MK2:18 Now the disciples of John [the Baptist] as well as the Pharisees practiced fasting, and so they approached Jesus and asked him: “Why do John’s disciples and the Pharisees fast but your disciples do not fast?” MK2:19 So, Jesus said to them: “Do the friends of the bridegroom fast while he is with them [at the wedding feast]? As long as the bridegroom is among them there can be no fasting. MK2:20 However, the time will come when the Bridegroom will be taken away. Then [my disciples] will fast in that day. MK2:21 No one sews a new piece of cloth on an old garment, because the new cloth will tear away [when it shrinks]. Then the tear becomes even worse! MK2:22 Also, no one puts new wine into an old wine-skin, because the new wine will expand and burst the old wine-skin. Then, not only is the wine spilled and wasted, but also the old wine-skin is ruined. No, but new wine must be put into new wine-skins.”
Matthew 9:14-17: For details see notes in Nazarene Commentary 2000 on Matthew.
New piece of cloth on an old garment: The “new” cloth was the teachings of Jesus and the New Covenant. The “old garment” was the Mosaic Law and the Jewish rituals.
New wine into an old wine-skin: The “new wine” is the Church of Christ with its “new teaching.” The “old wine-skin” was the Jewish religious system. Christ did not try to remold the Jewish institution, but formed what Paul would call a “New Creation.”
In his writing he looks at the disciples of John the baptist and the disciples of the king of the kingdom and how Jesus handled criticism.
He copped it from the scribes (9:3). He copped it from the Pharisees (9:11). Now he cops it from friends: John the Baptist’s disciples:
Mathew 9:14 (his translation) Then John’s students came to him saying, “How come we and the Pharisees fast often, but your students don’t fast?”
Jesus understands how disillusioned John’s disciples feel. His first reaction is empathy. They’re grieving. Their leader has been taken from them. When the day comes when Jesus is taken away, his disciples will be grieving and fasting too:
9:15 Jesus said to them,
“It’s not possible for the bridal party to grieve when the bridegroom is with them. The days will come when the bridegroom is taken from them, and they’ll fast then.
We may not miss the main point.
Like a people separated from their heavenly sovereign, Israel has lamented and fasted so long for the coming of the one who would restore the Davidic kingship. Now the son of David is among them! Jesus is the bridegroom they’ve been waiting for. The king is here. This is no time for mourning. You may have been grieving in the past, but you can’t attend a wedding dressed in black with sorrow written all over your brow! This is a day of celebration. God is at work among his people again. His Messiah is leading the nation in joyful feasting.
Browne looks at the people who find change difficult and feel nostalgic about the old ways, the familiar ways, things they’ve grown up with.
Israel had been fasting and grieving for so long that lament now defined their faith. They could not imagine a kingdom characterized by feasting rather than fasting.
So Jesus tells two stories to make the point that they cannot mix the old and the new. They must let go of the familiar to experience the kingdom being established in Jesus. If they try to hold onto the old, they’ll lose both the old and the new:
9 16 No one puts a patch of new cloth on an old garment; for the fullness of it pulls away from the garment and the tear becomes worse. 9 17 Neither to you put new wine into old wineskins; if you do, the wineskins break, the wine is spilled and the wineskins are ruined. You put new wine in new wineskins and both are preserved.
Jesus is re-establishing the reign of God over humanity. Their old mourning clothes seemed so appropriate to the kingdom that disintegrated in Old Testament times, but those old garments cannot hold the new cloth of the kingdom being establishing under his kingship. Try to patch them together, and you lose both. The old leather wine bottles they’ve used for so long cannot contain the fresh fermenting wine of the new kingdom. Jesus understands their nostalgia, but they can’t have it both ways.
Jesus extended genuine empathy to those who struggled to adapt, while at the same time being crystal clear that they must relinquish the familiar to experience life under his kingship.
What others are saying
R. T. France, The Gospel of Matthew, New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2007), 356:
For John’s disciples that indicated a movement which did not take its religious commitment seriously, and the feasting in Matthew’s house only deepened their suspicion. In their different ways the Pharisees, John’s disciples and the Jesus circle were all renewal movements within first-century Judaism, and this brief encounter serves to draw out their distinctive approaches and priorities.
Weddings generally lasted seven days … Weddings were a matter of joy with which any signs of sorrow seemed conspicuously incongruent … The Gospels’ readers would probably catch an allusion that Jesus’ first hearers missed: Jesus is the groom of God’s people in the coming messianic banquet foreshadowed in their table fellowship (22:2; 25:10–13). The “taking” of the bridegroom, of course, is a veiled reference to the impending crucifixion.
MT9:14 Then the disciples of John [the Baptist] approached Jesus, asking,
“Why, though we and the Pharisees fast, your disciples do not fast?”
MT9:15 Jesus told them,
“The sons of the bride-chamber cannot possible feel sad while the bridegroom is among them. But the days are coming when the ‘Bridegroom’ will depart from them and then they will fast.
A Man Drinking from a Wine Skin; Images of Spain Album, 63
MT9:16 “Nobody sews an unshrunk cloth patch on an old outer garment for the stretching garment will tear it and it becomes worse. MT9:17 Nor do they put new wine into old wine-botas for the wine-botas will tear and burst [Joshua 9:13; Job 32:19] and the wine is spilled and the wine-botas ruined. Rather, they put new wine into new and fresh wine-botas and so both are preserved.”
