Questions About Differences
I want to share a few scriptures, starting in Matthew 9:14:
“Then the disciples of John came to Him, saying, ‘Why do we and the Pharisees fast often, but Your disciples do not fast?’ And Jesus said to them, ‘Can the friends of the bridegroom mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast. No one puts a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; for the patch pulls away from the garment, and the tear is made worse. Nor do they put new wine into old wineskins, or else the wineskins break, the wine is spilled, and the wineskins are ruined. But they put new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.’” (Matthew 9:14-17)NKJV
At the time Jesus begins His public ministry, there are already several spiritual influences at work in Israel. The Pharisees had been there for awhile, and they had disciples following their teachings. Then John the Baptist had recently appeared on the scene, preaching and baptizing, preparing for the coming of Jesus.
So when Jesus comes along, everyone is watching to see what He is going to do, what His ministry is going to look like. Now both the Pharisees and John taught their disciples the practice of fasting, and people pick up on the fact that Jesus’ disciples don’t. John’s disciples especially had been expecting the arrival of the Messiah, and this issue perplexes them. So they come and ask Jesus, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast often, but Your disciples do not fast?”
This is a natural question that comes to mind when we see people doing things differently than we do. “Why do they do that? Why don’t they do the things we do?” Well, perhaps we should ask ourselves, why do we do what we do? But it’s natural for questions to pop up when we see differences.
Now this particular question is also interesting because the Pharisees and John were by no means in agreement. When the Pharisees came to his baptism, John exclaimed, “Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance.” (Matthew 3:7)NKJV And on their part the Pharisees’ view of John developed to the point of saying that he had a demon (Matthew 11:18).
But even though the Pharisees and John certainly weren’t in harmony, they both have this same practice, the common belief that fasting is good. And now Jesus comes comes along and He doesn’t practice fasting. What? Wait a minute! John even sends some of his disciples to question Jesus. “And when John had heard in prison about the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples and said to Him, ‘Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?’ ” (Matthew 11:2-3)NKJV
John is confused and wondering. He had been “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord.’ ” (Matthew 3:3)NKJV Convinced that he was the one prophesied to come before the Messiah, he had even pointed to Jesus and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29)NKJV But now that he’s shut up in prison, he’s wondering, “Are you the guy, or are we mistaken? Are we’re looking for someone else? Because you’re different. You aren’t doing things the way I thought you would.”
And Jesus replies, “Go and tell John the things which you hear and see: The blind see and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me.” (Matthew 11:4-6)NKJV
John was close to making a misjudgment of Christ and being offended at Him. That’s very common when we see differences, when we see somebody who doesn’t do things the way we do them—things that we think are good and important. We can get very critical of them, and we can misjudge by making assumptions. “Well, they don’t fast because maybe they don’t really care about prayer—maybe they don’t really have a heart for God.” These kinds of things can come in, and we have to be careful.