And the Pharisees said to Jesus, “The disciples of John fast often and offer prayers, and so do the disciples of the Pharisees, but yours eat and drink.” 34 And Jesus said to them, “Can you make wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? 35 The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in those days.” 36 He also told them a parable: “No one tears a piece from a new garment and puts it on an old garment. If he does, he will tear the new, and the piece from the new will not match the old. 37 And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the new wine will burst the skins and it will be spilled, and the skins will be destroyed. 38 But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins. 39 And no one after drinking old wine desires new, for he says, ‘The old is good.’” – Luke 5:27-39 [ESV]
I was in college. And I was inspired to write a poem by a good dose of resentment that was added to watching an attractive college coed smiling and laughing. She was the center of attention. She was pretty. And I resented that. No excuse on my part. It was definitely not from a good place in my heart. A broken place for sure. But not a good place. “Good times Sally. She smiles and waves her hands. She sings and delights all the boys in the band.” Something like that. I guess it wasn’t such a great poem either.
I took her for a party girl. I was not in a party mood. I was probably at that moment more like the older brother in the parable of the Prodigal Son: resentful and self-righteous. All the while there was a party going on. For the lost one had been found. The dead one was alive again. The gone one was home again. But there was yet one who didn’t want to be in such a home. He remained outside. Refusing to come in and join the party.
Jesus is partying with Matthew, tax collectors, and sinners (presumably prostitutes). And the Pharisees and their scribes are not happy. In fact they are offended. The are critical of Jesus and his disciples. They demand answers. Why don’t you act more like John’s disciples. They understand decorum. They don’t understand, however, what is happening right before their eyes. For the bridegroom is present. He’s looking for his bride. In Jesus’ day weddings were a cause for celebration. There would be great festivities. There will be much joy. Much celebration. There was no fasting or sadness.
Jesus will teach throughout his ministry that God loves sinners. He calls them to a better life. He brings them hope and a future. He is the source of praise to God. And when one sinner repents there is joy in the presence of the angels. This was a party in anticipation of all that would happen as Jesus touched more and more lives with his grace and love.
There are those even today who want to make the Christian faith all about dos and don’ts. Shalts and shalt nots. Long faces. Fearful silence. But Jesus is telling us that whenever he is present, and people are being brought to God in repentance and faith, there should be a grand celebration. A party. That’s not any excuse for a party. But it is a cause for a celebration of God’s grace and glory. Let’s not miss that party!
By the way, since I mentioned the parable of the Prodigal Son, I thought I’d share this video of the story told from the perspective of a modern day New York restauranteur. You may have seen it before, but it’s worth seeing it again. Indeed, let’s not miss the party!