Disciples of John: There is a clear difference between the disciples of the two Masters. John’s disciples view themselves as different from those of the Nazarene. Jesus had selected his disciples from among those baptized disciples of John the Baptist. This difference lasts for some years even into the Book of Acts (Acts chapters 18, 19).
Fast: Going without food for religious reasons. The first occurrence of the word “fasting” in the Bible is 1 Samuel 31:13 for a total of 30 times. Jesus does not condemn fasting, indeed, he gives counsel regarding proper fasting in Matthew 6:16. The prophets and teachers in Antioch fasted before making appointments (Acts 13:1, 2). The same fasting occurs before appointments in Acts 14:23.
Sons of the bride-chamber: The literal phrase in Greek. It is variously rendered: KJV: children of the bride-chamber; TCNT: bridegroom’s friends; GDSP: wedding guests; BAS: friends of the newly married; NASB: attendants of the bride-groom.
Feel sad: Or, mourn. The bridegroom’s buddies mourn or feel sad their friend’s affections will now be divided and likely he will not be free to do some of the things he did before.
Bridegroom: The Greek is, interestingly, NYMPHIOS from which the English “nymph” is rooted. Yahweh was viewed as the Husband of Israel. Jesus becomes such to his Church who is likened to a bride (NYMPH) (Revelation 21:2).
Will depart: The Greek is APARTHE and related to EPERTHE of Acts 1:9, HARPAGESOUMETHA at 1 Thessalonians 4:17, and HERPASTHE at Revelation 12:5.
New wine: Possibly the teachings of the Nazarene or a new relationship with God. Rather than use the old bota of Israel under the Law the Messiah uses a new bota, his Church to contain new doctrine and relationships. Remember the original context was fasting.
Wine-botas will tear and burst: The language may be an allusion to Joshua 9:13 and Job 32:19.
MT6:14 “For, if you forgive the missteps of others your heavenly Father will forgive yours. MT6:15 But, if you do not forgive the missteps of others neither will the Father forgive your missteps. MT6:16 But, when you fast do not be gloomy hypocrites with distorted faces to make fasting obvious. I tell you in truth: They are having their full reward! MT6:17 But, oil your head and wash your face. MT6:18 So you will not be obvious to men in your fasting but secretly to your Father.
As We Forgive (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
 Forgive the missteps of others: The first commentary on the Lord’s Prayer was by the Nazarene himself in the verses following it. The Nazarene avoids the word AGAPE (or, love) and gets right to the root of man’s problem in his relations with others: forgiveness. This attribute must characterize the Friend of the Nazarene, for their Lord stands ready to forgive any who repent! (John 3:16) Complaints, even legitimate ones, will occur even among those possessed of the Transformed Mind (Colossians 3:13: complaint). If one does not forgive then all is lost, for God’s forgiveness is voided and any further hypocritical worship is in vain or worthless. One cannot claim discipleship to the Nazarene and at the same time hold a single, unforgiving thought!
 Father will forgive yours: Compare James 2:13: mercy. Colossians 3:13 is a virtual commentary on the Nazarene’s words.
 Fast: (Compare Acts 13:2) Fasting was a regular and normal feature of Jewish life and much mileage could be made from a religious standpoint if one’s motive was to curry the spiritual favor of others. Some religions do not fast but have similar obligations or requirements that give some public evidence of sacrifice.
The word group “fast” occurs 159 times in the Bible and 38 times in the Gospels with a descending order as the particular Gospel ages (Matthew 15x, Mark 13x, Luke 8x, John 2x).
Do not be gloomy hypocrites: Various renderings: RHM: sullen countenances; TCNT: gloomy looks; RSV: do not look dismal; PHI: don’t look like those miserable play-actors; RHM: darken their looks; MOF: they look woebegone; GDSP: they neglect their personal appearance; NOR: trying to make a show.
 Make fasting obvious: The motive of fasting is clear. NOR: trying to make it show. Neighbor love enters the picture here because of the affect on one’s neighbor by such a hypocritical showing of religiosity. There are a multitude of other ways to do the same thing.
 Oil your head and wash your face: Note Ecclesiastes 9:8: glow. Various renderings: WEY: pour perfume on your hair; PHI: brush your hair. Exactly the opposite of the intent of the hypocritical person fasting. No one will know! Just as in the matter or prayer and charity.
 Secretly: The Greek here is related to “cryptic.” PHI: let it be a secret between you and your Father. Nothing can be more thrilling than this intimacy between the disciple and his God: only the two of you know about the object of the prayer, the secret giving, and the private fasting. Does the Nazarene encourage fasting of the proper kind? What would be some conditions or situations in which the Friend of the Nazarene might go without food?
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Getuigen voor Christus
Tegenover de Getuigen van Jehovah zijn er ook de Getuigen voor Christus die Getuigenis afleggen voor Christus en zijn God Jehovah.
International Biblestudents Association
The IBSA or cooperative association of Bible Student congregations worldwide, all united by the common beliefs taught in Brother Russell’s Studies in the Scriptures series