September 20 - Luke 5:33-39

Friday, September 20, 2013

Luke 5:33-39 – Fasting

One of the things that often happened at a big dinner party, especially in the Greek world was the opportunity for guests to listen as one or another would expound upon an idea. While at Matthew’s house, it was not surprising for a question to arise and Jesus to give a bit of a speech.

At this meal, the question came up regarding fasting. This was an important part of the life of a Pharisee. In reading Luke 18:9-14, we discover that many of them fast twice a week. We know from Mark 1:6, the John the Baptist stayed away from heavy food and drink. It is likely that his disciples were as prone to an ascetic life as he was.

Jesus responded by referring to a wedding, the one festivity that not only allowed, but required people to break a fast. At a wedding, the emphasis was on rejoicing and fasting was about sorrow and penance.  Luke doesn't tell us that Jesus specifically calls himself the groom, but the inference is there and we begin to see the development of the thought that will follow into Paul’s teaching regarding the Jesus and the Church as his bride.

Jesus begins teaching about the old and the new garment and as anyone who works with cloth knows, an unshrunk piece of cloth will pull away from a well worn garment.  New wine in an old wineskin will burst it as the fermenting process begins. What is Jesus speaking of?

The Pharisees represent the old ways of approaching a relationship with God and there is no way that their methods and those that Jesus introduces will work together. Change is upon them and they want to insist that their ways continue to be in place.

Jesus is building on the old message of faith. It is stable, it is strong, it is from God. But, the Pharisees are a threat because of their insistence that their traditions are more important than God. Everything must change.