Now John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting. And people came and said to him, “Why do John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in that day. No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. If he does, the patch tears away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear is made. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins—and the wine is destroyed, and so are the skins. But new wine is for fresh wineskins.”Mark 2 v 18-22
This passage is an exciting and breathtaking statement by Jesus. But the statement will see him killed as he challenges the traditional patterns of the Jewish religion. He is introducing the new effervescent life that God called Jesus to show and for us to live. Traditional forms of religion tend to dry up, but Jesus calls us to a new and exciting life, one full of hope and not based on rules but on a man. The Jews had numerous rules around fasting (including a weekly fast) and Jesus comes as a groom asking his disciples to feast.
This passage is preceded by the calling of Levi by Jesus, in which Jesus goes to Levi’s home and feasts with tax collectors. The grumbling of the scribes is loud and clear, why are you eating with these sinners? Jesus response is to lay down his mission statement, “I came to call not the righteous but the sinners.” I suspect that the party he is describing here is the party he is having with Levi.
This passage is setting Jesus on collision course with the old regime and they will try to put it to an end by killing him on a cross. As he draws his last breath and says it is done, does he remember this party. Gone is the time for feasting, now is the time for fasting. Jesus is raised to life 3 days later and we see that this new life we are called to, will give us not rules (Jesus was not telling us to fast – he wasn’t creating new rules), but an exciting and vibrant life. God will place demands on you but they won’t be rules, they will be a chance for us to see our old life gone and our new life in God.
Feasting or fasting, God calls us to both.