Mark Sermon # 8 February 25, 2018
Mark 2:18-22 “Who is this Jesus, Who Loves Us as His Bride?”
Pastor Louis Prontnicki Maple Glen Bible Fellowship Church
18 Now John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting. Some people came and asked Jesus, “How is it that John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees are fasting, but yours are not?” 19 Jesus answered, “How can the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? They cannot, so long as they have him with them. 20 But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them, and on that day they will fast. 21 “No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. Otherwise, the new piece will pull away from the old, making the tear worse. 22 And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins.”
We have seen Jesus Christ in many different lights in Mark’s gospel. We’ve been asking the question, “Who is this Jesus, who…. teaches with authority, who casts out demons, who tenderly heals the sick, who touches and cures a hideous leper, who forgives the sins of a paralyzed man and then restores him to health, who welcomes despised sinners who repent and believe… and even calls such unlikely people to be His disciples! Was there anyone ever like Jesus?
This morning we see Jesus in a new light, for we see Him as the Bridegroom who brings joy to his guests at a wedding; we see Him as the One who bursts the old and tired structures of a joyless religion, and who brings new life and new institutions as part of His advancing Kingdom!
Here’s the situation. Perhaps Jesus was feasting with Levi and his friends (2:15) on one of the days that the Pharisees prescribed that all devout Jews were to fast, to refrain from eating. For while God had commanded His people to fast only one time each year- on the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur), the Pharisees had decreed that the godly should fast twice a week, on Mondays and Thursdays. Meanwhile the disciples of John the Baptist were also fasting on a regular basis, as John’s message had been one of serious repentance.
So you had John’s disciples fasting out of repentance and preparation for the Messiah; and you had the Pharisees fasting out of a ritualistic works-righteousness. Meanwhile, Jesus and His disciples aren’t fasting at all; they are celebrating and feasting! They are enjoying themselves at these parties, where sinners are coming to faith in Jesus as their healer, their savior, their joy!
So some people came and asked Jesus, “How is it that John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees are fasting, but yours are not?” That’s the situation here.
So how does Jesus answer them?
Jesus answers their question by appealing to the picture of a Jewish wedding. For in an ancient Jewish wedding, the couple did not go on a honeymoon, but rather they stayed at home for a week of an open house celebration, where there was continuous feasting and joy! A whole week of food, drink, music, friends, family, joy and celebration! Now for hardworking people, this was considered to be the happiest week of their lives! The bride and groom were treated like a queen and a king, and all their guests were exempted from all fasting requirements.
Do you see what Jesus is implying by this? Jesus is telling them that He is the Bridegroom and that all these sinners and tax-collectors who are repenting and believing in Him are the guests at this week-long wedding party! How can these new believers fast and be glum, when the Bridegroom is with them! That’s unthinkable! It’s unheard of! There must be joyous celebration at a wedding reception, right?
But wait! In this wedding imagery, someone is missing, for where is the bride in this story? Jesus is the Bridegroom; the repentant sinners are the guests…. And those who are trusting in Jesus as Lord and Savior are the bride. For believers in Christ today, we are not just guests at a wedding; we are the Bride of Christ! (Eph. 5:32). Therefore we as believers in Jesus should have a joy and gladness that flows from this intimate and deep relationship with the Bridegroom. There is perpetual wedding joy with Christ!
William Lane: “The time of the Bridegroom signals the passing of the old and the coming of the new and the radically different.” The Christian life is ultimately a life of joy in Christ!
Yet Jesus tells us in v. 20 that the celebrating will stop, for a time: 20 “But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them, and on that day they will fast.” Here is the first hint in Mark of Jesus’ future sufferings and death. The day will come when Jesus is taken away onto death (Isa. 53:8 “by oppression and judgment He was taken away.”), and then His followers will mourn for a while… until three days later, when God raised Him from the dead!
Now, how does this imagery of Christ as the Bridegroom relate to what follows in vv. 21-22?
21 “No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. Otherwise, the new piece will pull away from the old, making the tear worse.”
That is, the new “fabric” of the gospel that Christ brings cannot be interwoven with the tired fibers of old religion; it will simply tear it apart. The Gospel makes all things new!
22 “And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins.”
In Jesus’ day, wine was kept in the skins of goats, which were fresh and elastic enough to accommodate the fermenting wine to expand without breaking. But no one would put new wine- which as it ferments is still expanding – into an old, inflexible wineskin, or it would burst, and you would lose all your wine. The point is that the new life that Jesus brings cannot be contained within a paradigm or framework of a man-made religion.
The religion of the Pharisees was an old wineskin, on the verge of breaking. The old garment and the old wineskin represent the man-made rules and restrictions of the Pharisees’ religion.
But the new wine is the joyful gospel! The new wineskin is the new structure or form that will give an outward shape to the joyful gospel. [To use a different imagery, the gospel is the vine and the structure is the trellis that it grows on.] The new signs of the new covenant through Jesus include new sacraments, the giving of the Holy Spirit, new freedoms in Christ, and much more.
