Jesus teaches – Fasting
18: And the disciples of John and of the Pharisees used to fast: and they come and say unto him, Why do the disciples of John and of the Pharisees fast, but thy disciples fast not? 19: And Jesus said unto them, Can the children of the bridechamber fast, while the bridegroom is with them? as long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. 20: But the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken away from them, and then shall they fast in those days. 21: No man also seweth a piece of new cloth on an old garment: else the new piece that filled it up taketh away from the old, and the rent is made worse. 22: And no man putteth new wine into old bottles: else the new wine doth burst the bottles, and the wine is spilled, and the bottles will be marred: but new wine must be put into new bottles.
Jesus teaches – Sabbath day
23: And it came to pass, that he went through the corn fields on the sabbath day; and his disciples began, as they went, to pluck the ears of corn. 24: And the Pharisees said unto him, Behold, why do they on the sabbath day that which is not lawful? 25: And he said unto them, Have ye never read what David did, when he had need, and was an hungred, he, and they that were with him? 26: How he went into the house of God in the days of Abiathar the high priest, and did eat the shewbread, which is not lawful to eat but for the priests, and gave also to them which were with him? 27: And he said unto them, The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath: 28: Therefore the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath.
In Israel fasting was a common practise in which the worshipper would deprive the body for the purpose of humbling oneself before the Lord. Both John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast often. The Pharisees fasted once every week. But those who were very serious in the religious observance fasted twice. Both groups noticed that Christ’s disciples did not practise fasting. So they come to ask why this is so. Christ explains that at a marriage feast nobody fasts when they sit down to celebrate the marriage but when the Bridegroom leaves then they become sad and go off eating. Then Christ goes on to contrast the religion of the disciples with the religion of the old covenant. He says his teaching is not a patch sewn on to Judaism to cover its embarrassing holes! He says the old priest takes his coat to put it on but finds there is a hold due to its age. So he takes a piece of unshrunk cloth to cover the hole. However in the first shower of rain the new cloth shrinks and pulls the old cloth causing a huge hole. Now Christ says nobody would do this. It’s crazy. This plan ruins the old garment rather than mending it. And he also says nobody takes an old wrinkly wine skin that is empty and brittle and fills it with new wine. Because the new wine will carry on fermenting and will burst the old wine skin and render it useless. And the wine will be lost too. Nobody would do this its crazy! Christ says simply new wine needs to be put into new skins. And then both the skin and the wine will be saved. Christ will not put his disciples under John’s or the Pharisees teaching. Their religion is of a different order altogether. Later the disciples went through the corn fields and as was the custom they being poor were allowed to take corn from the corners of the field to eat breakfast. (It broke their fast) The Pharisees had added lots of extra rules to the simple observance of the Sabbath law. For example they said a man must not walk on the grass unless his coat happens to disturb a single stalk of wheat, growing out of place. They reasoned that this might knock some ripe grains out of the stalk and thus they would be reaping on the Sabbath day. And of course they might step on a grain and in this way be milling it. And a bird might see the grain and eat it and so they would be guilty of storing on the Sabbath day. These rules went on and on. The Pharisees had made up to 1500 extra rules for this single commandment. Christ took no notice of their petty legalism and allowed the disciples who were poor to eat on the Sabbath day. Christ cites David who took of the Shewbread which was reserved for the priests because his men were hungry. Then Christ encapsulates his teaching on the Sabbath observance he says that the Law was made to benefit man but not man for the Sabbath. This contradicted the Pharisees who said that man was created to obey this law.