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TEXT: Mark 2:18-22
SUBJECT: Mark #4: Wedding or Funeral?
What's wrong with wearing pajamas to church?
The Bible nowhere forbids wearing pajamas to church. It does not command us to wear something other than pajamas to church. The example of Christ does not oppose wearing pajamas to church. No Church Council has condemned wearing pajamas to church. Nor has any recognized leader said wearing pajamas to church is wrong. Wearing pajamas to church is not immodest, it is not likely to hurt a fellow believer, hinder evangelism, or cause the reputation of Christ to suffer in the world. With the current state of the Church, in fact, it might catch on, generate excitement, and boost our attendance and giving!
With all that said, we still know there is something wrong with wearing pajamas to church. What is it? Church is not the time and place for wearing pajamas! Should we tell someone to leave if he came in wearing pajamas? I wouldn't, but I'd still think it was inappropriate.
The Preacher said-
To everything this is a season,
A time for every purpose
In the spirit of Solomon, I feel free to say-
There is a time to wear pajamas,
And a time to wear something else.
Church is a time for 'something else'. Not because pajamas are bad, but because they are not consistent with the public worship of God. Church is not the time and place for pajamas.
This brings us to the start of a running debate our Lord had with the people of Israel, one that would soon lead them to plot his death.
It begins with a fair question, one many people must have been wondering about at the time-
Why do the disciples of John and of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?
The question has three premises: the disciples of John fast, the Pharisees fast, and the disciples of Jesus do not fast. Why not?
It would have been easy to say, 'My people don't fast because I don't want them to be associated with the Pharisees whose fasting is all a put-on, a way of gaining people's admiration while they're swindling old ladies out of their property'. This is true, and the Lord says so in other places, but not here.
Had He called fasting a sham, He would have slandered John the Baptist and the pious brothers who followed him. Their fasting was not to win the applause of men, but to humble themselves-
Before Jehovah's awful throne.
If it is wrong to blacken the reputation of good men, it is even worse to criticize the Law of God and the Traditions of which He approved.
Fasting is commanded in the Law. Once a year, on the Day Atonement, God commanded His people to abstain from eating. This was the only fast day on the calendar, but others were called for as needed. Judges, kings, prophets, and priests urged their people to fast over their sins and to pray for God's mercy. In the Old Testament, few men were more respected than Daniel, and fasting was regular part of his devotions.
Fasting, then, had a long and revered history in Israel. If the Pharisees abused it they could not discredit it. It was woven into the daily lives of God's people, including John the Baptist, and that beloved widow, Anna-
Who did not depart from the Temple,
But served God with fastings and prayers
Night and day.
Remembering all this, you begin to feel the weight of the question. If fasting is good enough for Moses and Daniel, Anna, and John the Baptist.
Why do your disciples not fast?
Like the young Mike Tyson, our Lord's answer hit them flush on the chin and knocked them out. This is why the disciples of Christ are not fasting or being taught to-
Can the friends of the bridegroom fast while the bridegroom is with them?
There's nothing wrong with fasting, but a wedding is not the time and place for it. Weddings are parties; in Israel they lasted three days for a widow, and seven days for a virgin bride. If a man came to a wedding wearing sackcloth and ashes, weeping, gnashing his teeth, and refusing to eat and drink, he'd be thrown out and accused of being stupid or crazy or possessed or all of the above!
A wedding guest had one obligation and only one. In his commentary on Mark's Gospel, James Edwards tells us what it is-
Friends and guests had no responsibility but to enjoy the festivities. There was an abundance of food and wine, as well as song and dance, and fun both in the house and on the street. Even rabbis were expected to desist from [teaching on the Law] and join the celebration with their students.
No one disagreed with our Lord on this point, but it doesn't seem like much of an answer to the question. Of course, you shouldn't fast at weddings, but at the moment, there is no wedding.
This is where they went wrong.
