I have written about this topic on other occasions, but I always come back to it when I think about HOW do we get the gospel to this next generation is a culture that is increasingly hostile to it?
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.” (ESV)
I love reading Mark more than the other synoptic gospels for some reason. It may just be the flow of it....
but as we read to this point, we see growing crowds
1:37 “Everyone is looking for you”
1:47 “Yet the people still came to Him from everywhere”
2:2 “So many gathered, there was no room”
2:13 “A large crowd”
And the growing crowds always seem to increase the growing conflict.
These particular verses seem to indicate concern that the disciples of Jesus were not living up to the EXPECTATIONS of the status quo. The sin of the followers of Jesus is that they weren't going along with the rituals of everyone else.
2:18 “Now John’s disciples AND the Pharisee’s were fasting”
If everyone else was doing it- why not the disciples of Jesus... what is wrong with them?!
Speculation regarding the questioners- ‘And people came ….” - human nature never really changes. Dishonest questions are as brutal now as they were then... were these people asking an honest question or was their question merely a cover for their already hardened hearts?
No- they are just constantly looking for a fight.
I can't help but read the tone of their questions as plain SNARKY!
“Why do John's disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?”
You think you are holy? You may think you are all that- but we live the Bible code... y'all just seem so laissez fare about the whole thing? When we were your age, we memorized the Bible and attended meetings, and didn't hang with sinners. We were tough... y'all are just lazy puddins' We used to care that people noticed our devotion! We were disciplined!
Jesus answers the questions by providing 3 illustrations:
Illustration 1- Wedding…… The Bridegroom will leave, hard times will come at their appointed time, but don't live in the future...celebrate the NOW.
Illustration 2- Patching a garment- the age of the patch needs to match the age of the garment and an improper repair (application) can be a worse fix. The patch must match the hole.
Illustration 3- Wineskins……again, new versus old. The new wine will need to stretch under pressure of fermentation or the result will be a great loss.
All three illustrations together suggest a common principle.... the time for fasting will come, but the time is not now. Jesus is in process of something new and He didn't really care about what the Pharisees thought about it.
There are MANY principles from the passage: patience, authoritarian tendencies, ritualism... but I wanted to focus on how we respond in conflict and criticism and still maintain a posture for gospel proclamation.
The World of CONSTANT CONFLICT...
Unfortunately, we never escape THE FRAY... it is always there. The battle never rests and we live in a world of endless opinions. I don't know if you can see it or feel it..but it screams at me. The amount of negative emails and reports I get on a daily basis has tripled in the last decade. Since Covid-19 first hit in the early spring (Feb/March 2019), I feel like the anger, conflict, attacks are more acute.
Negative opinions brew in the dark, they are often spread in whisper campaigns!
The Lord of Time
As humans, we don't do time very well..... I have always quipped...“God is never LATE….. but He is seldom early”. It is SO HARD to wait on Him. Can we embrace God’s sovereignty as it relates to HIS TIMING?
QUICK APPLICATIONS FOR ALL OF US:
Never Aid, Comfort, or Enable the Enemy. If you participate in whisper campaigns or believe that your right to know is an entitlement, you are helping negativity to sap life out of all that is around you.
Be Steady in the Storm…. And Celebrate THE GOSPEL! Jesus stood firm and stood above the fray. He was not naive... He knew the hearts of the critics... but He was never dismayed or knocked off mission by them
Ask God To Enlarge Your View of Him. It is OK to live with a God who operates on a 'need to know basis'... He is big enough to handle your waiting game
Never Underestimate the Power of the Status Quo. As a follower of Jesus, never be afraid to upset the apple cart in your allegiance to Him. Many will hate you for that, but God supports those whose hearts are set on Him.
NOW- WHAT ABOUT THE WORLD I MINISTER AND SERVE IN?
The teenage world is reeling right now. The entertainment streaming services, sinful adult role models, confusing gender and sexual messaging, music without morals, availability of use of banned substances, and social isolation has come full assault on those who are just trying to figure out their place in the world.
This is a complex issue and I feel like we make them the bad guys when I blame the adults more than the kids... actually I blame myself- can't I see myself as more worldly - this culture impacts me!
Do we hear the call of Jesus in this passage? Don't PANIC! The gospel is still good, God's Word is still true, He is still the sovereign Lord, and what we need to do is find the conduit- we need to find the wineskin and he will fill it with new wine... and the fermentation will come in His timing.... not ours!
If we think we will win this generation with the old tactics... we will fade away.
NOW BEFORE YOU FREAK OUT... I am not saying we lower standards or compromise truth. We can't.. the mode of Salvation can not change- Saving Faith in Jesus Alone. And we can't water down the word... sin still kills even if we think we can play with it. God's love constrains us to teach God's holiness because the consequences of sin still wrecks lives.
Here is WHAT I AM PROPOSING: (1) We have to be clearer in our terms, (2) closer in our relationships, and (3) cautious in our judgements.
