Monday, January 16, 2012

1/16/12 - Fasting, Wine, and Wineskins

Mark 2:18-22

The disciples of John and of the Pharisees were accustomed to fast.
People came to Jesus and objected,
"Why do the disciples of John and the disciples of the Pharisees fast,
but your disciples do not fast?"
Jesus answered them,
"Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them?
As long as they have the bridegroom with them they cannot fast.
But the days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them,
and then they will fast on that day.
No one sews a piece of unshrunken cloth on an old cloak.
If he does, its fullness pulls away,
the new from the old, and the tear gets worse.
Likewise, no one pours new wine into old wineskins.
Otherwise, the wine will burst the skins,
and both the wine and the skins are ruined.
Rather, new wine is poured into fresh wineskins."

There are two teachings going on here. In the first, Christ is saying that there is no need for fasting while HE is there. The purpose of fasting is ultimately self-denial, so that people can learn to turn away from the desires and wants of the world and turn toward God, who is the source of all good. The disciples didn't need to fast, because they were experiencing God in the flesh minute by minute, in a way that no fasting could produce. The time for fasting will come after he -- "the bridegroom" -- is physically gone.

Jesus isn't saying that people shouldn't fast. In fact he's saying that we should. He's saying that they shouldn't leave the greater (his presence) for the lesser (fasting, which is meant to ultimately bring about ... HIS PRESENCE). This is very similar to how he treated Mary and Martha. Martha worked and prepared, and Mary sat at His feet. Mary chose the better part.

On to wine and wineskins ....

The more times I read this, the more I take this very personally. I'm the wineskin. Bit by bit, God is transforming me from the old wineskin to the new. The old wineskin isn't strong enough to contain the wine that God has to offer. It needs to be replaced by something new. Something stronger. Something suitable to contain the wine of the Divine.

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