Calling of Levi (5:27-32)
The Question about Fasting
Lord of the Sabbath (6:1-11)
“Follow Me,” left all, well/sick,
righteous/sinners, repentance, fast, new/old, Sabbath, Lord of the Sabbath,
1a. Jesus chose a tax collector,
a social and religious outcast.
2b. When the Lord calls us to
obey His will, we ought to respond immediately and dedicate ourselves totally
even though it may be difficult to set aside our plans, commitment, and
3a. In the society at that time,
eating and drinking with someone implied acceptance. Therefore, for Jesus and
His disciples to dine with “sinners” was a direct challenge to the teachings
and traditions of the Pharisees.
4a. In one sense, they are those
who faithfully keep God’s commandments. On the other hand, since no one can be
righteous before God, Jesus was most likely referring to those who were
4b. Like the words “righteous”
and “those who are well,” “the sinners” and “the sick” may also have a dual
meaning. They could refer to those whom others consider as sinners. But since
everyone is a sinner before God, it is more likely that Jesus was referring to
everyone who is humble enough to come to repentance.
4c. Jesus said that He had come
to call sinners to repentance. While everyone is a sinner and needs repentance,
only those who are humble enough to see themselves as sinners would repent and
receive God’s grace. Those who think they are righteous, however, have forfeited
God’s grace, and the salvation of Christ would not benefit them. While the
scribes and Pharisees despised the sinners, they themselves were rejected by
4d. Repentance is the key to
receiving God’s grace, and repentance begins with how a person views himself.
We must humbly acknowledge our sins and respond to Christ’s call by forsaking
our sinful ways.
5. For the Pharisees, fasting was
an indication of piety (cf. 18:12). Thus the scribes and the Pharisees
implicitly accused the disciples of leading a lifestyle that was considered
improper for the devout and the religious.
6. John the Baptist had at one
point told his disciples that Jesus was the bridegroom and he was the friend of
the bridegroom (Jn 3:29). Since the presence of Jesus the Bridegroom was a
joyful occasion, it would be inappropriate for the disciples to fast while
Jesus was with them. But they would surely fast after Jesus’ arrest and death
(Acts 13:3; 14:23).
Jesus was not denying the
practice of fasting. But, as we can see in the following verses, He was
speaking about doing what is proper for the occasion.
7. Personal or group fasting was
done usually as self-humiliation before God, often in connection with
repentance (Neh 9:1,2; Ps 35:13; Isa 58:3,5 Dan 9:2-10; 10:2,3; Jon 3:5; Acts
9:9) or as special petition to the Lord (Deut 9:18; Judg 20:26; 2Sam 1:12; 2Chr
20:3; Ezra 8:21-23; Est 4:16; Acts 14:23). Fasting was also done in connection
with devotion and service to God (Lk 2:36,37; Acts 13:2,3; Mt 4:1-2). Prayer
with fasting, if done with sincerity, is powerful; it can even drive out evil
spirits (Mt 17:21).
The scribes and the Pharisees,
having neglected the spirit of fasting, had turned this important practice into
a symbol of religious devotion and a means for passing judgment on others.
8a. The new garment and new wine
refer to Jesus’ ministry, whereas the old garment and old wineskin refer to the
old mode of thinking that was accustomed to human religious traditions.
8b. It was not appropriate for
the people to try to fit the ministry of Jesus in the old framework of
Pharisaic laws. As Jesus stressed in his teachings on the mount, the coming of
God’s kingdom must be accepted with a new mind and attitude, not with the rigid
and superficial religious observances.
8c. Jesus was simply pointing out
people’s reluctance to change.
9. While some have wrongly used
Jesus’ words as a basis for removing the Sabbath commandment, nowhere in the
Bible does Jesus ever state that believers do not need to keep the Sabbath. The
point of contention in this narrative was not whether to keep the Sabbath but
how to keep the Sabbath in the true spirit.
10. God would not condemn a
person for breaking His law if the action was to meet an immediate need. The
disciples’ violation of the Sabbath restrictions was not for their enjoyment
but out of hunger while following the Lord. So their actions were justifiable.
11. Jesus Christ, being the
eternal God Himself, established the Sabbath and is therefore greater than the
Sabbath. As the Lord of the Sabbath, He is the one we should honor over and
above the Sabbath. If He did not condemn the disciples, no one else had the
prerogative to do so.
12. In Matthew 12:7, the Lord
Jesus reinforced this divine principle: “I desire mercy and not sacrifice.” As
far as God is concerned, love and mercy take priority over ceremonial
observances (without denying the latter). While we keep God’s commandments, we
need to be careful not to turn our deeds of obedience into mere religious
rituals and lose sight of God’s intended purpose for these commandments.
14a. Whereas the scribes and
Pharisees only focused on the details of Sabbath regulations (although the
regulation that forbid healing on the Sabbath was from the Rabbinical law, not
from God’s commandment), Jesus was concerned about doing what pleases God on
the Sabbath. Jesus’ question pointed out that withholding a good deed from
someone in need is actually evil, and refusing to save a life is destroying a
life. Although Jesus could have waited until the next day to heal the person, He
took the initiative to heal the man to show His accusers that the restrictions
they had placed on the Sabbath commandment was a serious violation of God’s
14b. He was drawing an inner
response from His listeners. He made an appeal to their conscience, hoping that
they would reconsider what is right before God.