What will we encounter today in Mark 2: 18-22?
Verse 18: It is important to note that Jews fasted a lot. Particularly zealous Jews, like the Pharisees, would have fasted twice a week on Mondays and Thursdays. So, it wouldn’t have taken long for people to notice that Jesus’ disciples weren’t fasting.
I also want to point out that John the Baptist, despite being the one who baptized Jesus and who proclaimed his ministry, was not a part of Jesus’ entourage. He got imprisoned a while back before Jesus started. His followers, however, are still teaching his own school and following his unique message. In my mind, this suggests that the message of God as Jesus’ baptism was not audible to everyone because if John, being there, had heard such a thing, would he not have also stopped what he was doing in order to follow Jesus, and then told his disciples to do the same?
Verse 19: The big question in this verse is, “Why is Jesus referring to himself as a bridegroom?” It doesn’t seem to be literal, as far as we know Jesus was never married.
Some scholars claim it is a clear indication of Jesus’ divinity because in Isaiah 54:5-6 and 62:4-5 God is alluded to as the bridegroom of Jerusalem. I think that’s stretching it. If you read the specific verses, and other verses in the Bible where the bridegroom is used, it is almost always used to refer to an individual who is rejoicing and happy. This is its use in Isaiah 62 and Jeremiah 16:9. It refers to people in celebration. So, for now, Jesus is the joyful bridegroom celebrating the good news with his disciples. But…
Verse 20: The first notice of foreboding! I honestly believe that Jesus knew he was going to die. I think he was smart enough to know that was his fate, as well as having a special relationship with God. This is the first instance to suggest that Jesus could know the future.
Verse 21: Okay, now how is this related to the previous statement? It seems that just as Jesus is the bridegroom, Jesus is the new patch of cloth. It seems to be saying, let the people celebrate and enjoy this good news before this gets serious and people begin to doubt.
Verse 22: Again we have a strange metaphor. In this case, Jesus seems to be the wine. Scholars seem to think that Judaism is the old wineskin and that Jesus’ message didn’t fit well with it. Instead, there needed to be a new belief system that would fit Jesus’ message. This seems to fit with the post from yesterday about the Pharisees being righteous and Jesus coming for the sinners. As though the Jews have their relationship with God, and the people who have been rejected get to have their own thing.
All and all, I think this message is lost to us in our time. It clearly meant enough for Mark to put it in the story. In any case, these stories are all to answer the question of why Jesus’ disciples didn’t fast like everyone else. The first one seems directly relevant, the next two not as much. We can try to find meaning in them if we want, or we can accept that this is an old story with things we won’t understand. People are willing to accept this about Shakespeare or Homer, so why not the Bible?
Maybe the next chunk of text will shed some light on this?
As always, grace and peace to you all.