On your Mark
Now John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting. Some
people came and asked Jesus, “How is it that John’s disciples are fasting, but
yours are not?” Jesus answered, “How can the guests of the bridegroom fast while
he is with them? They cannot, so long as they have him with them. But the time
will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them, and on that day they
will fast.” (Mark 2:18-20, NIV)
When I was a young pastor, an older minister gave me this
piece of advice: “George, you can spend a lot of time trying to make unhappy
people happy. You may make them less unhappy for a while, but sooner or later
they will go back to their original state.
“On the other hand,” he continued, “you may make happy
people less happy for a while, but sooner or later they also will return to
their original state.”
I thought that was good advice and took it to heart. There
are some people whom you just cannot make happy — no matter how hard you
That was the case with the Pharisees. They were unhappy that
Jesus ate with sinners and tax collectors (2:15-17). Next, they complained that
Jesus’ disciples were not fasting either. It’s obvious they wanted Jesus to do
something about the behavior of His followers.
The disciples were only following the example of their
Leader. If Jesus was feasting, then they would too!
Jesus responds to the criticism by giving the first veiled
reference to His mission — that “the bridegroom will be taken from them.”
Of course, the disciples and the critics have no idea at the time what this
means. Much later they will understand.
Jesus does not give in to the criticism. He comes to the
defense of His disciples and in so doing gives us an important lesson.
From the beginning, Jesus knew why He had come. The cross
was ever before Him. But He did not let that impending event cast a shadow of
sadness over himself or those who were with Him. He did not prematurely
disclose to His disciples what was going to happen.
If I knew years in advance that I was headed for
crucifixion, it would be very difficult for me to enjoy the present moment. But
Jesus lived what He taught. He did not show anxiety about tomorrow. He did not
throw a blanket of sorrow over His disciples that would have prevented them
from experiencing the great joys of being with Him.
He feasted, and so did they. In the very face of impending
suffering, He taught His friends to enjoy the moment.
The Pharisees didn’t like that. Everything had to be done by
their rules. They were not happy on the inside — and unhappy people don’t
enjoy seeing or being around people who are happy.
I’ve heard it said that every baseball team could use a
player who always gets a hit, always makes a key fielding play, and never
strikes out or makes an error — but there’s no way to make him lay down
his hot dog and come out of the grandstand.
Let’s avoid a Pharisee spirit that’s always looking for
what’s wrong rather than what’s right; that’s predominantly looking to nitpick
and find something to condemn rather than keeping an eye out for whatever is
true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent or praiseworthy
A prayer of response: Deliver me, Lord, from a critical spirit. Help me not to be a wet blanket to another's joy. Let me not be a fault-finder. Grant me a glad heart that I may encourage rather than discourage.
GEORGE O. WOOD is general superintendent of the Assemblies
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