In Israel at the time, weddings started when the groom showed up-and Jesus is the Groom! Would you ask the groomsmen to celebrate their friend's wedding by fasting or by feasting? By serving bread and water or by rolling out the wedding cake and the best wine?
The coming of Christ is such a stupendously wonderful and happy thing, we can only greet Him with-
A joy unspeakable
And full of glory!
Does happiness characterize your life? Of course, there will be times of disappointment and grief. I'm not asking about 'times', but about the tenor of your life. Does the coming of Christ mean so little to you that it cannot lift the gloom that hangs over so many of His disciples?
Are family and health and financial problems really so bad that you cannot welcome the Lord and sing with the angels-
Glory to God in the Highest,
And on earth, peace, goodwill
Not all of us are 'wired' in the same way; some dispositions are sunnier than others, but can any Christian mope through life without dishonoring the Lord? Is there any place for party-poopers at-
The Marriage Supper of the Lamb
If we could just remember where we are and when, our lives would be more cheerful than they are and our witness far better. Without faking it; without pretending; without putting on a happy face.
It would be a joyful face we would turn to each other and to the world, and the joy would be real and lasting-
Rejoice in the Lord always
And again I say rejoice.
The words of our Lord were mind-boggling. What Israel had been praying for, hoping for, and fasting for for centuries had come. This isn't the half of it.
Nowhere does the Old Testament picture Messiah as the Groom, as Israel's Husband. Nor, as far as I could find, did the rabbis teach this or anyone expect it.
Israel's Husband is.God. It was He who wooed Israel and won her to Himself; it was He who honeymooned with her in the Wilderness, and He who brought her to a lovely and well-supplied home. It was He who cared for her even when she did not care for Him, and was loyal to her even when she forsook Him for others.
God is the Groom; He is the Husband of Lady Israel. When Jesus took that title for Himself He was saying what no devout Jew ever said (or thought): I am God.
If the coming of Messiah made people quit fasting and start feasting, how much more if Messiah were not only God's Agent, but God Himself, come down to man in mercy?
THE DARK HINT
Has the coming of the Bridegroom put an end to all fasting? No it hasn't. In one of our Lord's darkest hints, He says-
As long as they have the bridegroom with them they cannot fast. But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast in those days.
At the time, I don't believe anyone knew what these cryptic words meant. The disciples sure didn't know, not even when He spelled them out. It won't be long till the Bridegroom will be taken away, and we know how-
You have taken, and with wicked hands have crucified and slain.
In the three days and nights He lay in the tomb, His friends were crying their eyes out and wondering how they had gotten Him so wrong-
We were hoping it was He who was going to redeem Israel.
Of course they were wrong; Israel cannot be redeemed by a dead man. Unless He springs back to life. Which He did. And once they got that through their thick skulls, Luke tells us the first thing they did and felt-
And they worshiped Him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy.
We're thankful the Lord is risen, of course, but what's it have to do with our joy? Everything. Because, in leaving earth for heaven, He did not leave us. Comforting the friends who were so worried about His departure, He promised-
I will not leave you comfortless (or, orphans); I will come to you.
He kept His Word in sending the Holy Spirit who is so closely allied to Him that Paul calls Him-
The Spirit of Christ.
The Wedding Party, therefore, is still going on, and, unlike Elvis, the Bridegroom has not left the house!
This story does not forbid all fasting; the Early Church fasted now and then and James tells us to when appropriate. But, as a way of life, the sorrow and guilt and fear and waiting that fasting stood for have been laid to rest with the coming of Christ.
To live in this perpetual sadness, therefore, is as foolish as pouring fermenting wine into wine bags that are already stretched out as far as they will go.
BACK TO THE START
Why don't we wear pajamas to church? Because church is not the time and place for pajamas.
Why don't we live in grief and guilt? Because this is not the time and place for them. Jesus has come and taken them away. The Wedding Party has started, and it only gets better.
Enter into the joy of your Lord.
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