No More Patchwork: Mark 2:18-22
“18) John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting; and they *came and *said to Him, “Why do John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but Your disciples do not fast?” 19) And Jesus said to them, “While the bridegroom is with them, the attendants of the bridegroom cannot fast, can they? So long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. 20) But the days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in that day. 21) “No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; otherwise the patch pulls away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear results. 22) No one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the wine will burst the skins, and the wine is lost and the skins as well; but one puts new wine into fresh wineskins.” Mark‬ ‭2‬:‭18‬-‭22‬
A lot was happening in this story. The disciples of John had bought into the legalism of the Pharisees. They were being sucked into keeping the oral traditions of the elders as Jesus warned about in Matthew 15:1-14 and Mark 7:1-13. They were judging Jesus and others by the hyper legalism of the Pharisees.
But a change was coming. The Old Covenant was passing away and the New Covenant was being ushered in. Make no mistake, Jesus lived under the Old Covenant and fulfilled the Law right down to the smallest punctuation marks.
He kept the Sabbath, circumcision and every ordinance of the Law. In fact, Jesus Christ was the only person ever declared righteous by keeping the Law. Everyone else has sinned and fallen short of the holiness of God.
Romans 3:19-31 describes the futility of trying to gain self righteousness by keeping the Law. The Law was not given to make people righteous, it was given to expose human sinfulness. The whole system failed as a means to bridge the gap between sinful humanity and a Holy God.
Jesus did not come to put a patch on the old; He came to usher in something new. The wineskins of the Old Covenant could not hold the wine of the New Covenant. Trying to patch up the old system was futility.
Most scholars put the start of the New Covenant at or around the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit was poured out and born-again believers were filled with the Holy Spirit. This was the Promise of the Father. (See Acts 1:4-8; 2:1-47)
The attempt in the above text to force Jesus into the false righteousness of the Law by honoring the traditions of the elders failed. He constantly frustrated them. He dinned with tax-gatherers and sinners, healed on the Sabbath, forgave sins and called God His own Father. He did not keep or honor the religious fasting calendar nor did He practice ceremonial washings. He even spent time ministering to the Samaritans. He totally violated their notion of external religious self-righteousness. Why?
Because Jesus was preparing His followers for the coming New Covenant of justification by faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ as our Redeemer and the inner ministry of the Holy Spirit. He wasn’t trying to patch up the failed old system; He was replacing it!
Jesus gave a New Commandment was based on Agape love. (John 13:34-35) Salvation was about to be based squarely on faith in Jesus Christ resulting in being born-again. (John 3:1-21) The inner life giving ministry of the Holy Spirit was about to replace the outward letter of the Law that brought death. (2 Corinthians 3:1-18) The old system was passing away and Jesus was ushering in the New Covenant. (Matthew 26:20-35)
There are some today who try blending the Old and New Covenants. They try blending faith in Jesus with keeping the Law. They look at Jesus as patchwork to a failed system. They are spreading confusion. The same thing happened in the early church. Paul gave his life fighting against this false legalism.
They demand keeping aspects of the Law and worshipping only on the Sabbath. They ignore the fact that the word “Sabbath” is only used two times in the New Testament Epistles and neither has anything to do with salvation or righteousness.
The two mentions of the word “Sabbath” in the Epistles are Colossians 2:16 and Hebrews 4:9. Neither contain a command to keep the Sabbath under the New Covenant or are extolled as a means of righteousness or merit with God. Keeping the Sabbath has nothing to do with salvation or righteousness! In fact, Jesus was condemned as a Sabbath breaker. The early church started celebrating the New Creation ushered in by the resurrection of Jesus Christ on the first day of the week. (John 20:1-2; 1 Corinthians 16:1-2; Colossians 2:16-17)
They also insist on ceremonially keeping festivals and various requirements of the Old Covenant. They miss the fact that the Jerusalem Council refused to trouble the Gentile believers with a yoke the Jewish nation could not carry. (See Acts 15:1-35) They are perpetuating a system very similar to the traditions of the elders and the Pharisees were using to confront Jesus in this text.
Keep in mind, the time frame of the four Gospels were still under the Old Covenant. The book of Acts was the transition book recording the setting aside of the Old Covenant and the putting on the New Covenant. The Epistles hammer out the details of the Gospel, living by grace and faith, and the holiness produced by the indwelling Holy Spirit.
Don’t be confused. By all means read and study the whole Bible… but live and walk in the New Covenant based on the work of Jesus Christ to purchase our salvation and baptize believers with the Holy Spirit. (See Matthew 3:11 and Acts 1:4-8)
Put on the new garments of righteous Jesus offers through saving faith and the filling of the Holy Spirit. Recognize the universal principles and ways of God taught in the whole Bible. But, discover how Jesus fulfilled every example, type, shadow and image laid out in the Old Covenant. Embrace every spiritual blessing available to you in the heavenly places “in Christ.”
Daily Bible Commentary By Terry Baxter: Cofounder of GoServ Global