It is a rare thing for someone to truly have all the answers. In fact, in the vast realities of science and the social world of human behavior, it would be impossible for anyone to be able encompass all that is in one, finite little mind, now matter how smart they are. The only Being that could really have all the answers is God. If He exists, then He would not only understand all the facts, but He would also understand how everything has developed and how it all continually works together. That is the reason that, if there is a God, it makes sense to let Him explain things. If there is a God worth believing in (and I believe there is), then He is a God worth listening to. The people of Jesus’ time had as much trouble with that as the people of our day.
There came a time when the disciples of John the Baptist and the Pharisees were all fasting according to the Jewish custom. This fast was not a part of the Jewish law. It was a tradition that began when the Jewish people returned from their seventy year exile in Babylon. As these men gritted their teach with discipline against their hunger, they noticed that Jesus’ disciples were eating away as if there was no fast at all. They started to grumble. Why did they get to eat? Jesus said:
“‘How can the guests of the bridegroom fast while He is with them? They cannot, so long as they have Him with them. But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them, and on that day they will fast.’”
This isn’t the first time in the Gospels that Jesus has compared Himself to a groom. Can you picture a great wedding banquet, where the friends of the bridegroom are meant to join him in celebration? With all of the music and dance and feasting, would that be the right time to go on a fast? It probably wouldn’t be a good way to show that the important events in the Bridegroom’s life were important to his groomsmen. In honor of the happy event, it would be a time to feast and enjoy. Yet the coming of the Lord Jesus was the coming of the Great Bridegroom! It was the greatest event in history! Any other custom or practice from over the long years of history could be laid aside.
At the same time, Jesus warned that He would not always walk among them, and that a time of deep mourning was on its way. Even in those early days of Jesus’ ministry, He knew that it was all going to end with His rejection. He had come to earth to lay down His life for the very bride that was going to refuse His love.
Then Jesus gave two images to help them understand that with His coming, things were going to change for the people of God. He was going to bring a whole new era. He said:
“‘No one sews a patch of the unshrunk cloth on an old garment. If he does, the new piece will pull away from the old, making the tear worse. And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, he pours new wine into new wineskins.’”
Have you ever washed a shirt and found that after it dried, it was much smaller than when you bought it? Fabric shrinks when it is washed. That is why it isn’t smart to patch old clothes with brand new fabric. When it gets washed, it will shrink and ruin the whole shirt. The coming of Jesus was like the new fabric. The ways of the Jewish leaders (and even John the Baptist’s disciples in this story!) was like the old fabric. With the Law of Moses, God had given the nation of Israel many wonderful and powerful laws and customs to purify them. It was God’s way of preparing the people who would receive the Messiah when He came. But now the Messiah was there, right in their midst. The old ways were no longer in force. They had done what they were supposed to do! The magnificent honor of the Jewish people was to be the nation to which the Savior of the world was born, and their role was to point the world to the salvation that Christ was about to bring.
The men and women whose hearts were truly listening for the will of God would hear what Jesus said and understand. The Holy Spirit would show them that Jesus was the Bridegroom. They would see that this Anointed One came with the same power that Moses and the Israelites saw in the flames and the rumblings of Mount Sinai, and they would submit their hearts to Him. But many would reject Jesus and show that their hearts had not been true to the Lord all along. They would show that what they truly loved was the power and control and position that their religion gave them. They would hold on to it any way they could, even it if meant putting an innocent man to death.
And He would let them.
But when He returns, with all of the burden of paying the price for the sins of His bride behind Him, He will come to her again and gather her redeemed heart to Himself for an everlasting union where there will be no more sorrow, sin, or shame.