Jesus Questioned About Fasting
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. Otherwise, they will have torn the new garment, and the patch from the new will not match the old. 37 And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, 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 no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for they say, ‘The old is better.’”
Observations & Reflections
Jesus did things quite a bit differently than the religious elite of His day. In fact, even His own cousin, John the Baptist, was more like the Pharisees at times. On this particular interaction between Jesus and the Pharisees we see that it appears Jesus’ disciples are being criticized, not Jesus. Though it can be assumed that Jesus’ disciples are a reflection of His own life style. By that logic we can assume Jesus also drank. We also know that Jesus drank wine because He says so Himself in Luke 7 & Matthew 11.
For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’34The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners. (Luke 7 33-34)
Some have said that Jesus drank only non-alcoholic wine but that is not supported by the Greek in the New Testament nor by what we know about wine in the 1st century. Moreover, there is no actual reason why Jesus should abstain from alcohol, as it’s not a sin in the Jewish religion. In fact, there are a few instances in the Pentateuch where God commands the Israelites to use wine in their sacrifices and offerings. In fact, some 15-20 verses in the Law of Moses instructed them to have wine. In, one particular place, even the Nazarite was allowed to have wine.
and the priest shall wave them for a wave offering before the Lord; they are a holy portion for the priest, together with the breast that is waved and the thigh that is offered; and after that the Nazirite may drink wine. (Num 6:20)
and with the first lamb a tenth measure of fine flour mingled with a fourth of a hin of beaten oil, and a fourth of a hin of wine for a libation. (Exod 29:40)
And the cereal offering with it shall be two tenths of an ephah of fine flour mixed with oil, to be offered by fire to the Lord, a pleasing odor; and the drink offering with it shall be of wine, a fourth of a hin. (Lev 23:13)
More on this issue can be read at the following article previous published on DOTB. “Did Jesus Drink Wine or Grape Juice?”
But what did Jesus mean by His metaphors about wine? It would appear that Jesus is referring to Himself as the “new” wine. It would not be beneficial to take the new wine (Jesus) and place Him or His message into the old system and way of thinking (old wineskins). Jesus’ message of freedom and redemption was all-together different than that of the Law. It was this new law that Jeremiah wrote about in chapter 31,
They will come and shout for joy on the heights of Zion;
they will rejoice in the bounty of the Lord—
the grain, the new wine and the olive oil,
the young of the flocks and herds.
They will be like a well-watered garden,
and they will sorrow no more.
Indeed, Jesus’ message would have reminded the Pharisees of Jeremiah’s prophetic message and sure it enraged them all-the-more.