Newtown Bible Church

Messiah: New Covenant Glory (Matthew 9:14-17)

  •  The default setting of man, religiously, is legalism. Fallen man has a natural tendency toward righteousness by rules, or its offshoot hypocrisy. 
    •  Now, rules and laws are good; God have us Law both externally and written on every man’s conscience. It was designed to produce genuine brokenness over sin and lead to trust in His grace. Rom. 3:20 “Through the law comes the knowledge of sin.” The Jews had been given the Mosaic law, but covered over its true intent with their own rules and traditions. Rom. 10:3 “Not knowing about God’s righteousness and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God.” They cut themselves off from grace.
    •  Jesus comes and utterly dismantles their human system (5:20); and sets Himself in contrast to religion of the day, and ushers in a new era and shows the Kingdom of Messiah is incompatible with the Law and Legalism of the day.
  •  4 Reasons Law and Grace do not mix, so that we would know the freedom of the New Covenant: (1) Ministry of Jesus marks a new era (2) The Presence of Christ is marked by joy; (3)The Reality of Forgiveness & the Holy Spirit is incompatible with Law; (4) The Worship in NC is marked by freedom not formality. 


READ: Matthew 9:14-17.


  1. (9:14) The Ministry of Jesus marks the dawning of a new era in redemptive history
  •   “Then the disciples of John came to Him saying, - disciples of the John the Baptist (currently in prison [4:12]). Mark 2:18 “they came to Him” in response to the observation that they and the Pharisees fasted, while Jesus and His did not; so, they asked: ‘Why do we and the Pharisees fast, but Your disciples do not fast?” Luke adds the element of prayer. 
  • First, notice 3 observations from the Question: 
  • (1) There is a growing and widespread opposition to Christ:
    • a) The scribes in 9:3, the Pharisees in 9:11, and disciples of 9:14-17. He consistently bucked the status quo of the religious elite and this invited hostility. 
    • b) John’s disciples were not above jealousy (John 3:26), however, there is no reason to think that John’s disciples meant the question antagonistically like the Pharisee. But it does show the growing and obvious disparity between the ministry of Jesus and the status quo of the time (totally counter cultural). 
  • (2) Not all of John’s disciples made the transition from John to Jesus: 
    • a) John had already pointed away from himself and to Christ, noting the superior nature of Jesus’ Person and ministry (3:11)
    • b) Apparently these had not yet fully made the transition from John to Jesus.  They had not yet broken from the old pattern still practiced by the Pharisees to follow the new pattern of Jesus in not fasting. 
    • c) The problem was that this was very different from John’s ministry. John to prepare the hearts of the people through repentance (Mal. 3 11:18); warnings of judgment. Jesus came with the same with an emphasis on His role as Savior, Suffering Servant. Even John had a hard time with this (11:2-3)
  • (3) Jesus does not condemn them for fasting in and of itself. 
    • a) Jesus did confront the hypocritical, showy, self-righteous fasting of the Pharisees (6:16-18); but that was a matter of motive, not fasting itself.  
      • The Jews had added, through oral tradition, 2 weekly fast on Monday and Thursday that were meant to coincide with the days that Moses ascended and descended the mountain when receiving the Law. This became an essential way in which one demonstrated their spirituality (cf. Lk. 18:10)
      • FN: Just to distinguish themselves from this practice, the Didache (8:1) prescribed Wednesday and Saturday. 
    • b) Fasting under the OC was both commanded & could be righteous.
      • Only one commanded fast under the Mosaic law on the Day of Atonement (Lev. 16:29, 31) so to underscore it as a day of confession of and mourning over the sins of the nation. Other national fast were added during the Exile (Zech 7:3-5; 8:19). 
      • In addition to these, there are fast related to confession of sin / repentance that was personal, as a representative of the nation (Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah). Also there was fasting associated with an intense time of seeking God’s face in times of distress (2 Sam. 12; Esther; Daniel)
    • c) Fasting is not the issue, but the inappropriateness of it at this time. 
      • It may be assumed the fasting practiced by John’s disciples was sincere. However, while He does not condemn them, He does correct them for not grasping the reality of John’s own testimony to His Person.  


