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Jesus Questioned About Fasting February 25, 2018

Posted by flashbuzzer in Books, Christianity.
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Here are my thoughts on Matthew 9:14-17.

Summary: In this passage, the disciples of John the Baptist ask Jesus why He and His disciples do not practice their external rituals, including fasting. Jesus responds by asserting that since He has come to forgive sins, they should rejoice – instead of fasting. He reinforces the distinction between external rituals and the kingdom of God by noting that it is futile to:

  • sew a new patch of cloth into an old robe – as the old robe will shrink in the wash
  • pour new wine into an old wineskin – as the old wineskin will burst as the new wine ferments.

Thoughts: Here, we see that Jesus uses cloth and wine to highlight the contrast between empty rituals and genuine worship of God. Ryle offers some thoughts on this point:

He goes on to show, by two parables, that young beginners in the school of Christianity must be dealt with gently. They must be taught what they are able to bear: they must not be expected to receive everything at once. To neglect this rule would be as unwise as to “pour new wine into old wineskins” (verse 17), or to sew “a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment” (verse 16).

I must admit that Ryle’s interpretation of these two verses is somewhat odd. Most of the commentaries on this passage that I have read indicate that Jesus is contrasting the formalism of the Pharisees with heartfelt worship that is fueled by the Gospel message. These two methods of worshiping God are incompatible, just as new cloth and new wine are incompatible with old robes and old wineskins, respectively. Thus, I hope to meet Ryle in the next life and query him on this point. How did he arrive at his interpretation of this passage? What is the correct interpretation of this passage?