Read Mark 2:18–22

[18] Now John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting. Some people came and asked Jesus, “How is it that John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees are fasting, but yours are not?” [19] Jesus answered, “How can the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? They cannot, so long as they have him with them. [20] But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them, and on that day they will fast. [21] “No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. Otherwise, the new piece will pull away from the old, making the tear worse. [22] And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins.” Scripture taken from the THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION, NIV Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

ReflectWhat is the meaning of Jesus’ parable?

Pious Jews, longing for the reign of God through the Messiah, fasted three times a week in New Testament times; the fact that Messiah Jesus and his apprentices didn’t do so was bewildering to those who observed them, including their supporters (see Matthew 9:14), and counter-cultural to say the least. But because it was obvious that God’s reign was being established in front of their eyes (see Luke 7:20-23), Jesus tells them that this is a time to respond with joy, not sadness, mourning and fasting. New situations call for new responses, according to Jesus. In his book The Problem of Wineskins, Howard Snyder suggests that the wineskins Jesus is referring to are the ways we express and celebrate the eternal truths of God in a culture. As many a missionary has discovered, and as Jesus seems to be saying here, some appropriate and helpful ways of expressing our faith in one time or culture can be stumbling blocks and barriers to faith in another time or culture. We would do well to examine the way we express our faith and work out what’s merely cultural and what’s essential.

Apply

Talk with someone who’s from another denomination to you and explore the appropriateness of the way you express your faith.