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Lesson 4: Teacher

At the sight of the crowds, Jesus’ heart was moved with pity because they were distressed and dejected, like sheep without a shepherd. Jesus said to the disciples, “The harvest is bountiful but the laborers are few. Beg the overseer of the harvest to send laborers out to bring in the crops.”

– Matthew 9:36-38 (TIB)

Devotion: Read Matthew 9:14-17. Although people in the region are celebrating Jesus’ ministry (Mt 4:23-25), the religious leaders grow increasingly angry as he challenges religious traditions based on the Hebrew Bible (Mt 9:2-3). John’s disciples ask a reasonable question: why does Jesus ignore the practice of fasting? The Pharisees and John’s disciples fast to commemorate Moses receiving the Law and destruction of the first Temple—milestones in Jewish Scripture. Jesus responds with three analogies which all make the same point: a new, messianic age has come. The Messiah for which we have been longing has arrived! Like those celebrating a wedding, the waiting of betrothal is over; the bridegroom has arrived (Eph 5:25; Rev 19:7-9, 22:17). No one uses new cloth as a patch because it will shrink and tear the old, well-worn fabric. The ways of the new, messianic age will not function according to the Law of the Hebrew Covenant. An old wineskin is stretched out and cannot handle the pressure of wine that is still fermenting. God is communicating with creation in a new way, through the Messiah. Now is the time to look forward to what God is doing rather than look back to the past. The Messiah’s followers will be led by the Spirit, not the Law. What criteria should we use to evaluate traditions? What religious traditions have you seen change in your life? Which ones should change?

Personal Worship Option: Fast for some period of time (24 hours is good goal, but not required). You may choose to fast from technology, television, meat, food, everything but water, etc. Be sure to incorporate some form of prayer into your time of fasting.  

Dig A Little Deeper:

9:15 Jesus does not reject fasting in general (Mt 6:16-17) but insists the spiritual practice is not a weekly ritual obligation. Jesus points to the remembrance of his own death as an example of when fasting is appropriate. Many Christians fast in some form on Fridays to commemorate Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. Fasting opens our heart to God and makes our prayer time much more powerful. If you have not tried it, you should. If you have fasted, how was your experience?  

The reign of God is compared to a wedding feast (Mt 22:1-14; 25:1-13). The future relationship between the church and the Messiah is described in the same way (Rev 19:7; 22:17). When do modern Christians “feast” together? In Jesus’ day, wedding feasts were elaborate celebrations, often lasting seven days. Do we feast enough in the Church?

9:16 The new patch and the old garment are not to be used together. Christian faith has risen out of Judaism, but that does not mean our heritage determines the form or boundaries of the New Covenant community.

9:17 Read Mark 2:21-22 and Luke 5:36-39. Notice in Matthew, Jesus says “both are preserved.” Mark leaves the reader with the clear impression the “new” is better; Luke makes a point to say the “old” is still good. If the old and new “wine” are metaphors for God’s Covenant with the Jews and New Covenants, Matthew’s emphasis is on Jesus fulfilling the Hebrew Covenant, not replacing it.

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