  1. (9:15) The Presence of Christ is marked by joy at a cost 

A. Presence of Christ is marked by Joy

  •  (9:15a) “And Jesus said to them,The sons of the bridegroom are not able to mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them, can they?’” - “the sons of the bridegroom” - a “late Hebrew idiom for the wedding guest.” Older translations retain “sons of” (KJV, ASV, GENEVA), while newer translations (NASB, ESV, HSCB) go with “attendants of,” or “Wedding guest.” 
    • However, “sons of” - it is tantamount to “sons of the kingdom” (13:38); i.e. true spiritual relation to the bridegroom. *John 3:29 - John rejoiced as a best man.
  • (1) Simple illustration: a wedding is no time for crying, but for rejoicing. 
    • a) Wedding festivals in Jewish culture typically lasted 7 days or more that were filled with feasting, family, friends, joy, dancing, music, laughter: it was a time of great celebration (Ps. 45:13-15 [Turn To]; Is. 61:10)
    • b) The idea of mourning and the joy of a wedding feast is unthinkable and totally inconsistent with the occasion. 
  • (2) The point of the illustration:  Mourning is incompatible with the presence of the Messiah, which is to be a time of joy (Ps. 16:11). If these disciples of John had grasped who He was, then they too would not be fasting.
  • (3) The imagery goes much deeper. This is a staggering statement by Christ, though probably not fully grasped yet by His disciples. It points to the covenant relationship of God to His people.
    • a) God repeatedly refers to Himself as husband and Israel His bride (Is. 54:5-6; 62:5)
    • b) The final messianic kingdom is repeatedly referred to as a time of celebrating a wedding feast (cf. (Matt. 22:2; 25:1-10).
      • Jesus picks up on that language, the entire history of God with Israel. He is saying, “Your Husband, your Maker, your Redeemer, your God is here. It is a time to rejoice!”
    • (c) After the resurrection this imagery is applied to Jesus as the husband of the church (Eph. 5:25f). Paul is concerned about the holiness of the church because she is to be presented to Him as a pure and chaste bride (2 Cor. 11:1-2). 
    • (d) The culmination of this will be the return of Christ, the MK, and the eternal state in the new heavens and earth (Rev. 19:9; 21:2, 9). 
  • There is a connection here with the entirety of God’s redemptive plan begun in the Garden Gen. 3:15; entered into by covenant with Abraham (Gen. 12:1-3); David (2 Sam. 7:14). Accomplished by atonement, suffering for sin, the Suffering Servant who would be a “guilt offering” (Is. 53). Ultimately pointing to Him as the conquerer of sin and God’s enemies. Culminating in the new heavens and earth (Rev. 21:1), where the curse is forever removed, God is united eternally with His people, the Triune glory of God forever lighting the eternal state. 
    • The bridegroom has come for His bride is a time of joy, thanksgiving, and celebration. It is a time to feast and not to mourn 
    • Later it seemed, for a brief moment, like all of Israel final got it (21:1-11 [Turn To]). Here the events prophesied in Zech 9:9 coming to pass; as would the rest of the story 11:12-13 His betrayal; 12:10 His crucifixion; 13:7 His abandonment by His disciples. 
    • But most rejected Him; they had so clouded over the intent of the Law’s demands and replaced with their traditions they failed to understand their sin. Therefore, they did not think of Messiah in terms of rescuing them from their guilt. Again, this is just like many today who want Jesus for about anything but an actual Savior and Lord. This very truth is highlighted in the next statement. 


B. (9:15b) Joy would come at the cost of Suffering 

  •  “but the days shall come when the bridegroom shall be taken away from them, and then they will fast” - the presence of Christ was temporary at His first advent; He did not come with the intention to stay, but to redeem.  
    •  “shall be taken away” - speaking here of a sudden and violent removal. Here is an echo of Is. 53:7 “Like a Lamb that is led to slaughter,” so He was led to slaughter by the people (*Matt. 27:2, 31 [Turn To]).  First there needed to be atonement; the removal of God’s wrath for sin; a righteousness that could be given to an unrighteous people.
    • At every point of His ministry Jesus knew He was headed to the cross, that the response of the nation and her leaders would be rejection - even hatred (cf. 16:21; 21:38). Yet under the sovereign direction of the Father (Acts 2:23 “Delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God”)
    • However, the disciples did not yet full comprehend the necessity of the cross, when this happened they scattered; they were full of fear & grief. 


