Mark 2:18-22 Safe and Miserable By Keeping The Rules

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.”

Safe and Miserable By Keeping The Rules

The religious leaders of Jesus’ day fasted.  It is interesting to see they were largely fasting to gain approval with or manipulate God. I think that those who fast today often fast for the same reason.  It is essentially manipulative.  We want God to do something so we pray.  He doesn’t answer in the way we demand, so we up the ante by fasting.  If he doesn’t respond after that, we throw a tantrum and leave a faith that didn’t play by our rules and give us what we wanted.  However, that is Jesus’ point.  The time of trying to play by the rules and manipulate God are pointless.  He has come to replace those traditions.  God doesn’t organise life to make us happy.  We don’t exist to manipulate our environment to make it do what we want.  We exist for a great marriage with Jesus.  We exist to enter into a relationship where fasting might have a place once we have learned to enjoy one another.  The joy of partying with sinners and seeing their lives transformed can not be dampened by the disciplined eating.

You can imagine the rule-keepers looking in the windows at Levi’s house whilst Jesus is reclining, drinking wine, eating a feast and telling stories.  “Hey, John, how come Jesus is religious and he is having such a good time with it?”  The problem is that they don’t have a relationship with the Messiah, Jesus.  They just keep up the grind and expect to find fulfilment through obedience to all the old ways that were handed down to them.  Without a transformation in their perspective, they will explode like a dry, old sheep stomach filled with fresh wine.  They can’t contain this idea of freedom and morality – they will settle for the safety of slavery to rules.  Then they will walk away feeling safe and miserable.


Jesus, I sometimes wish that I could just press the happy button.  I wish that I could just fast for a day and feel an instant reward.  However, relationship with you is not like that.  I have to relate to you and spend time seeking out who you are and how you tick.  When I know you as a bride knows her husband, my life starts to make more sense.  However, if I pursue making more sense, I miss you, and I lose my peace.  Help me to discern when you might want me to fast because it might help my relationship with you.  Help me to hear your voice.  develop in me the capacity to connect heart to heart.


  1. What question do John’s disciples and the Pharisees ask about Jesus’ disciples?
  2. Why will Jesus’ disciples fast?
  3. How did people in Jesus’ day need to change their thinking to have capacity for him?
  4. Why do people fast today?
  5. How do people need to change their approach to religious disciplines to make them meaningful?

About Plymothian

I teach at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. My interests include education, biblical studies, and spiritual formation. I have been married to Kelli since 1998 and we have two children, Daryl and Amelia. For recreation I like to run, play soccer, play board games, read and travel.
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