1) Clearer in our terms. In the 1980's I think you could simply tell a kid - Do Right and Don't Do Wrong and the general culture could guide that in a lot of cases. NO MORE. I found this out the hard way- I tell my students "Don't be stupid"- "Don't be inappropriate"- "Treat people right" and this is NOT clear enough. The average high school kid I work with compares himself to other students and thinks "I am not doing all they are doing"- "I am less sinful than that kid"- :"Our school acts better than that school" and wonder why I am disappointed in what they allow in their midst.
We need to open the Scriptures and have honest dialogue about what inappropriate behavior looks like in real world terms, and we can't fall apart when we realize that they are engulfed in all kinds of things. I have teachers tell me what 4th graders are exposed to these days and the language they understand and sometimes use to sound grown up... don't fall to pieces... TEACH! And then CORRECT in love. Be patient in these discussions and be encouraging. Speak about honest struggles and let them understand consequences that are real... especially damaged relationships.
2) Closer in our relationships. How do some coaches get away from yelling at their team and others become enemy #1? It is the trust the players have that the coach loves them and working in their best interests. A distant authoritarian coach who uses the 'whack a mole" approach to getting the cats in order will get run off in a week these days. Keep swinging and before long there will be nothing left to hit.
But the teachers and coaches who TAKE TIME to know, listen, love, laugh, explain will over TIME win the trust of those they are trying to lead. Once they love you or maybe just trust you, they will allow you to push them hard.
I still think a coach can get away with screaming at a whole team, but almost no coach can put an individual kid in a tongue lashing dog house. And I can't justify sarcasm anymore from an adult to a kid.. all you do is call their peers into their defense.
My personal challenge right now is "Do I really know them?" I never ask them the name of their girlfriend, what they like to do on the weekends, what are their favorite eating places, what do they order. I never ask them 'why' questions. If all I talk about is how to read this play against man free coverage... then yes, we are spending time together but I have no clue that they are wrestling with deep anxiety.
(3) Cautious in our judgements. This is the one that could cause the most misunderstanding. Transgressions to clear and reasonable boundaries have to get consequences. However, things are more gray today than ever. We live in a toxic soup of fast flying information, and the information has the speed of the internet and the accuracy of a weatherman. Does anyone preach anymore that lying and gossip are killers? Rumors are spread by demons to hurt everyone. There seems to be a lost art in our midst... we used to call it "the benefit of the doubt".
The Salem Witch Trials (1692) were set ablaze when young girls started telling lies (to hide their own transgressions) and the authorities started with the premise that it was true and the consequences were so heavy that soon everyone was telling lies, slandering, accusing, and believing the worst. And these men were Bible loving Christians... but they were in full panic mode! It did take wise Christian men with sound Biblical doctrine to END the mess... but the damage of that terrible time must always govern our temperate responses... be patient, trust God and protect people, not reputations nor even institutions. Don't be hasty to protect a brand. It is OK to admit that we have sinners in our midst and even sin in our own hearts.
God wasn't panicking.
Satan loves it if he can cause division between parents and those who are employed in education, training, and development of their children. God wants both to be on the same page... it doesn't have to be 100% agreement- but the spirit is that we are all on the same team!
I looked back over the emails I send and receive- they are always about issues... I don't take enough time to tell people 'thanks' what they are doing right because I am so busy trying to correct all the wrong.
At the heart of all of this is a willingness to be humble, open, and wrong. You know what? I don't have to keep sanitizing and protecting my name... before long it too can become an idol.
I don't care if you think I am great, or holy, or skilled... all I care is that you know that God loves us and demonstrated His love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Jesus died for us. This allows me to listen, put down my defenses, and even say 'sorry' (and I am learning it is OK to say sorry if I don't feel like I did anything wrong). God and His Word defend themselves quite well.
Please pray for me as I still struggle with all of this... it is MESSY. There is a lot to get wrong here... but Jesus wasn't upset that His disciples weren't following the past paths... the truth never changes... but the vehicles and mechanisms have to change. And God brings along those culture changers from the very toxic culture ready to live unstained and fruitful lives.
Sin let's everyone down at some point. We never want our children to even be introduced to it. But the ministry of the gospel isn't that we won't encounter sin, it is the antidote to when we do. And it is the only hope we have to live through the experience. Sin smiles and lures, but it is not our friend. And it doesn't take long to feel it's sting and the built in consequences of either doing something God knows will destroy us or not doing something that will bring goodness and healing into messy situations.
Fasting will come... disillusionment greets everyone who attempts to live apart from Christ .. the key is have we shared where the true water is found and convince them that it can be taken from any humble and penitent sinner at any time? Or are we still whacking at moles?
I wanted to end that I am not discouraged in the fight... it gets wearying of course. But the gospel is too good and life is too short for us to be pretenders. I live in a great country and the culture who dreamed it, planted it, and nourished it with blood deserve my effort to stand for the truth and preach the love of Christ to the lost. But more importantly, I need to model the love of Christ for the sake of the lost as well. I am not trying to win arguments, I want to win souls and that is a spiritual battle.
And the best news of all.... Christ will be victorious.