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.” – Lk. 5:33 NIV
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Jesus Christ had in what looked like quick succession performed two great miracles after the calling of Peter, James and John. He had healed the man with leprosy who had professed his submission to his Will, saying that he is sure that he will receive healing if Jesus was willing to heal him (Lk. 5:12-16). Jesus had also healed the paralytic whose demonstration of faith through the actions of his family members and himself was acknowledged by Jesus Christ. He simply pronounced that his sins were forgiven with the Pharisees and the teachers of the law questioning his authority to forgive sins – Lk. 5:17-26. One would have expected positive people to rejoice at the healing rather than showing more interest in where the source of his authority to forgive sins is from.
These same group of people were to show up at the occasion of the calling of Levi, subsequently known as Matthew, who was a tax collector. Levi was on duty in his tax booth when Jesus called on him to follow him. He did not question Jesus Christ as he immediately left all he was doing to heed the Call just as it was the case with Simon and the two brothers, James and John – Lk. 5:1-11. Levi was to later hold a huge banquet in honour of his new master with several of his former colleagues in attendance. As it is usual with the Pharisees and the scribes, their interest was not in the re-birth of Levi but the decision of Jesus Christ to eat with these collection of people who they judged to be sinners – Lk. 5:27-29. In statements that presented more like accusations, they questioned
- His claim to holiness if he is insensitive enough to know that those he was dining with were tax collectors and in their own view were sinners – Lk. 5:30.
- They questioned why neither himself nor his apostles fasted to accompany their prayers regularly unlike John the Baptist and his Disciples – Lk. 5:33.
Although they asked him two questions, he actually responded to them with three answers as follows:
- With regards to the allegation of associating with sinners, he made them realise that He did not come to the world because of sinless or perfect people but for sinners just as a physician is not required for healthy people but for those who are sick. By this he made them understand that the Lord considers a sinner as a spiritually sick person that requires the attention of a spiritual doctor and that is the reason for his incarnation into this world. By their comments also, they had concluded simply, on the basis of Levi and his colleagues being tax collectors, that they are all sinners. Nothing can be farther from the truth for as long as the tax demand of such people is in accordance with the instructions of the State. It is normal for people even in the generation that we live in today to want to avoid tax payment and so see tax collectors as enemies. Zacchaeus in similar circumstances had challenged anyone who could prove that he went outside the instruction of the State in implementing his duties as a tax collector to come out with proof, a challenge that no one could accept – Lk. 19:1-10. Probably in response to similar accusations, the Apostle Paul had advised that Christians need not worry about the activities of government as long as they comply with all government directives as government will not punish law abiding citizens – Rom. 13:1-7.
- With regards to the comparison of his disciples with those of John the Baptist in relation to their eating and drinking, he made it clear to them that it was not possible for the friends of the Bridegroom to fast when he was still with them. This implied that there will be no reason for his disciples to fast being his brides when he as a responsible groom is around – Jn. 3:29. They may however have to fast if he is not around.
- In furtherance to his response on this comparison, he equally gave a proverb that it was improper to patch an old garment with a piece from a new garment just as it is not proper to pour a new wine into an old wine skin. The new garment will be destroyed whilst the old one will be useless, just as the new wine will burst the old wine skin and will be wasted. Both comparisons is to let them know that he came to establish a new dispensation that will take care of the ineffectiveness of the old dispensation. Anyone who wishes to operate in this new dispensation must do away with the rules and regulations that guided the old dispensation as it was going to be impossible to operate in the new dispensation using the old rules and regulations.
This question and answer sessions between Jesus Christ and Pharisees and the scribes present to the Christian today the following wisdom;.
- It is improper to conclude about the righteous status or to conclude negatively about someone in any way without concrete evidence to backup such conclusions. The scripture also does not permit anyone to judge another in this manner (Matt. 7:1-3) so how can it be ever right for anyone to make negative conclusions about a group of people for any reason. Everyone is serving to please one master who is the Almighty God and He only can judge his servants. It will be wrong all day for a group of servants to assume the role of judges over other servants – Rom. 14:4. Just as Jesus Christ himself advised, everyone should concentrate on perfecting their individual flaws rather than pointing out the flaws in others which really may not be as huge as theirs – Matt. 7:3-5.
- Every individual has the freedom to approach their prayer lives in a manner they so desire for as long as they find it effective. That a group of Christians approach their prayer lives from a particular direction and are able to achieve prayer goals does not mean that there cannot be other routes to reaching out to the Almighty God. It is more about the spiritual directive that each person received. John may have the directive of the Almighty God for all his disciples to fast regularly for their prayers to be heard but that is not the case with Jesus Christ. His response implies that there should be less or complete absence of physical affliction in prayer for the Christian who remains in him and with him as his, is a dispensation of Grace. Whoever has him in his life does not have to go through physical affliction for prayers to be answered again as already paid the price for the Christian – Isa. 53:5. Of course anyone who does not have him in his/her life or have lost his presence in their lives due to transgression will need to fast to bring his presence back into such lives. There is definitely a limit to how much of physical affliction a Christian who is compliant with the instructions of the Lord should experience. Even then, it is really not the physical affliction but the heartfelt remorse that returns the grace into the life of the Christian or anyone who has lost it.
- It will be an attempt that will likely end in failure if efforts are made to operate in the new dispensation using old rules and regulations. That it is old may not make it dysfunctional but may just not be very efficient in achieving its objective. The coming of Jesus Christ was to ease the pressure reaching to the Almighty God in prayer and those who desire to operate this option should not be expected to operate it with the old rules and regulations. Jesus Christ himself made it clear that he did not come to abolish the law but to fulfil the intention of the law (Matt. 5:17) so it is really a choice issue as those who still choose to operate in the old dispensation are free to do so just as those who choose to operate in the new dispensation are free to do so with the only difference being the operational rules. However, it is important to note that a new dispensation would not have been necessary if the old one had been effective in achieving the objective for its establishment. – Heb. 7:19; 8:7. Everyone is free to make a choice but it is advisable that choice is made with wisdom so that the objective of successful return to God is achieved in a more efficient manner. That is what accepting Jesus Christ and deciding to operate in the new dispensation brings along.
Decide today on your preference and stick with the guiding principles of that preference. Jesus Christ did not abolish the law so you can choose to go through that route and one hopes it gets you back to the garden of Eden on the last day but if you choose to go through the route of the son of God, then learn to operate totally in the guidelines of that dispensation so you can access the full benefit of the choice made. May God guide your choice making process in Jesus name. Amen.