2019-09-22 – Mark 2.18-22 – Religion or Relationship, Part 1
2019-09-22 – Mark 2.18-22 – Religion or Relationship, Part 1
(NISBY, Creation Science)
Good morning everyone. It is so nice to be able to spend some time with you all in fellowship with the Lord. Thank you and God bless you for being with us today.
Last week we revealed in the second chapter of the Gospel of Mark how Jesus had compassion for the broken people in this world (like you and I) that need Him as their Lord and Savior. In chapter 2 of Mark, we saw how Jesus befriended and used the despicable tax-collector Levi (Matthew) in a big way; and concluded that Jesus can you use you and I in a big way as well. However before we can fix what is broken, we need to first realize our broken state. The Pharisees back then like many people we know today, didn’t want to even acknowledge that they had a need for a Savior. That is so sad, and we need to be praying for them; that God would open their minds and their hearts to consider His mercy and grace, Amen?
Today, as we continue in this Gospel book of Mark, we are going to address the first part of a message that addresses the subjects of Fasting and the Sabbath. What is Fasting, and what part does Fasting play in our contemporary lives today? And what should the Sabbath mean to us Born-Again Christians?
Please turn in your Bibles to Mark 2.18, pew Bibles pg 888 in God’s Inspired, Infallible and Living Word, but let us first start with Prayer.
Last week we learned that on the same day Jesus invited Levi/Matthew to follow him, Matthew threw a great farewell feast in his home in Capernaum, inviting his friends so they could meet Jesus too. Jesus was then ridiculed by the Pharisees and Scribes for meeting and eating with tax collectors and sinners, and Jesus so expertly responded to their criticism saying “It is not those who are well who need a doctor, but those who are sick. I didn’t come to call the righteous, but sinners.” I am sure the Jewish leaders then were confounded and maybe a little angry at His response. And that takes us to verse 18 here today. It reads:
18 Now John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting. People came and asked him, “Why do John’s disciples and the Pharisees’ disciples fast, but your disciples do not fast?”
Fasting is a legitimate spiritual discipline. It is the abstaining from food and/or drink for a period of time, for the purpose of resetting our hearts and minds to the reality that we are not self-sufficient. By Fasting, it can help us better realize just how fragile we are and how much we need to depend upon Father God for everything. Fasting coupled with prayer can be very impactful and beneficial.
Throughout the Bible we most often find God’s people turn to fasting as the natural response to a grievous or sacred moment in life, such as death, sin and tragedy. But other times a fast is not a spontaneous reaction and we have time to prepare to respond both physically and spiritually. Fasting is not an end unto itself, but a means of focusing our minds and bodies for a spiritual reason. Whenever you fast, do so for a reason that is mentioned or modeled in the Bible. Here are ten primary purposes for fasting mentioned in Scripture:
- To strengthen prayer2. To seek God’s guidance3. To express grief
4. To seek deliverance or protection
5. To express repentance and a return to God
6. To humble oneself before God
7. To express concern for the work of God
8. To minister to the needs of others
9. To overcome temptation and dedicate yourself to God
10. To express love and worship for God
As you prepare for fasting you should first Pray and confess your sins and humble yourself before God. It is imperative we begin the fast with a contrite heart. There are three general types of fasts, Partial, Complete and Supernatural.
Partial fast – Giving up a certain food or drink for a period of time or missing a certain meal.
Complete fast – Only drinking Water or juice
Supernatural fast – These are total fasts--no food (solid or liquid) and no water. Paul went on an absolute fast for three days following his encounter with Jesus (Acts 9:9). Moses and Elijah engaged in a supernatural absolute fast of forty days (Deuteronomy 9:9; 1 Kings 19:8). This kind of fast should be done with great care. Please know that our bodies cannot go without water for more than 3 days.
In regards to our first scripture verses this morning, the religious Jews were challenging Jesus about their fasting practices. According to Old-Testament Law, the Jews are required to fast only one time a year, on the Day of Atonement. Pharisees however, overextended and over-exercised that Law by demanding the people fast two-days a week. Thus, fasting had lost its true meaning and lost some of its joy for the people. The Pharisees attempted here to split-up the new Jesus centered movement by introducing this controversial question. They even used John the Baptist’s ministry (which by the way they also despised) as part of a wedge they wanted to use against Jesus. But let’s see how masterfully Jesus answers their question with a question. Verse 19 continues:
19 Jesus said to them, “The wedding guests cannot fast while the groom is with them can they? As long as they have the groom with them, they cannot fast.
I am sure the Pharisees were digging deep in their minds as we are here today, to make sense of Jesus’s response. This verse question by Jesus though is amazing to me. To put it another way, no groom fasts while he is still at the wedding. Jesus is presenting Himself effectively as the bridegroom, and His disciples are the guests invited to the wedding feast, and nobody fasts during the wedding celebration.
There is another great correlating verse that applies here today, I will put it on the screen: In this verse, people had asked John the Baptist what he thought about Jesus baptizing people. In John 3:28-30, John said:
28 You yourselves can testify that I said, ‘I am not the Messiah but am sent ahead of him.’ 29 The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete. 30 He must become greater; I must become less.”
So again John refers to Jesus as being the bridegroom, and Jesus is referring to Himself as being the bridegroom. I love how the Bible is so amazingly consistent.
At this point the Jewish religious practices had become so legalistic, and the Pharisees prided themselves as being the “righteous ones”, that there was little joy left in their religious paradigms. Jesus on the other hand, clearly demonstrated that God much more desires a true and loving relationship with us, rather then a having legalistic religion. And that is the main subject of this sermon message we have for you today. It is called: Religion or Relationship, Religion or Relationship. When I approach people about their faith, many times they respond with “I am, or am not a religious person”. We are going to see today that Jesus doesn’t desire a religion, He desires a relationship with us.
