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Lesson 5
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I.       Observations

A.     Outline

Fasting (2:18-20)

People ask Jesus why His disciples are not fasting (18)

Analogy of the bridegroom (19-20)

The New and the Old (2:21-22)

Unshrunk cloth on old garment (21)

New wine in old wineskins (22)

Sabbath (2:23-3:5)

Pharisees accuse the disciples of breaking the Sabbath (2:23-24)

“The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (2:24-28)

Pharisees waiting to accuse Jesus of breaking the Sabbath (3:1-3)

Jesus rebukes the Pharisees and heals the man with a withered hand (3:4-5)

Plotting against Jesus (3:6)

B.     Keywords/Phrases

Fast, bridegroom, new, old, lawful, unlawful, Sabbath

II.    General Analysis

3. People asked about fasting (2:18). They asked because Jesus’ disciples were not doing what other respected religious figures were doing.

The Pharisees asked Jesus why His disciples were doing what was not lawful on the Sabbath (2:24). They asked in order to discredit Jesus for condoning His disciples’ breaking the law.

Jesus answered the questions/accusations with questions of his own (2:19; 2:25; 3:4). He often taught by asking the right questions. It is more effective to let a person come up with the answer, instead of just telling him. Even the Pharisees knew what was right and wrong. However, they chose to ignore the truth (3:4-5) and instead acted out of their evil intentions (3:6).

III. Segment Analysis

1. To humble oneself, to repent (Ps 69:10); to pray for someone else (Ps 35:13); to cast out unclean spirit (Mk 9:29); to seek God’s guidance and revelation (Acts 10:30); to pray for God’s workers (Acts 14:23); to prepare against temptation (Mt 4:1-3). Note that in each case, fasting goes together with praying.

2a. Bridegroom—Jesus

2b. Wedding guests—the disciples; the believers

3. The purpose of fasting is to strengthen us spiritually to pray and to be closer to God. It was also a sign of mourning and contrition. Since Jesus was there with the disciples everyday, living with them and sharing with them the gospel, fasting at this time would have been out of place. In fact, it was right for them to rejoice while Jesus was still with them.

On the other hand, the Pharisees had twisted fasting into a sign of meaningless suffering, even using it to put on a devout appearance. They stayed true to their routine of fasting but failed to rejoice at the coming of the Son of God!

4a. Unshrunk cloth—Jesus’ fulfillment of the Old Testament laws

4b. Old garment—rigid formalities of the Pharisees’ rules; the physical world (as opposed to the spiritual world)

4c. Tear—failure to observe God’s laws

4d. New wine—Jesus’ new teaching; the Holy Spirit; God’s love

4e. Old wineskins—the Pharisee’s stubbornness.

4f.  New wineskins—the new self, willing to accept Jesus

5. Jesus taught that the spirit of the law is more important than the letter of the law (Mt 5:17-18). We must go beyond technicalities (Mt 17:20). For example, the law says, “Thou shall not murder,” but we must not be proud just because we do not murder anyone. Jesus teaches us that hatred is equivalent to murder (Mt 5:22).

Through Jesus Christ, God has made a new covenant with us (Heb 8:10-13; 9:15). When we are baptized, Christ is our new garment (Gal 3:27). Jesus’ teachings (unshrunk patch) can mend our imperfections (tear) only if we leave our old assumptions behind (replace the old cloth with the new). The Pharisees clung to their traditions (2Cor 3:14-15), and Jesus became their stumbling block (1Pet 2:8), like unshrunk cloth that makes a tear worse on old garment. They ruined themselves like the old wineskins, and wasted God’s grace (Heb 10:29) like ruined new wine.

Through the blood of Christ, we enjoy the same covenants God made with the Israelites (Eph 2:12-13). The Old Testament laws are not obsolete. Today, the Holy Spirit teaches us how to turn these biblical principles into everyday practice, beyond the written regulations (Eph 2:14-16). Jesus probably never asked Himself, “Should I fast today or not?” “Can I heal on the Sabbath or not?” He naturally knew what to do and what not to do. When the Holy Spirit lives in us, we too can live as Jesus lived (Rom 8:10-11).

