Title: The Messiah’s authority over tradition
Scriptures to Read: Read Mark 2:18-22, Matthew 9:14-17; Luke 5:33-39
Traditions had become sacrosanct with Scripture
At this point Jesus enters into a unique period of conflict over a specific issue, because by this point of time in the history of Judaism a whole body of traditions had developed that by first century Israel became sacrosanct, equal with Scripture, and sometimes more important than Scripture. And the Pharisees expected Jesus to be in submission to all these new rules and regulations, but he consistently refuses to do so.
Mishnah, Gemara, & Talmud
The work of the Sophrim and Tanaim together is now called the Mishnah, and the Mishnah in Hebrew is roughly about 1500 pages. The work of Amoraim is called the Gemara, and that is about the size of the Encyclopedic Britannica, a massive body of work. When you put the two together, that makes up the Talmud. Now, in this study we are not concerned about what the Gemara says. That is a later period. The main bone of contention between Jesus and the Pharisees is over the Mishnah, because, for a Pharisee, what was the Messiah supposed to be like? The Messiah would be a fellow Pharisee, and he would not only subject himself to both the Mosaic Law and the Oral Law, he would also help them in plugging up the holes of the fences. Jesus consistently rejects the authority of the Oral Law, only affirming the authority of the Mosaic Law. From now on in our study we will be using certain words synonymously, or interchangeably: The Oral Law, Pharisaic Law, Rabbinic Law, and Talmudic Law. These are all various phrases for what we now call the Mishnah, of Mishnaic Law. And this will become the key area of contention between Jesus and the Pharisees.
The question regarding fasting
Luke points out in verse 33 that the Pharisees followed the practice of fasting frequently, and the disciples of John followed the Pharisaic tradition. And by the way, the Pharisees fasted twice a week, Mondays and Thursdays. Every Monday and every Thursday were the two Pharisaic fast days. But Jesus’ disciples did not follow this tradition and they wanted to know why, and he responds by saying four things:
1. Firstly, Jesus said to them: You don’t come to a wedding feast to fast, you come to feast. The bridegroom was present, and as long as the bridegroom was present there will be no room for fasting. There will be fasting only once he leaves. Indeed, from the time he went public with his ministry at that first Passover, there is no record of Jesus ever fasting.
2. Secondly, Jesus said to them that you don’t use a new patch of cloth to cover a hole in an old garment. An old garment has been washed many times and it has shrunk as much as it will shrink. If an old garment develops a hole in its old age and you use a new patch of cloth to cover the hole in the old garment, the next time you wash it the new patch shrinks and pulls the garment out of shape. His point here is that he hasn’t come to help them patch up Pharisaic Judaism. He didn’t come to close up these holes in the fence. He is presenting something that is quite different.
3. Thirdly, Jesus points out that you don’t use an old wineskin and fill it with new wine. An old wineskin has stretched as much as it will ever stretch. New wine is wine that has begun its fermentation process, but the fermentation process is still incomplete. If you fill up an old wineskin with new wine, as the fermentation process continues the wine will begin to expand. It will cause a rip in the skin and you will lose both the wineskin and the wine. And the point is that he did not come to put his teachings into the mould or the skin of Pharisaic Judaism. He is presenting something that is different. He is presenting something that is new.
4. Finally, Jesus teaches them that in the end they will reject the new and stay with the old.