C. Joy and Mourning will be mixed 

  • “then they will fast” - there is a sense of sadness and loss without the presence of the bridegroom. This fasting is directly related to His begin taken away. When Jesus was crucified and buried there was mourning and fasting.
  • But what about now? Should we fast? 
    • (a) The Lord’s point is that fasting is connected with mourning. (b) The presence of Messiah eliminates mourning. (c) However, a lack of His presence makes mourning and fasting reasonable. He is now not present but at the right hand of the Father. So, what is different? 
  • (1) The presence of the Holy Spirit. 
    • (a) Jesus Christ is not present physically, but is present through the Holy Spirit in His people. Rom. 8:9 “You are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him” (note connection with 7:25 - 8:1. *28:20 “I am with you always even unto the end of the age”
    • (b) A mark of the Spirit’s presence is joy. Fasting is seen in the early church, however, The overall mark of the coming of the Holy Spirit in Acts however, was a time of joyful sharing (Acts 2:46-47)
    • Thus, His disciples “My joy” in them ([TURN TO] John 15:11; 17:13 - cf. with coming of the Holy Spirit [14:16f]). Joy is a fruit in (Gal. 5:22) “Joy” is a “fruit of the Spirit”  the kingdom of God is marked by joy (Rom. 14). God’s people are commanded to “rejoice always” (1 Thess. 5:16)
  • (2) However we are in a transition state, and the already / not yet reality of the kingdom. That is to say, that there is joy, the presence of the Holy Spirit, and forgiveness of sin; yet there is also the reality that our salvation is not yet fully realized (*Rom. 8:23)
    • So, there is a mixture of joy and sadness. We still live in a fallen world and sin is still present, so fasting will not be absent from the current age of the church; it is not commanded, but it will be present as the natural response to the reality of and deep grief over sin its consequences of sin, death, sickness, unsaved loved ones, and everything else. 
  • This seems to be the point of the two illustrations: namely that the old commandment of fasting is no longer an apt prescription for the joy of the NC. 

III. Forgiveness & Freedom of the NC are incompatible with the OC

A. Forgiveness of sin is incompatible with fasting / law (9:16)

  • “and neither does one so a piece of un-shrunken (new) piece of cloth on new clothing; for the patch will pull away from the garment and there will be a worse tear” -   
  • (1) Illustration: Most clothing was made of wool, which when washed shrinks. Therefore, to put a piece of clothe from an un-shrunk garment on an old garment would be disastrous because when the new clothe shrinks with exposure to washing the old garment will be destroyed. 
  • (2) Meaning: (a) fasting is inappropriate because Messiah came to save His people from their sins, they are totally reconciled to God, forgiven, their sins moved as far as the east is from the west. Fasting betrays the joy of forgiveness.  
  • (b) “worse tear” - is the term sci÷sma, speaks of a division.  Here referring to damage done by trying to force external regulations to reflect what is essentially spiritual.
    • To impose law on a covenant that is essentially spiritual and marked by grace is a grave error. The prescription of fasting does not fit the character of the new realities in Christ (*Acts 15:10; cf. *Matt. 11:27).

B. Freedom of the Spirit is incompatible with Law (9:17a) 

  • “nor do they pour new wine into old wine skins, or else the wineskins will burst and the wine pour out and the wine skins shall be destroyed” - the basic point is that you cannot force two incompatible elements together without destruction resulting.  
  • (1) Illustration: “wineskins”

The skins are the skins of goats, or some other animal in which “the head and feet of the animal being removed, the skin is stripped off whole, It is then sometimes tanned in a peculiar way to prevent a disagreeable taste, and the orifices are tied up, leaving on leg or the neck as the opening. The hairy side is of course outward … however preserved, these skins would of course become hard as they grew old, liable to crack and burst, through the fermentation of new wine.” (Broadus) 