6. Jesus was not teaching that anything new is necessarily better. He was simply using the analogy of the new and the old to compare His teachings to the traditions of the Pharisees. He was not talking about contemporary values of men being better than age-old truths of the Bible.

God’s word is applicable anytime, anywhere. Gods word also never changes, and it does not need to be changed. We must not modify biblical teachings to suit our ideas. Rather, we must change ourselves to accept the Holy Spirit’s guidance (Rom 8:5-7).

7a. He was running for his life. It is reasonable to assume that he did not bring much food (if at all). Jesus said that David and his companions were hungry and in need.

7b. The only law David broke was eating the consecrated bread, which was supposed to be for the priests only. Otherwise, David complied with the law as best as he could. He asked the high priest for bread, and did not take it by force. His men had kept themselves from women (1Sam 21:4-5). The priest gave him the bread that had been removed from the table, not the bread that was still dedicated to the Lord (1Sam 21:6).

7c. Jesus pointed out the order between man and the Sabbath. God did not create man to observe arbitrary laws. He created the Sabbath for man to rest, to supply our physical and spiritual needs. It was the Pharisees who made the Sabbath into a burden.

David ate the bread because he needed to. The disciples ate also because they needed to. Helping someone’s physical and/or spiritual needs is more important than observing religious regulations. In Mt 12:5, Jesus pointed out the fallacy in the Pharisees’ reasoning. If it was lawful for a priest to serve in the temple on the Sabbath, then it was lawful to serve man and God.

8. Jesus is the Lord of mankind, and He was the One who made the Sabbath for man. Therefore, He is also the Lord of the Sabbath. Since Jesus is the Lord of the Sabbath, He decides what is lawful on the Sabbath. If even the Lord of the Sabbath did not charge the disciples of desecrating the Sabbath, how could the Pharisees condemn them?

9a. “It is lawful to do good.”—This implies human benefit takes precedence over regulations. Then it would be lawful for the disciples to pick grains to eat, because it was a human need (hunger), just like David eating the consecrated bread because it was necessary. Also, Jesus could not be accused of healing on the Sabbath.

9b. “It is not lawful to do good.”—If that is the case, then priests should not be allowed to work on the Sabbath, and the Pharisees and scribes should not be allowed to teach on the Sabbath.

9c. “It is lawful to do evil.”—It is clearly against God’s law.

9d. “It is not lawful to do evil.”—The Pharisees wanted to trap Jesus and accuse Him (and, later, to kill Him). Also, it is evil to withhold help to someone in need (Jas 2:14-17). They had evil intentions in their hearts. So they would be condemning themselves if they said this.

9e. “It is lawful to save a life.”—Then it is lawful for Jesus to heal, and for the disciples to pick grains to eat so that they do not starve.

9f. “It is not lawful to save a life.”—In Mt 12:11-12, Jesus asked the Pharisees if they would not save their sheep on the Sabbath if it fell into a pit. If they would save an animal, how could they not save a man?

9g. “It is lawful to kill.”—It is clearly against God’s law, and against the Pharisees’ own regulations.

9h. “It is not lawful to kill.”—At the same time the Pharisees harbored thoughts of killing Jesus.

10. The only way to answer Jesus’ questions was to admit that Jesus was right. The Pharisees were silent (3:4) because they refused to confess that they had been wrong. Instead, they went out and committed a much greater offense (plotting to kill Jesus) than not observing the Sabbath laws.

11. Jesus answered His own question through His action. By healing the man on the Sabbath, He showed that it is lawful to do good, and to save life. Moreover, the fact that God gave Jesus the power to heal on the Sabbath confirmed that His teaching is true (cf. 16:20).

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