Thursday, June 16, 2011

Matthew 9:14-17 A Pair of Skewed Perspectives—John the Baptist’s Disciples part 1

John the Baptist was a pretty interesting character. He probably wouldn’t have been invited to preach in our churches if he was around today, which wouldn’t make much of a difference to him, I would bet, because he’d be in the “boondocks” or some part of town that most of us wouldn’t be caught dead in preaching the gospel. His disciples, as we observe here came to Jesus with questions that were born out of a skewed perspective just like the Pharisees—skewed ii a different direction, perhaps, but skewed none the less. In short, the disciples of John had an incorrect perspective on the situation of Jesus’ disciples and the scope of Jesus’ ministry.

First of all, notice their perspective on Jesus’ disciples. They ask Jesus in Matthew 9:14 why His disciples do not fast as the disciples of other teachers did. Now, observe the tone they used. It doesn’t appear that they were accusatory or combative. They were just asking a question—clarifying. Furthermore, while the Pharisees fasted according to Jewish tradition on holy days as well as regularly during the week, it’s possible that at this point when they spoke to Jesus that John’s disciples were grieving the loss of their teacher after he was executed by Herod the Great. Therefore, they may have been asking Christ why His disciples were not fasting to mourn with them, since he was Christ’s cousin, or they may have been asking why they didn’t follow the same ceremonies as the disciples of other teachers.

In any case, Christ loving clarifies His disciple’s situation for them. Please notice, as I’m sure you have, that Christ does not forbid fasting or abolish the practice. Rather, He points out the unique situation of the disciples and why they are not fasting. Borrowing from the custom of Jewish weddings, which were basically huge parties, he makes the analogy that He is the bridegroom, the disciples are the wedding guests and as such it would not be proper for them to mourn (Matthew 9:15). While Christ is with them, they don’t have any reason to mourn. The Messiah has come and is preaching to good news of the gospel. The dead are being raised, the lame walk, and the blind see. For the person who had their eyes opened to this truth, there couldn’t possibly have been any happier time. Rejoicing, not weeping, would be the response you would expect of someone who had been given by God the revelation of Who Christ was.

Furthermore, as we continue to read in Matthew 9:15, Christ notes that there will be a time in the future when His disciples will fast—they will have reason to mourn. As He did several times in His ministry, he predicts a time when “…the bridegroom is taken away…” referring to the time when He was crucified. Of course, we know how sad and fearful the disciples were immediately after the crucifixion but at the time neither the disciples of John nor Christ’s own disciples realized exactly what lay ahead. However, though John’s disciples couldn’t have known exactly what Jesus meant, Jesus did point out to them the fact that they didn’t have a clear perspective on why His disciples didn’t fast. In short, the time wasn’t right.


Anonymous said...

I've never really thought a lot about this segment of scripture. Thanks for the lesson!

Rick said...

John hadn't been executed at the time these men asked that question of Jesus as is seen in the next chapter when John sent them to ask Jesus if He was the one.
I was hoping for an explanation verses 16 and 17 in this section of the chapter because I don't understand their juxtapositon with the bridegroom verse.