Weddings are a time of joy. They are a time of new beginnings and a time of celebration.
I had taken leave from the Navy to come home for my wedding but this was also an occasion to do some fishing and spend some time with my friends. Fishing for me was a way of life, but being fair skinned I had the unique ability to burn terribly from the sun. Brenda did not mind that on the day of our wedding my friends and I were planning to fish that morning and early afternoon. She had just one request, don’t get sunburned and ruin the wedding photos. Not wanting to disappoint her, I remembered my sunscreen and slathered it on the front of my face. The only problem was I was so anxious to get to fishing, that I did not cover the side of my face or my ears. The result was a nice distinctive line on both sides of my face, evidenced in our wedding photos.
In Mark 2, Jesus is asked why His disciples do not fast like the Pharisees or John’s disciples (ref. 2:18). Jesus answers this question by providing three different pictures.
A wedding feast
The patching of an old garment
New wine and old wineskins
Let's look at what Jesus is teaching in the context of Mark’s gospel. Why is Mark providing us with these stories or accounts here in Chapter 2? One of the main themes we see in the Gospel of Mark is God’s kingdom, God’s rule, His reign. As we notice these teachings, I believe Jesus and Mark are preparing us for what is going to happen. Jesus has come to establish something new, God’s new kingdom. His kingdom is a kingdom for all people and was going to be different than what people had known.
A. The Bridegroom
The disciples of John and of the Pharisees were fasting. Then they came and said to Him, “Why do the disciples of John and of the Pharisees fast, but Your disciples do not fast?”
From this question, Jesus provides the three responses or answers for us to consider.
And Jesus said to them, “Can the friends of the bridegroom fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them they cannot fast. 20 But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast in those days.
Simply, Jesus answers them by saying, now is not the time for sorrow and mourning. Again, one of Mark’s main themes: Why is he giving us this account, the account of his gospel?
The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
Mark is writing to give us an account of the good news of the Messiah, the Son of God. He is giving us the good news of Jesus. Part of this good news Jesus is bringing is the good news of God’s kingdom.
Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”
There is a new time, a new beginning, the kingdom of God has come. It is like a couple who is newly married, there is a new life, a new beginning. It is time to rejoice and celebrate. This language of a husband and wife would have been familiar to those who heard the words of Jesus. The relationship God shared with Israel was often described in this language, the language of marriage.
For your Maker is your husband, The Lord of hosts is His name;
And your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel; He is called the God of the whole earth.
This language was a familiar way of speaking. Here in Mark, Jesus is talking about something new. It’s a new beginning, a new time. It is the time of God’s reign, of His kingdom. This is not the time for mourning but of celebration.
B. New Cloth
In these images, Jesus continues to show us that there is a new time as He speaks of old and new cloth.
No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; or else the new piece pulls away from the old, and the tear is made worse.
Clothes are sometimes made so cheaply today that we might just toss the garment once it gets a hole in it! But if you have lived a few years, you might remember patching and fixing clothes to make them last longer. I had Tough-Skins and we would wear them out!
Jesus often spoke in images from everyday life in images that were easily understood. Here He is comparing the newness of the kingdom of God to that of an old garment. The understanding being that the new and the old cannot be mixed together. If they are, we should not be surprised at the unfortunate result. It’s easy to understand with clothing—and it helps us understand the lesson of the newness of the Kingdom of God.
C. New Wineskins
The third image is that of new and old wineskins.
And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; or else the new wine bursts the wineskins, the wine is spilled, and the wineskins are ruined. But new wine must be put into new wineskins.”
Today we have glass and plastic bottles so this image of old wineskins may not be something we readily understand. These wineskins were made of animal skins, from The New Compact Bible Dictionary, “goatskins sewed up with the hair outside”. As these skins were used, wine would ferment and the wineskins would stretch and become brittle.
Reusing them, placing new wine in them would likely result in the wineskins bursting as they were not able to stretch to hold the new wine. The good news of the kingdom that Jesus was teaching could not be contained in old containers. His kingdom has come with power. It will be a kingdom that expands and grows. The prophet Isaiah spoke of God’s house, His kingdom:
Now it shall come to pass in the latter days That the mountain of the Lord’s house Shall be established on the top of the mountains, And shall be exalted above the hills; And all nations shall flow to it. 3 Many people shall come and say, “Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, To the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, And we shall walk in His paths.” For out of Zion shall go forth the law, And the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
All nations, all people will come to God’s kingdom. What Jesus is teaching is so much greater than what anyone imagined. God’s Messiah had not come to overthrow the Roman government, He came so that God’s reign would be established on the earth.
What Jesus is teaching cannot be contained in old containers. It is something new.
There are many lessons and applications we could take away from these few sentences of Jesus. However, I would like for us to consider one question, “Do we try to mix the new with the old?” In Christ, we are a new creation (ref. 2 Cor. 5:17), we are not who we once were. Do we try blending the old with the new?
The apostle Paul teaches us that we are to set our minds on things above:
If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. 2 Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. 3 For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory. 5 Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. 6 Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience, 7 in which you yourselves once walked when you lived in them.
How often do we try to hold on to our old patterns, our old sins, our old lifestyle as we walk with Christ? They are comfortable, they are familiar, it may even be something we enjoy, but they are not compatible. They will pull away from each other, one will break and shatter the other. Paul says, seek those things above, set our minds on things above, make as dead those things that do not honor God. Are we trying to blend the old with the new?
Weddings are a time of celebration. They are a time of newness, new beginnings, and a new life. Jesus has come with the good news of God’s kingdom. It is a time in which we can all rejoice. The Messiah has come and His kingdom is present, and His good news is for all people.
Scripture from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
1. Bryant, T. Alton. “Bottle.” The New Compact Bible Dictionary, Zondervan Publishing House, 1967, pp. 93.