The Jewish people of that day had effectively lost that relationship aspect of their faith walk. They were fasting to get attention, fasting for show, rather than what it was really designed to be all about. Levi the tax-collector apostle wrote about that dynamic in his Gospel of Matthew 6:16, where Jesus said about fasting:
“Whenever you fast, don’t be gloomy like the hypocrites. For they make their faces unattractive so that their fasting is obvious to people. Truly I tell you, they have their reward. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that your fasting isn’t obvious to others but to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you”
So fasting IS a good thing for us to be doing. However, it should generally be a private exercise or offering between you and God alone. And fasting should also always be linked up with prayer, and might I suggest Bible reading. It should be a humble act to get yourself realigned with God and your faith walk in Him.
This next verse in Mark 2 continues Jesus’ response to the Pharisees. In it He refers to Himself as being taken away one day. In verse 20 He says:
20 But the time will come when the groom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast on that day.
We all know now that Jesus was in fact taken away. He was taken away to be beaten and scourged; He was taken away to be ridiculed and humiliated; He was taken away to be hung on a cross; And He was taken away so that He could die on that cross for all our sins; that was a sad day indeed. After Jesus said “It is Finished”, He died on that cross, the sky grew dark, and the foundations of the Earth shook, and that is the time and the circumstances that Jesus was suggesting that it would truly be a time to morn and a time to fast. Jesus was foretelling His future in this verse; when our Bridegroom Jesus died for our sins.
The next verses we see here I am sure confounded the already confused hearers that day. About this question of fasting, Jesus continued at verse 21:
21 No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. Otherwise, the new patch pulls away from the old cloth, and a worse tear is made. 22 And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and the wine is lost as well as the skins. No, new wine is put into fresh wineskins.”
You might ask yourself what in the world does all this has to do with fasting? And I will admit that I had to dig a little deeper in scripture to discover the truth here.
Let me remind you that the Religious Jews were attempting to impose their old traditions upon the new Jesus believers. Jesus here was effectively saying that their old traditions and rituals were an exaggeration of what God initially intended. The Jews had taken a practice that was designed by God in the first place, to get the people closer to His heart and His will, and they turned it into a meaningless religious law. Jesus was now telling them that their ritualistic fasting practice would not be acceptable in the New Covenant with God going forward.
A new patch of unshrunken cloth cannot patch an old garment; and the Pharisees and their traditions were like the old garment. When that unshrunken cloth is sewn on the old garment, then subsequently washed, the unshrunken cloth will shrink and pull away from its stitches. Likewise, new wine cannot be contained in the old wineskins; the Pharisees and their traditions were like the old wineskins. When the new-wine ferments it expands, the old wineskin container cannot expand anymore therefore it bursts. Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, came to declare to the people in Capernaum and to us today about a new relationship with God the Father through Him. The old-ways are gone, everything is made anew. Because of Jesus, our lives and our relationships are changed forever.
In Luke 18 Jesus told a parable that I found most revealing about fasting [screen]
“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ [Jesus said,] “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
Jesus isn’t interested in ritualistic practices, He wants your humble heart.
In regards to fasting, nowhere in New Testament are we commanded to practice. However, the Bible presents fasting as something that is good, profitable, and beneficial. The book of Acts records believers fasting before they made important decisions, and thus it is something for us to also consider partaking in. Fasting is a way to demonstrate to God, and to ourselves, that we are serious about our relationship with Him. Fasting helps us gain a new perspective and a renewed reliance upon God. Too often, the focus of fasting is only on the lack of food. Instead, the purpose of fasting should be to take your eyes off the things of this world to focus completely on God.
Although fasting in Scripture is almost always a fasting from food, there are other ways to fast. Anything given up temporarily in order to focus all our attention on God can be considered a fast. Fasting should be limited to a set time, especially when fasting from food. Extended periods of time without eating can be harmful to the body. Anyone can fast, but some may not be able to fast from food (diabetics, for example). However, everyone can temporarily give up something in order to draw closer to God.
By taking our eyes off the things of this world, we can more successfully turn our attention to Christ. Fasting is not a way to get God to do what we want. Fasting changes us, not God. Fasting is not a way to appear more spiritual than others. Fasting is to be done in a spirit of humility and with a joyful attitude.
Regarding our text this morning from Mark, I bet the Pharisees and Scribes were scratching their heads at what Jesus was saying here. Before Jesus, everything revolved around their righteousness and their positions in the Jewish hierarchy. Now Jesus was shutting them down and cutting them off. They quickly found out that Jesus wasn’t there to make friends that day. And I am betting the tax-collectors and sinners around Him were all wide-eyed and their heart was thumping in their chests as they heard Jesus respond to the self-righteous Jews that were there with Jesus that day. And it didn’t stop there.
Jesus was just starting to rock everyone’s world back then, and He is still rocking our world today as well. However, based upon what is written here in the Gospel of Mark, Jesus clearly doesn’t require certain religious practices or rituals for us to be called a Child of God. Instead He desires a true and humble relationship with Him alone.
In this message today and next week we are talking about the flaws of having a legalistic “Religious” viewpoint. Even today there are many inside and outside the church that hold tightly upon some self-proclaimed understanding or practice that effectively segregates people; or puts a wedge between certain types of people. That is not God’s intention or desire. God wants us to instead find common ground. He wants us to clearly see His love and mercy preeminent over all. He wants you to accept His pure and beautiful mercy and grace. Don’t be so proud to miss His point here. Jesus came so that we might know God personally. So that we can put our trust in Him alone, and that by doing so we can be saved for all eternity. That is God’s will for you and I. But it all starts with a decision.