Lane: The images of the wedding, the new cloth, and the new wine are distinctly future-oriented, like that of the Messianic banquet in 2:15-17, yet Jesus’ presence here and now with them emphasizes the fulfillment of the ages. “His person is both the sign that the old situation has been radically altered and the pledge that the reality described by these images shall be experiences in the appropriate time.” (The already and the not yet.)
Now like Jesus making wine at the wedding feast in John 2, I’ve saved the best for last.
You see, all through the Old Testament prophets, there is this theme of joy and celebration at what the Lord will do. Do any of you know the following three verses from the King James Version, all of which are joyous little Scripture songs? (They are a joy to sing!)
Isaiah 51:11 “Therefore the redeemed of the Lord shall return, and coming with singing unto Zion, and everlasting joy shall be upon their head. They shall obtain… gladness and joy, and sorrow and mourning shall flee away.”
Jeremiah 31:13 “Then shall the virgin rejoice in the dance, both young men and old men together. And I will turn their mourning into joy. And I will comfort them. And make them rejoice… rejoice… rejoice from their sorrows.”
Zephaniah 3:17 “The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty, is mighty. He will save, He’ll rejoice over thee with joy, with joy. He will rest in His love. He will joy over thee with singing. The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty, is mighty, is mighty!”
In each song or verse, God promises to take His people out of their sorrow (due to their own sin and disobedience) and by His grace, give them renewed joy and gladness, in the gospel!)
But let me finish up by coming back to the passage I read earlier, Isaiah 62:1-5
“For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, for Jerusalem’s sake I will not remain quiet,
till her vindication shines out like the dawn, her salvation like a blazing torch.
2 The nations will see your vindication, and all kings your glory;
you will be called by a new name that the mouth of the Lord will bestow.
3 You will be a crown of beauty in the Lord’s hand, a royal diadem in the hand of your God.
4 No longer will they call you Deserted/ Forsaken, or name your land Desolate.
But you will be called Hephzibah, [“my delight is in her”] and your land Beulah [“married”];
for the Lord will take delight in you, and your land will be married.
5 As a young man marries a maiden, so will your sons (or “builder”) marry you;
as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you.”
Can you see how this amazing prophecy is fulfilled in Mark 2, when Jesus says that He is the Bridegroom? He is the Bridegroom and we, His people, by grace, are His bride! There is great rejoicing and gladness and singing in all this!
But He doesn’t choose us as His bride because of our looks, our personality, or anything else that might be attractive. No. Rather, He sets His love upon us and He transforms us; He gives us a new name, a new identity, a new status!
We who were called deserted, forsaken, and desolate, are now in Christ given a new and joyful names: “Hephzibah” = “my delight is in her” and “Beulah” “married”!
Our condition, our status, our name, and our outlook on life have all been renewed and invigorated, by what God has done for us in Christ!
Ray Ortland writes, “God intends to prove, through Christ, how much He can love and bless ruined human beings.”
Therefore, if you are in Christ, God delights in you – because He delights in His Son! (Mark 1:13 “You are my Son, whom I love; with You I am well pleased.”)
God even has a pet name, an endearing name for you: “Hephzibah: My delight is in you!”
You are no longer called by your past name of shame. You are no longer defined by your dark and awful past. Alec Motyer notes: “The past is so completely gone as not to merit a mention.” The old names of shame and hopelessness have been replaced by names of delight, love, acceptance, and security!
God is redefining you with a new name of His own choosing. He is rewriting your future, and it is joyful and glorious in Christ!
“The love that God has for us in Christ is a passionate gladness. It becomes our high-octane joy in revival…” (Ortland)
“The Lord will enjoy honeymoon delight with those whom the Anointed One as saved and made right with Him.”
And so we see Jesus in a new and amazing light. We see Him as the Bridegroom who comes to a lonely and deserted woman who feels totally empty, discarded, and abandoned; she’s been ditched and dumped), and we see Him absolutely delighting in her, giving her a new name, a new identity, a new future, as He marries her and rejoices over her, with an amazing sacrificial love! How can we not rejoice and dance and be filled with gladness and joy?
Let me ask you therefore: is your life an old, petrified bag of rules/religion? Or is it a new and flexible wineskin? Only a new life can contain new wine. Not a religion, but a relationship with The Father though Christ His Son – that’s the only way to find joy and gladness in life!
So here is my prayer: “Lord, give people the eyes of faith to see Jesus as the joyful Bridegroom, as the bringer of New Wine, as the One who heals our withered and hardened hearts, as the one who frees us from our hideous leprosy and our emotional and spiritual paralysis, as the One who comes to give us true and eternal rest for our souls!!! And Lord, help others to see that Jesus in me, in our church, in your people. Fill us with the New Wine of your Holy Spirit, so that those around us will want to drink of it and be overjoyed!”