When I got married I was given two bachelor parties. The first one was just with my groom’s men. They grabbed me, tied me up, and put a bag over my head. They then proceeded to take me to chevy’s where we had virgin margaritas, because we were all under 21, and dinner. Though the evening started off fun with the kidnapping, it ended with a whimper as we all went back to the hotel to sleep.
But the morning was a different story. We woke up about 4 or 5am and drove the hour and fifteen minutes between San Jose to Monterey Bay in California. There, one of my grooms men, my dad, and several other family friends met to go scuba diving. My family had been diving since I was thirteen and it was a fun morning as afterwards we all went out to breakfast. In total there was about fifteen of us there. I still remember the blueberry muffin in the tiny little hole in the wall restaurant. The night before was a dud, but the next morning was fantastic. The day went almost perfect, and by three o’clock I was married. My groom’s men didn’t put on the best bachelor party, but I wouldn’t have had a different one that morning. Good friends and family, having a good time together.
And it’s this idea of partying with the groom that brings us back into our Matthew series where we will be finishing off chapter 9 by starting in verse 14. And as we open up to Matthew 9 verse 14, let’s look back at where we are in these last two weeks.
We started looking at chapters 8 and 9 as a connected three-set, three-fold narrative structure that was a precursor to chapter 10. In the first set of this three-set three-fold narrative structure, we saw how, as disciples, we needed to realize that our home is with the willing God and not to cling to this world. In the first set of three, we saw that Jesus was calling us, who would be his disciples, to reject anything that would attach us to this world. Meaning, though we may have things, such as homes, vehicles, families, none must take precedence over our commitment to him.
Then last week we saw how, as disciples, we must realize that we are to live this life under the authority of God, following God as he seeks sinners. God’s authority over our life is key if we are to be his disciples. He is the God over the physical and spiritual realms, and therefore as his disciples, we submit to his authority to direct our lives. That direction he has for us, is to be working in pointing others to himself for their salvation. All other work that we do, is secondary to this one important calling.
It’s here that we now turn attention to the final set of three, in Matthew’s three-set three-fold narrative structure in chapter 9, starting in verse 14.
14 Then John’s disciples came and asked him, “How is it that we and the Pharisees fast often, but your disciples do not fast?”
15 Jesus answered, “How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them? The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast.
16 “No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch will pull away from the garment, making the tear worse. 17 Neither do people pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.”
In Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount we noticed that he had said, “When you fast…(6:16)” We talked about how fasting is a part of the Christian lifestyle. That we are called to fast, in keeping with Jesus’ words. Yet, when Jesus spoke those words, they were for a future moment in time. His disciples would fast, but not just yet. It’s because the time of fasting had not yet come, and because it had not come, the disciples of John the Baptist wanted to know why Jesus’ disciples were not engaging in the customary fasts that took place weekly.
Notice how Jesus describes the reasoning. Jesus wraps up fasting with a wedding party. In our culture, the groom awaits the bride at the alter, but in Jesus’ culture the bride awaited the groom’s arrival. And when the groom arrived, the party began and could last for days. Jesus connects fasting as being separated from the physical presence of the groom. He is the groom, and since he is with his disciples, there is no need for fasting. But Jesus points to a time when the physical presence of groom will be gone, and then fasting will resume.
We need to recognize Jesus’ words here, because it’s the first illusion from Jesus of his sacrifice on the cross that we get in Matthew. It’s here that we get our introduction to Jesus’ full mission on earth. Yes, he has come to seek and save the lost, those who are sick and in need of doctor, but he has also come to die on behalf of his creation.
This is why Jesus then adds the cryptic words of new patches on old clothes and new wine in old wineskins. God’s salvation work in the nation of Israel was done under the covenant of follow these laws and you will be my people. Which means a right relationships had a two parts: God’s divine promise and man’s faithful work. Yet Jesus is fulfilling the Old Testament teaching that man’s actions, rooted in his rebellious heart, cannot hope to keep the law of God. Jesus revealed this through his Sermon on the Mount. Therefore a new covenant needed to be made, a covenant not based on two parts, but rather on one part, God’s. It was God who would be the bases of the new covenant. His actions would achieve the requirements, which left humanity with the simple task of simply accepting the achieved work of God on their behalf.
Jesus’ sacrifice was a complete sacrifice. Whereas the old covenant required daily and yearly sacrifices, Jesus’ new covenant was based on his own sacrifice once for all. And so, through this interaction with John’s disciples, Jesus is pointing to his sacrifice and eventual new covenant through the cross.
And when we realize that Jesus is pointing to a new covenant through his sacrifice, the stories from Jesus’ life that Matthew now turns our attention to, make more sense. Let’s read through these four stories.
18 While he was saying this, a synagogue leader came and knelt before him and said, “My daughter has just died. But come and put your hand on her, and she will live.” 19 Jesus got up and went with him, and so did his disciples.
20 Just then a woman who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak. 21 She said to herself, “If I only touch his cloak, I will be healed.”
22 Jesus turned and saw her. “Take heart, daughter,” he said, “your faith has healed you.” And the woman was healed at that moment.
