Have you ever worked so hard to support the people you love, you forget to spend quality time loving them? Maybe you know someone who has had this experience? You’re so focused on the means you forget the end goal.
In Matthew 9:14-15, John’s disciples did just that. They asked Jesus why his disciples weren’t fasting like they and the Pharisees were. Jesus responded it wasn’t the right time for His disciples to fast (Matthew 9:16-17). Why? Because Jesus (represented as the bridegroom), was still with His disciples (the guests). The metaphor here is a wedding—an occasion for celebration. The purpose of fasting is to seek God and draw near to Him. Fasting is like a long distance phone call to God. Why would the disciples make long distance calls when God is a living person in their midst? Why fast when God was there?
"Fasting is like a long distance phone call to God."
Jesus said to John’s disciples that people don’t sew a piece of new cloth to an old piece to repair a tear. If they did, the cloth would shrink after a couple washings and will cause a worse tear than before (Matthew 9:16). He gave another example that new wine should not be put into old wine skin (usually goat skin) because old wine skins are hard and no longer flexible or expandable. New wine expands during fermentation which would cause an old wine skin to burst, resulting in the loss of both the wine skin and the wine (Matthew 9:17).
The situation here is that John’s disciples (and the Pharisees) have been so focused on the tradition of fasting as a means to draw near to God, when God showed up, they were still focused on the means. In other words, the means became the end goal, and when the end goal (Jesus) showed up, they missed it.
"..when the end goal (Jesus) showed up, they missed it."
John’s disciples (and the Pharisees) were so set on the means, they were no longer flexible and expandable (like the new wineskins). God could no longer use them for the new things (new wine) God was doing. God wants us to be open, available, flexible, and ready to move with Him when He does His work.
Self Reflection: If God is pouring out new wine now, are you an old wine skin, or are you a new wine skin? Renew yourself - God is pouring out his Spirit!
Written by Rev. Chong Lee Yang (Kx. Ntxoov Lis Yaj)