theLord. The days will come, Jesus explained, when the bridegroom is takenaway. Jesus was obviously referring to His crucifixion, which would abruptlyand violently take Him away from His followers, His faithful attendants.
Since they disciples of John were wondering why is Jesus teachings sodifferent from the teachings of the religious leaders of that day, Jesus’ next twoillustrations deal with that issue. He made clear that He was not teaching areformed Pharisaism or a reformed rabbinicalism but an entirely different wayof believing, thinking, and living. He did not come to improve the old system butto renounce and undermine it. His way had nothing to do with the old ways, andthe old ways had no part in the new. The two ways cannot be connected to oneanother or be contained one in the other.
B.) Patching Old clothes with new garment Cloth of that day was primarily woolor linen, and both would shrink when washed.If a patch of new, unshrunk, cloth is sewn onan old garment, Jesus reminded them, thenthe first time the garment is washed, the newpatch shrinks and pulls away from thegarment, making a worse tear than before. Inthe same way, Jesus’ new and internalgospel of forgiveness and cleansing cannotbe attached to the old and external traditionsof self-righteousness and ritual.
C.) New wine in old wineskins Wine was often stored in animal skins that were specially prepared for that purpose. The hide would be uncut except at the legs and neck, and sometimes would be turned inside out. The leg openings would be stitched closed and sealed, and the neck was used as a spout, which was tied with a leather thong or string. Old wineskins would eventually dry out and become brittle, and if someone then put new wine into them, they would crack and burst, spilling the wine out. The only suitable container for new wine is a fresh wineskin.In the same way, the only life that can contain true righteousness is the new life given byGod when a person repents of his sin and trusts in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Thepharisaical, legalistic, external, self-righteous system of traditional Judaism could neitherconnect with nor contain the ministry and message of Christ.
CONCLUSION:In this passage we can discover three marks of the true believer.A.) The true believer follows the Lord – Like Mathew, He leads a life ofunquestioning obedience. Matthew made no conditions or excuses; he simply“rose, and followed Him” (v. 9).B.) The true believer has compassion on the unsaved - Like Matthew, he has adeep desire to lead others to Christ. That desire may sometimes get clutteredover with selfish concerns, but it will be there.C.) A true believer forsakes legalism and ritualism - He fasts only as anexpression of genuine spiritual concern, and he does not try to attach his newlife in Christ to his old ritual or religion or try to fit it somehow into his oldpatterns. He knows they are incompatible and utterly contrary. He knows thatwhat is begun in the Spirit cannot be completed in the flesh (Gal. 3:3). Thegenuine righteousness of a forgiven and cleansed heart cannot be enhanced orsupplemented by external religious works. Freedom in Christ has no part in thebondage of legalism.