Luke 5:33-6:16

33They said to him, "John's disciples often fast and pray, and so do the disciples of the Pharisees, but yours go on eating and drinking."

34Jesus answered, "Can you make the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? 35But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; in those days they will fast."

36He told them this parable: "No one tears a patch from a new garment and sews it on an old one. If he does, he will have torn the new garment, and the patch from the new will not match the old. 37And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the new wine will burst the skins, the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. 38No, new wine must be poured into new wineskins. 39And no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for he says, 'The old is better.' "

1One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grainfields, and his disciples began to pick some heads of grain, rub them in their hands and eat the kernels. 2Some of the Pharisees asked, "Why are you doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?"

3Jesus answered them, "Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? 4He entered the house of God, and taking the consecrated bread, he ate what is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions." 5Then Jesus said to them, "The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath."

6On another Sabbath he went into the synagogue and was teaching, and a man was there whose right hand was shriveled. 7The Pharisees and the teachers of the law were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal on the Sabbath. 8But Jesus knew what they were thinking and said to the man with the shriveled hand, "Get up and stand in front of everyone." So he got up and stood there.

9Then Jesus said to them, "I ask you, which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to destroy it?"

10He looked around at them all, and then said to the man, "Stretch out your hand." He did so, and his hand was completely restored. 11But they were furious and began to discuss with one another what they might do to Jesus.

12One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. 13When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles: 14Simon (whom he named Peter), his brother Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, 15Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Simon who was called the Zealot, 16Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor (NIV).

Main Points

1. Fasting is an activity expressing one's longing for God's presence - not one's display of external piety (vv. 33-35).

Fasting - the voluntary abstinence from food for a time, in order to seek God in prayer with a spirit of penitence and a plea for deliverance and/or blessing.

The Pharisees' criticism of Jesus' disciples was borne of a partly legitimate concern; however, they erred in their judgment in at least two ways: 1) they failed to see that the Lord whom they fasted for was actually among them; and 2) they focused on fasting as an external activity more than as a humble expression of the heart.

While fasting doesn't seem to be explicitly commanded in the New Testament, there is an expectation on the part of Jesus that His followers will do it (
Mt 6:16-18; Lk 5:35). Therefore we should, at least, conclude that it is a good and wise thing to do (especially in light of the fact that we are awaiting the Lord's return), provided that it is done privately (Mt 6:16-18), and - as other forms of worship - in truth and with the right spirit (John 4:24).

2. There are aspects of Old Testament religion that need not be continued because they have found their fulfillment in Christ (vv. 36-39).

In light of the verses that came before, the "old wineskins" described by Jesus may well include the ceremonial type of fasting that Jews had become accustomed to, and especially the kind through which many of the Pharisees sought to exalt themselves before people (
Mt 6:16-18).

More generally, these wineskins probably represent all of the Old Testament ceremonies and sacrifices that foreshadowed the work of Christ and ultimately nothing more (
Col 2:16; Heb 9:24-28; 10:1-25).

By contrast, the "new wineskins" most likely refer to the "new and living way" through which believers may confidently approach God, namely, the sin-bearing death of Christ (
Luke 22:19-20, 1 Cor 11:23-26, Heb 10:1-25).

3. Because Jesus is Lord over the Sabbath, he allows for works of necessity (6:1-5).

Therefore, it is entirely appropriate for God's people to feed themselves on this day, just as the disciples (and David's companions before them) help themselves to the grain in the grain fields (
1 Sam 21:1-9).

4. Because Jesus is Lord over the Sabbath, he commands that his people do not rest from works of love and mercy (6:6-10).

In verse 9, Jesus is not giving a choice between doing good and doing nothing, but between doing good and doing evil. In saying this he is assuming that a failure to do good is, in fact, evil (James reinforces this in
James 4:17).

In both the instances of the grain fields and the healing, Jesus shows the Pharisees how they had gotten caught up in the finer details of the Sabbath, while ignoring its deeper meaning.

5. As we can see from the Pharisees described in this passage, it is possible to be "religious" and yet passionately oppose Christ (6: 7, 11).

Those who hate the Lord's instructions, and casts his words behind them, face the prospect of God's judgment without mercy, no matter how often they "recite his laws or take his covenant to their lips" (
Ps 50:16-23).

6. From Christ's example, we see that constant, intense and sincere prayer to God is essential before weighty and far-reaching decisions are made (6:12-16).

Christ had prayed all night just prior to choosing his 12 disciples, who would later become apostles who spread the good news to Jerusalem and beyond.

Here we are reminded to devote ourselves to prayer (
Mt 26:41; Col 4:2), keeping in it continually (1 Thes 5:16-17).

7. Some who appear to follow Christ for a while may never truly repent and trust in Him (6:16).

This was true of Judas Iscariot, as is revealed in verse 16.

Not all who call upon the name of the Lord are truly known by him (
Mt 7:21-23)

The apostle John can speak of "those who went out from us" because they never truly belonged to God's people in the first place (
1 Jn 2:19).

Questions to Discuss:

1. How can fasting be beneficial for Christians, especially where their fellowship with God is concerned? Feel free to draw upon your experiences.

2. What are some of the ways in which we Christians today can misinterpret and misuse Sunday that is similar to what the Pharisees did to the Sabbath?

3. What does Jesus' allowance for works of necessity and mercy on the Sabbath reveal about His view of the Sabbath?