  • Fermentation of the new wine releases gases. So, if the old wineskin has lost its elasticity then the increase in pressure will cause it to burst. New wine must be poured into new wineskins so that they can expand together.
  • Meaning: (a) There is an essential difference between the OC and the NC and one cannot be made to fit the other. The laws, the feast, the priesthood, the temple worship, circumcision, Sabbath, dietary laws, laws pertaining to clean and unclean, day of atonement, sacrifices, all were a part of the OC and served their purpose in the unfolding redemptive plan of God.
  • (b) Fasting well suited the OC because it was marked by Law (Ex. 19), which was itself designed to expose sin, separation from God, and to cause longing for the Messiah ([Turn To] Gal. 3:24-25); Mourning over sin in hope of a Redeemer was an appropriate way to mark the period of anticipation.                                                                                                                                                                                               
    • Now Messiah has come; atonement has been accomplished; the people of God no longer need the Law to keep them in check for they all “know the Lord” (Jer. 31:34) and have received “new hearts;” (Ezek. 36:26) all have the indwelling ministry of the Holy Spirit. 
  • (c) Therefore, the external restraints no longer serve that purpose now is it putting to death the deeds of the flesh by the power of the Holy Spirit; it is being filled with the Holy Spirit; it is keeping His commandments which all have to do with the living out of the hear of the Law now written on the heart by the Holy Spirit through Jesus Christ: to love God with all you heart and to love neighbor as yourself . 
    • Now in one sense it is true that true Israel, redeemed Israel new the true heart of the Law, however, the difference is that true Israel was among covenant Israel. Whereas in the new covenant it is that spiritual reality that defines the people of God. 
    • This is the essential difference, the exclusively spiritual nature of the covenant. God’s people under the OC were primarily defined by physical lineage with Abraham. 
      • Though many were unsaved and did not experience the ultimate blessing of the covenant and forgiveness of sin, they were still identified as covenant people by virtue of being a Jew and the accompanying sign of circumcision. Therefore, Paul could call them brethren (*Cf. Rom. 9:1-5) 
    • The NC is essentially a spiritual covenant in the God’s people are not defined by nationality, but by being united to Christ. A NC believer is forgiven of their sin; does possess the Holy Spirit; is united to Christ and part of His body the church.
  • The law is not longer a necessary, or useful tool because of the nature of the NC.
  • Even more mixing of legalistic regulations, righteousness by rules, piety by prescription is never a good combination and is always a good recipe for hypocrisy (such as the S&P Matt. 23:1). Legalism is the default mode of our fallenness. It can show up in the form of heretical practices such as are seen in the RCC and others, or it can even show up in those things that are righteous in and of themselves: 

“Religious ritual and routine have always been dangers to true godliness. Many ceremonies, such as praying to saints and lighting a candle for a deceased relative are actually heretical. But even f it is not wrong in itself, when a form of praying, worshiping , or serving becomes the focus of attention, it becomes a barrier to true righteousness. It can keep an unbeliever from trusting in God and a believer form faithfully obeying Him. Even going to church, reading the Bible, saying grace at meals, and singing hymns can become lifeless routines in which true worship of God has not part.” (MacArthur) 

III-C. (9:17b) 

  • “BUT put new wine into new wineskins, and both will be preserved” - the new reality of fulfillment in Christ, of the indwelling Holy Spirit, of grace is matched by the new reality of the church (Rom. 7:6)
  • “both are preserved (lit: ‘kept together’) - The “both” here is not the old and the new, but the new wine in the new wineskins. Because the nature of the NC is essentially different than the old, its expressions of worship will be different. The realities of the new form of worship must match the new covenant realities. Not the prescribed forms of Law, but the free expression of the Spirit (cf. Heb. 8:5-6). What does that mean?
    • Worship is no longer in a specific location for the people of God (John 4:21 “Woman believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father.” By saying that He is not only talking about location, but all the old prescriptions of the Mosaic Law. 
  • The practical applications of this are many; music is a big one, so is traditional forms of ‘doing’ church. Change can be hard, we must not miss the extremely bold and counter-cultural move of Jesus not fasting; that was basically sin, or, at the very least, exceptionally unspiritual in the minds of current religious thinking. If we stumble over certain changes, then the question to ask: is it something specifically commanded in Scripture, or forbidden in Scripture? Or, is just what I am used to? The way we always did it? Centuries old tradition. 
    • Do we have communion weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, or quarterly? Do we have an evening service, or not? What about prayer on Thursday, or Friday instead of Wednesday? 
    • How about music? Only hymns, or also contemporary. Only contemporary, or both. What about an electric guitar, or drums? If we had an electric guitar & drums would that be sin to you (I’m not talking about preference)? 
  • Now lest you are getting nervous, God has laid out some very clear guidelines: 
    • Centrality of preaching & teaching the Word (2 Tim. 3:15-4:5); Public reading of Scripture (1 Tim. 4:13); Prayer (1 Tim. 2:1f); Male Leadership (1 Tim. 2:9-15); Structure of elders & deacons (1 Tim. 3:1-13); Lord’s Supper (Matt. 26:26-29); Baptism; Discipleship; Disciplining of unrepentant members; and the pursuit of holiness. 
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