In Jesus’ day, the Pharisees required fasting twice a week for orthodox Judaism, even though the Old Testament law prescribed only one fast on the Day of Atonement. But Jesus was not doing this and some people questioned why not. Jesus went about teaching and healing and dining with people. Jesus brought life and joy with Him, not mourning.
Even today, our faith in Jesus should bring us joy, comfort us, give us hope. There may be times for fasting, but I believe they are rare. Unless it is done for all the right reasons and in private, then one is just merely going through the motions of a good diet or cleansing. Jesus came to replace the old, external traditions of rituals and self-righteousness, to give us new, internal traditions of repentance and grace! It is freeing, and it is joy! Don’t pour the new wine into old wineskins!
~ Jesus Questioned About Fasting ~
Now John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting. Some people came and asked Jesus, “How is it that John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees are fasting, but yours are not?”
Jesus answered, “How can the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? They cannot, so long as they have him with them.But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them, and on that day they will fast. No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. Otherwise, the new piece will pull away from the old, making the tear worse.And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins.”
Do you remember that feeling when you got picked for the team in school? It probably made you feel happy or relieved. Or maybe you remember not getting picked, and it seemed to make your whole day feel even worse. Everyone wants to belong somewhere, to know they have worth. We want to feel, that even though we might not be very good or have made some stupid mistakes, someone believes in us anyway, and likes the potential they see in us. Well, that’s exactly what Jesus did, and how he made people feel.
Jesus was known for dining with sinners and tax collectors. Tax collectors were in a category all by themselves and considered the biggest sinners of all. It would have been scandalous in those days to be seen with them, much less dine at their house. Now, Jesus was not hanging out with them to call out their sins or to prove his point, which he certainly had the authority to do. He was there for one thing: Follow Me! Jesus saw their potential over the bad. He was giving them a chance. They had been picked for the team!
~ The Call of Matthew, Dining with Sinners ~
Then Jesus went out again beside the sea. The whole crowd was coming to Him, and He taught them. Then, moving on, He saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax office, and He said to him, “Follow Me!” So he got up and followed Him.
While He was reclining at the table in Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were also guests with Jesus and His disciples, because there were many who were following Him. When the scribes of the Pharisees saw that He was eating with sinners and tax collectors, they asked His disciples, “Why does He eat with tax collectors and sinners?” When Jesus heard this, He told them, “Those who are well don’t need a doctor, but the sick do need one. I didn’t come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Matthew went on to follow Jesus the rest of his life, giving up his rich lifestyle. He wrote a book about Jesus’s life which became one of the four gospels. He went on to minister to Persia, Macedonia, Syria and Ethiopia to bring the good news to kings and sinners, and he never regretted that day he was picked or his decision to follow.
Which is easier – to forgive someone’s sins, or to heal their physical body? We have medical doctors, medicine and hospitals that can do great things today to heal the body, but we still only have one person who has ever claimed to be able to forgive your sins for eternity, and that is Jesus. No other person, no matter what religion or belief, has ever even attempted to make that claim. And that one single claim is the difference, and it’s a big difference. It’s worth checking out the person who made this claim.
Jesus had no agenda of his own, and did not seek fame on his own. Everything he did pointed to God, whom He called His Father. The crowds that followed Him said it all – “We have never seen anything like this!”
I have to insert a little humor here as you read this story. Imagine Jesus speaking to the crowds, people hanging on his every word, some serious perhaps, and all of a sudden these four guys start cutting into the roof and lowering this guy down into the room. People gasp! But Jesus stays calm, and maybe he even smiles and laughs a little to himself as he sees what lengths these guys have gone. Jesus was not put off. I like to think that Jesus, who was also fully human, takes delight in our persistence and creativity of our faith to see Him. He enjoyed people.
The Son of Man Forgives and Heals Mark 2: 1-12
When Jesus entered Capernaum again after some days, it was reported that He was at home. So many people gathered together that there was no more room, not even in the doorway, and He was speaking the message to them. Then they came to Him bringing a paralytic, carried by four men. Since they were not able to bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, they removed the roof above where He was. And when they had broken through, they lowered the mat on which the paralytic was lying.