23 When Jesus entered the synagogue leader’s house and saw the noisy crowd and people playing pipes, 24 he said, “Go away. The girl is not dead but asleep.” But they laughed at him. 25 After the crowd had been put outside, he went in and took the girl by the hand, and she got up. 26 News of this spread through all that region.
In this first set of two stories, we see two females in need of Jesus. The first is an older lady who has been bleeding for over a decade. She believes that just one touch of Jesus would healed her. She was right, and Jesus sent her on her way in a healed state.
Next we see Jesus arrive at the young girls home, everyone believes she is dead, but death to Jesus isn’t the same thing as we perceive it to be. He tells the crowd she sleeps, they laugh, and he proceeds to wake her up. This is a monumental moment, because unlike other healings and exorcisms, resurrections didn’t occur.
Here we must recognize those that trust in Jesus and those that don’t, because it continues on in the next set of two stories.
We read in verse 27,
27 As Jesus went on from there, two blind men followed him, calling out, “Have mercy on us, Son of David!”
28 When he had gone indoors, the blind men came to him, and he asked them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?”
“Yes, Lord,” they replied.
29 Then he touched their eyes and said, “According to your faith let it be done to you”; 30 and their sight was restored. Jesus warned them sternly, “See that no one knows about this.” 31 But they went out and spread the news about him all over that region.
32 While they were going out, a man who was demon-possessed and could not talk was brought to Jesus. 33 And when the demon was driven out, the man who had been mute spoke. The crowd was amazed and said, “Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel.”
34 But the Pharisees said, “It is by the prince of demons that he drives out demons.”
These four stories are different in their details, but parallel in their purpose. Instead of two females, we get three males. The first two parallel the bleeding woman seeking after Jesus believing that he can heal them. All three are healed and sent on their way.
The second story is similar to that of the little girl. Yet, where she was dead to this physical world, this man was dead spiritually. Yet both are healed by Jesus and given back their lives.
Yet do we recognize the implication of these stories that Matthew gives us? The people laugh at Jesus when he says that the girl is sleeping. After the man is exorcised of the demon, the Pharisees attribute Jesus’ works to satan. These two situations should bring to mind the fact that there are those that seek after Jesus and those that reject him. Those who are happy the groom has arrived, and those that are still in sorrow.
Matthew is trying to get us to make a decision, are we going to rejoice that the groom has come, or are we going to act in sorrow rejecting his arrival? Matthew is calling us to rejoice, but then attaches a teaching that links these narratives to the next sermon that Jesus is going to give in chapter 10. Let’s read in verse 35.
35 Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. 38 Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”
By the leading of the Holy Spirit, Matthew is directing us to rejoice that Jesus, the groom, has come, and then to the mission of Jesus’ disciples. If you are a part of those that rejoice that Jesus has come, then you must seek to be workers in the harvest. There are those that are seeking God, who need to be ministered to.
Here Matthew comments that Jesus, “…had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”
The people seeking Jesus were in need of him, and he cared for them. This is reminiscent of what God spoke to Moses about in the burning bush.
Starting in Exodus 3:7 it reads, “7 The Lord said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. 8 So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians…10 So now, go. I am sending you…”
Jesus too is seeing the plight of humanity and is compelled to act. In his actions he will give his own life for those that would seek him, that they may be physically, but ultimately spiritually healed and brought out of sin and death and into his new covenant of his righteousness and life. And who would he send? That’s the question. Who would God call to be workers in the harvest field?
Jesus is asking this of the disciples that are gathered around him. That they would pray that God would send workers into the field. And we could easily feel a sense of relief because that seems to me that it doesn't have to be me. I can pray for others to be the workers. Yet, it’s from those disciples that in the next breath, in chapter 10, that we’ll see him sending out the twelve. And as Luke records, the 72 (Luke 10), and then eventually we see the whole sending of the Church in Matthew’s final chapter.
In other words, anyone who rejoices at the coming of the groom, those that enter into this new covenant with him, are the ones who are called to be sent out into the harvest field. If we call ourselves disciples of Jesus, Christians, we must be at work in the harvest as God leads us.
Therefore as disciples, we must realize that we are to rejoice in Jesus’ presence and to work in the harvest fields as he leads.
So my challenge is this, first are you rejoicing in Jesus? With his physical departure from this world there are times when we need to fast, but are you experiencing the joy of the Lord more abundantly then not? If we are not to worry, nor be tethered to this world, are we rejoicing in God who transcends our circumstances? Paul states in 1 Thessalonians 5, “16 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” Are we? People ask, “what is God’s will for my life?” Well, it’s to rejoice in him. Take some time and rejoice in whatever circumstance the Groom has allowed you to be in this week.
Second, are we seeking to work in the harvest? We should be asking God to prepare us for his harvest work. To give us, and our brothers and sisters, the strength, will, and words to share with those who are seeking Jesus. Let us be diligently praying for the harvest, and the workers that God sends.
Jesus calls his people to a bridal party the likes that none have ever seen. We experience only a minute fraction of it here and now. Yet when he returns, we will experience the Groom in his fullness even greater than those who walked with him on this earth. So, let us rejoice and persevere until the day the Lord Jesus is revealed and the real party begins. Amen.