Foretaste of Heaven
Loving Lord, grant me strength in my duties, guidance in my perplexities, and peace in my turmoil this day.
Read Mark 2:18-22
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. All rights reserved throughout the world. Used by permission of International Bible Society.
“Being rich towards God meant Moses had to detach himself from his need for safety and security” (John Ortberg).
Questions about fasting as an indication of personal piety may seem somewhat alien in our contemporary Western world where doing without food is usually more to do with body size and image. In Mosaic law, however, although only the fast of the Day of Atonement was required after the Babylonian exile (Zech 7:5; 8:19), four other yearly fasts were observed by the Jews–and the Pharisees fasted twice a week. Usually a sign of repentance or mourning over sin, a desire to relate rightly to God undergirded this well-established religious practice. John’s followers had continued to adhere to this key ceremonial law, and the failure of Jesus’ disciples to do the same raised serious questions about his attitude to religious law. He had already healed on the Sabbath and, later, his disciples were to eat food without ceremonial hand-washing and eat husked corn on the Sabbath (2:26; 7:2; 2:23).
The gap is growing between the expectations people had of the Messiah and the actuality of Jesus as he uses three parables to answer the fasting question. The picture of a wedding feast signifies the joy his presence can bring, and is a signpost to the coming of God’s kingdom. The other two parables tackle wider Judaic practice: old wineskins become brittle with use, with no flexibility to hold new fermenting wine; likewise, patching old garments with new material fails. All three parables point to the newness that Jesus brings, which cannot be confined to old forms of religion.
Sadly, Christians are often better known for what we are against than what we are for, while we keep any celebration safely behind church walls. How can we maintain intolerance of sin while bringing God’s joy and celebration to those outside the church?
“If you’re not allowed to laugh in heaven I don’t want to go there” (Martin Luther, 1483-1546)! Plan a “foretaste of heaven” party or event.
God of joy and gladness, I pray that the joy of Christ will be in my life. May others see that joy in the Christ who gives it.