March 17, 2014
Mark 2: 18-22
Scripture often functions at multiple levels of truth. That is certainly true with today’s reading. Taken as a whole the deeper meaning of the passage has to do with the relationship between the old and the new. Jesus is the bearer of the new covenant. The new covenant reinterprets and reapplies the old covenant on new terms, terms that now include the Gentiles. And yet it does not completely abolish the old covenant. As Jesus will say elsewhere he did come to overturn the law, but to fulfill it. Jesus is doing a new thing, but the new thing completes the old thing, a fact that is always important given the constantly changing circumstances of our lives.
On the surface however, there is another equally important truth playing out in this passage. Jesus is criticized for not insisting that his disciples fast like the Pharisees and the disciples of John do. He responds by saying that now is the not the time to fast, for in him the kingdom of God has become present. There will, however, be a time of fasting to come when he, the bridegroom, is taken away – words that foreshadow his sacrificial death on the cross.
Life is a mixture of both times of mourning and times of celebration. We would love to have lots of the latter and none of the former, but it doesn’t work that way. Tragedy, hardship, crises, difficult decisions, sadness – these things are going to come. They are the consequence of living in a world marred by sin and brokenness. We need look no further than the cross to be reminded of this. The crucifixion stands as a constant reminder of the tragic side of life.
That’s why we need a faith that equips us for navigating such times. We do not come to Jesus because we hope that he will be some magic power that shields us from the hard things. We come to Jesus because he faced those hard things head-on and bore them in his flesh to a cross. And then he came out alive on the other side!
We need not be ashamed of the joys that come our way. We should celebrate the goodness and claim it as a gift. But we should also recognize that the majority of Psalms are expressions of lament or grief or anguish. Authentic faith gives us a place to put our grief because we know that through Christ, God will have the last word, and it will be good.
Almighty God, give us the courage to be honest about the things that weigh us down, and save us from the foolish tendency of always trying to convince the world that everything is fine and that we have it all under control. Give us a holy sorrow that mourns and fasts over our own sin. But help us not to grieve as those who have no hope. Rather, invade even our grief with the promise of new life in you. Through Christ, Amen.