Then the disciples of John came to him, saying, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast. No one puts a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch tears away from the garment, and a worse tear is made. Neither is new wine put into old wineskins. If it is, the skins burst and the wine is spilled and the skins are destroyed. But new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved.”Matthew 9:14-17
If another of the faith does not publicly worship in the same manner that you do, does that make you holier than the other? The disciples of John (the Baptist) challenge Jesus who has on other occasions told His disciples to practice their fasting in private (Matthew 6:16-18). However, here they come boasting of their spirituality and equating themselves with the Pharisees, who we have already seen challenge Jesus with their own disagreements with His methods and teaching. When you associate with the prideful, your own pride will quickly surface and lead to your own downfall.
Using a religious practice to demonstrate your piety is shallow faith, like putting a shiny new patch on an old pair of jeans. When it comes time to wash that garment, the compatibility will quickly become apparent and lead to damage of the main garment. In the same way, using a religious act to demonstrate your faith instead of allowing a heart that is consumed with love and compassion for your neighbor be the measure of your faith produces the same damaged results.
In the same way, if you try to put freshly fermented wine in old, worn out wineskins, the wineskin will not be able to handle the weight and corrosive action of the wine against the weakened leather and lead to the entire crop of wine to be spilled and wasted, unusable – unfit for consumption.
Is your faith fit for consumption? Then preserve it in a true vessel of compassion and grace and a heart that is prepared to offer restoration and reconciliation instead of furthering division and bitterness. Is your faith restorative? Then prepare it first with immersion in the water of the Word before applying it to the visual edifice of your life. This way, your deeds do not stand out as a sore thumb and not reflective of the garment you wear before witnesses.
When you are in the presence of the Bridegroom, it is time to celebrate His grace and His love. It’s not a time for dour piety. It’s not a time for drawing attention to yourself and your religiosity. It’s a time to focus on the Savior. The time for fasting will come in due course. And when it does, do not do so like the hypocrites and draw attention to yourself.
Grace to you, my friends. Revel in the presence of the Savior. Celebrate Him for He is indeed worthy of our attention.