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LVII.

Matthew's Feast. Discourse on Fasting.

(Capernaum.)

A Matt. IX. 10–17; B Mark II. 15–22; C Luke V. 29–39.

c 29 And Levi [another name for the apostle Matthew] made him a great feast in his house: b 15 And it came to pass, that he was sitting { a as he sat} at meat in the { b his} a house, c and there was a great multitude of publicans [Matthew had invited his old friends] and of others b and a behold, many publicans and sinners came and sat down with Jesus and his disciples. b for there were many, c that were sitting at meat with them. b and they followed him. c 30 And the Pharisees and their scribes { b the scribes of the Pharisees,} [that is, the scribes which were of their party or sect] when they saw that he was eating with the sinners and publicans, c murmured against his disciples, saying, { a they said} unto his disciples, c Why do ye eat and drink with the publicans and sinners? a Why eateth your Teacher with the publicans and sinners? b How is it that he eateth and drinketh with publicans and sinners? [From their standpoint, the question was natural enough. No strict Jew could eat with a Gentile (Acts xi. 3; Gal. ii. 12), and Matthew's guests were classed with the heathen.] a 12 But { b 17 And} a when he b Jesus heard it, he c answering said { b saith} unto them, They that are whole { c in health} have no need of a physician, but they that are sick. a 13 But go ye and learn what this meaneth, I desire mercy, and not sacrifice [For an explanation of this passage, see page 212. To mercifully help sinners to repent was more precious to God than sacrifice]: for c 32 I am not come { a I came not} to call the righteous, but sinners. c to repentance. [Being charged with recklessly consorting 350with sinners, it was necessary for Jesus to vindicate himself, else his influence would be damaged; hence he presents three arguments: 1. His office being analogous to that of a physician, required him to visit the sin-sick. 2. God himself commended such an act of mercy, and preferred it to sacrifice; 3. As he came to call sinners to repentance, he must therefore go to the sinners. These arguments do not justify us in keeping company with bad people for any other purpose than to do them good—that is, as their soul's physician. When he used the word “righteous,” Jesus did not mean to admit that any were so righteous as to need no Saviour; he merely quoted the Pharisees at the value which they set upon themselves.] b 18 And John's disciples and the Pharisees were fasting: and they come { a 14 Then come to him the disciples of John,} c 33 And they said { b say} unto him, a saying, c The disciples of John fast often, and make supplications [single penitential prayers with their fasting]; likewise also the disciples of the Pharisees; but thine eat and drink. [As John the Baptist observed one almost continual fast, his diet being locusts and wild honey, his disciples naturally had great respect for that rite, and noted the lack of its observance by Jesus as an apparent defect in his character. They were honest inquirers, and Jesus answered them respectfully as such.] a Why do we and the Pharisees { b John's disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees} a fast oft, but thy disciples fast not? 15 And Jesus said unto them, c Can ye make the sons of the bride-chamber fast, { a mourn}, as long as { c while} the bridegroom is with them? b as long as they have with bridegroom with them, the cannot fast. [The bridegroom's friends were called “sons of the bride-chamber.” They went with the bridegroom to the bride's house, and escorted her to her new home. Arriving at the bridegroom's house, a feast usually lasting seven days ensued (Matt. xxii. 4; Luke xiv. 8; John ii. 8, 9). Mourning and fasting would therefore ill befit such an occasion.] c 35 But the days will come; and when the bridegroom shall 351be taken from them, b and then will they fast in that day. { c those days.} [Jesus here foretells the removal of his visible presence from his disciples by his ascension. His words predict but do not command a fast. He prescribed no stated fasts, and the apostolic church kept none. History shows that prescribed fasts become formal and tend to Phariseeism.] 36 And he spake also a parable unto them: No man rendeth a piece from a new garment and putteth it upon an old garment, else he will rend the new, and also the piece from the new will not agree with the old. a 16 And no man putteth { b seweth} a piece of undressed cloth on { a upon} an old garment; for { b else} that which should fill it up taketh from it, { a from the garment,} b the new from the old, and a worse rent is made. [Jesus justifies the conduct of his disciples by an appeal to the principles of the new dispensation, by which they were governed. The disciples of John looked upon Jesus as a reformer of Judaism, but he corrects their false impressions. To tear the new dispensation to pieces to renovate or embellish the old would be to injure the new and to destroy the old. By the process of fulling or dressing, new cloth was cleansed and shrunk so as to become more compact. The new cloth, therefore, had in it, so to speak, a life-element, and in its movement while shrinking it would tear the weaker fiber of the old cloth to which it was sewed, and thus enlarge the rent. The new dispensation could have rites and forms of its own, but could not conform to the rites of the Pharisees. If the conduct of his disciples had made a rent in the rabbinical traditions with regard to fasting, Jesus could not so modify the conduct of his disciples as to patch the rent without injuring the moral sense of his disciples, and without making Phariseeism a more meaningless hypocrisy than ever.] 22 And no man putteth { a 17 Neither do men put} new wine into old wine-skins: c else the the new wine will burst the skins, a and the wine c itself will be { a is} spilled, b and the wine perisheth, and the skins: a burst, c and the skins will perish. a but they put new wine { c new 352 wine must be put} b into fresh wine-skins. a and both are preserved. [This parable is also an illustration of the principles set forth above. Wine was then stored in casks of skin—usually hides of goats. Wine-skins, newly made, were elastic, and would expand to accommodate the fermentation of the new wine within. But the old wine-skins were stiff and of little strength, and would burst if fermenting liquid were confined within them.] c 39 And no man having drunk old wine desireth new; for he saith, The old is good. [The thought here is that as wine should be put in skins suited for it, and as, at an entertainment, the different kinds of wine should be served in appropriate succession; so, fasting should be observed on suitable occasions—not, for instance, at a wedding.]

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