Luke 5:33-6:11Discussions on Fasting & the Sabbath

33 They 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.”

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

36 He told them this parable: “No one tears a piece out of a new garment to patch an old one. If they do, they will have torn the new garment, and the patch from the new will not match the old. 37 And people do not pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the new wine will burst the skins; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. 38 No, new wine must be poured into new wineskins. 39 And none of you, after drinking old wine, wants the new, for you say, ‘The old is better.’ “

6:1 One 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. 2 Some of the Pharisees asked, “Why are you doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?”

3 Jesus answered them, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? 4 He 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.” 5 Then Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”

6 On another Sabbath he went into the synagogue and was teaching, and a man was there whose right hand was shriveled. 7 The 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. 8 But 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.

9 Then 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?”

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

Points of Interest:

  • (v.33) “disciples”—disciple means, ‘follower.’ It’s the term used for the students or trainees of a teacher.
  • (v.34) ‘Can you make the friends of the bridegroom fast while he is with them?’—It would be inappropriate, insulting even, to fast at a wedding; when a bride and groom invite you to celebrate with them, go through all the trouble of planning their reception, and spend $50 a plate, you don’t tell them, “None for me, thanks; I’m saving my appetite for later.” Similarly, it is out of place for Jesus’ disciples to fast. It makes sense that the Pharisees and John’s disciples would fast. Fasting is an expression of a strong, unsatisfied desire. The Pharisees and John’s followers fast because they are waiting for something to happen. That’s not true for Jesus’ followers; rather than waiting for something to come, they’re celebrating someone who has. It would be silly for them to fast to express their longing for a savior, when they can just eat with the savior instead.
  • (v.37) “people do not pour new wine into old wineskins”—new wine expands in volume as it ferments, but old skins have already been stretched to their limits. So, if new wine is put into old skins, the skin breaks and the wine spills. Jesus is saying that he is new and different, and to try to fit him into the old categories just doesn’t work. In the Old Testament, wine is often used as a sign of God’s blessing on and abundant provision for his people (Dictionary of Biblical Imagery 951-952. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1998). So, by calling himself new wine, Jesus is saying that he is a gift from God of abundance and celebration.
  • (v.39) “The old is better”—Jesus doesn’t see much hope that the Pharisees will ever accept him. It’s not just that they’re making the honest mistake of putting new wine into old skins; they’re trying to force new wine to be old wine, because the very idea of new wine is distasteful to them.
  • At one time, the Pharisees were actually the bringers of new wine. When the people of God had completely forgotten about God’s law, the Pharisees were an exciting new reform movement, drawing people back to the law as a source of blessing. Over time, though, they’ve become rigid, like an old wineskin, unable to accept anything new. The problem with drinking only old wine is that, eventually, you run out. If you want to keep having wine, at some point you’ve got to drink new wine. The Pharisees’ insistence on old wine leaves them in the place of eventually having no wine at all.
  • (v.9) “do good or to do evil”—to the Pharisees and the teachers, the Sabbath is more or less about not doing much at all. To Jesus, the more important question is whether you are doing something helpful or harmful. Jesus is doing helpful on the Sabbath, by healing the man’s hand. Meanwhile, the Pharisees and teachers are planning harm to Jesus. The lack of compassion and the amount of pure hatred the Pharisees show here is astounding. They see someone with a withered hand, and they think, “Oh, good. This is a perfect opportunity for us to catch Jesus doing something wrong.” They are glad the man is healed, but only because it gives them the excuse they need to work against Jesus.


Taking it home:

  • For you: Jesus seemed to have a knack for offending the religious leaders of the day. His behavior did not fall in line with their lists of moral “shoulds” and “should nots.” Ask Jesus today to show you an area of your life where you function from “should.” Pray that his voice and his presence will be your guiding motivation for any actions you take.
  • For your Six: It takes a new wineskin to hold new wine. Ask God to give your Six the containers they need for the blessings He has for them. Pray that they would be open to new things from God.
  • For our church/ILTJ: Pray that our church would be able to see Jesus for who He is, rather than try to force Him into whatever categories we already have for him.