Seeing their faith, Jesus told the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”
But some of the scribes were sitting there, thinking to themselves: “Why does He speak like this? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
Right away Jesus understood in His spirit that they were thinking like this within themselves and said to them,“Why are you thinking these things in your hearts? Which is easier: to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, pick up your mat, and walk’?But so you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins,”He told the paralytic, “I tell you: get up, pick up your mat, and go home.”
Immediately he got up, picked up the mat, and went out in front of everyone. As a result, they were all astounded and gave glory to God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!”
Would you climb through the roof of a crowded room if you knew Jesus could heal you?
Three classmates by the age of 22. Almost one per year since my son graduated high school. That’s how many of my son’s school friends have committed suicide or fatally overdosed since high school. The count is four if I also include my cousin’s son in those numbers. These were all good kids from good families with promising futures. I’ll never forget the look on my son’s face the day he came home from that first funeral. He was 18 and just starting college, not too long after having listened to a hope-inspired send-off from his high school graduation ceremony, and now he was suddenly thrust into the real world with real-world consequences. These classmates of his earlier school years had all eventually gone to different schools, but there is something agonizing about looking back on your youth, remembering those cub scout days together and playing Star Wars, and wondering how did it get to this? Suicide has become an epidemic, especially among young men age 18-25. In each case, there was something troubling each of them deep within, something no one could reach or know what to do with. I don’t understand it because I have never been there, but for those family and friends left behind to deal with it, they know that suicide is not the answer.
There is something attacking our society, attacking us, our families and our friends. It should not be so casually blamed on things (fill in the blank). It’s more than that. It’s evil that is invading our society. Period. Jesus warns us in John 10:10 that “the thief comes to steal, kill and destroy”, and by any means possible. The closer it gets to Jesus’ return to earth, the more evil activity Satan tries to stir up in a last-attempt effort to destroy mankind. And while I don’t pretend to know what someone may be personally going through, I do know there is only one answer that will truly work. Jesus mentions it in the second part of John 10:10 when He says, “but I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” Jesus promises you life, and peace and rest, no matter who you are or what you’ve done. Jesus doesn’t look at your past. He is only interested in your future. No one else on this earth offers the love, grace, forgiveness, help, and wisdom that Jesus does, and no one else promises victory over evil. Why wouldn’t you want to follow His promises? I cannot think of any better option on this earth, so I hope you’ll give Jesus a try. You just might be surprised at what He can do if you let Him.
I hope you will join me as I continue in my study series, In Jesus’ Words, where I look specifically at the recorded words of Jesus, by going directly to the source and blocking out all the other noise out there. For if Jesus is who he says he is, then His words matter, a lot. They are the most important thing we have.
1-800-273-talk(8255) suicidepreventionlifeline.org Find a counselor to talk with. Most health insurances and churches can recommend someone.
Sometimes it may take a few tries to find the right one, just like with anything else, but keep trying.
I am willing. What comforting words to hear. Whether it’s from a friend we call when our car breaks down late at night, or a big favor we ask of someone and they agree to our request, or hearing those words from a future employer willing to give us a chance, it causes us to breathe a sigh of relief. I am willing to help you. I remember clamoring for last-minute transportation to and from my son’s school when I was stuck at work or had to go in for an early meeting all the way across town. For me to hear someone on the other end of the phone say, without hesitancy, I am willing, just because they care and even though it is an inconvenience to them, is priceless. This type of willingness can’t be bought, it can only be given.
This is how Jesus is. He is willing to come to us in our time of need, regardless of how we got ourselves into our current situation. He opens his arms with a smile. Even better than friends or family or co-workers, Jesus has the power to fix anything. Sometimes he chooses immediate healing and sometimes he takes the time to work with us for a while. But either way, Jesus is always willing. And we have two responses: we can walk away, or we can stay. I think I will stay and see what Jesus is willing to do.
~ Mark 1:40-45 Cleansing a leper ~
Then a man with a serious skin disease came to Jesus and, on his knees, begged Him: “If You are willing, You can make me clean.”
Moved with compassion, Jesus reached out His hand and touched him. “I am willing,” He told him. “Be made clean.” Immediately the disease left him, and he was healed. Then He sternly warned him and sent him away at once, telling him, “See that you say nothing to anyone; but go and show yourself to the priest, and offer what Moses prescribed for your cleansing, as a testimony to them.” Yet he went out and began to proclaim it widely and to spread the news, with the result that Jesus could no longer enter a town openly. But He was out in deserted places, and they would come to Him from everywhere.