John's disciples and the Pharisees were fasting. And people came and said to Jesus, “Why do John's disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast (Mark 2:18)?” Perhaps underlying the question was this: “Why do the disciples of Jesus have it easy while others have to discipline themselves in fasting?” Jesus replied, “Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in that day (2:19-20).”
Jesus’ answer was both revolutionary and enlightening:
(a) religion is like a wedding where Jesus is the groom, the centre of attraction. In other words, he is at the centre of all our spiritual pursuit. It is all about Jesus.
(b) Like a wedding, religion is a celebration much for our enjoyment. Yes, there will be times of discipline but as long as the groom is with them, there can be much celebration.
This understanding to religion requires a totally new paradigm, a new wine skin so to speak: Jesus is the goal of our spiritual pursuit, and following Him brings joy and celebration rather than dread or displeasure.
This truth was immediately illustrated in the account that follows: as Jesus and his disciples were going through the grainfields, they began to pluck heads of grain to eat. The Pharisees then confronted him as they deemed this as unlawful on the Sabbath. Again, the Pharisees understood God’s law as burdensome and restrictive. Not for Jesus. He received the Law of God as a blessing for mankind. God’s purpose in instituting the Sabbath is for man to receive the needed rest and restoration after a period of work.
That’s why for Jesus, being fed and being healed on the Sabbath are not violations of Sabbath. Sabbath is created for man, not man for the Sabbath. May the Lord change our understanding of what true religion is. God’s laws are not burdensome. May the Lord help us to appreciate and live by His way so that we may always enjoy and celebrate His abiding presence and blessings in our life.
Rev. David Lee