Others opposed, at least in some degree, to Jesus, were the disciples of John.  I cannot think that their resistance to Him was as vicious as that of the scribes and Pharisees, yet the gospel authors make clear that they in some measure resented Christ’s methods and His success.  In the latter portion of John 3 we find these malcontents complaining to their master that Christ was stealing away followers.  John the Baptist then gave his grand response, saying in brief that he was but the friend of the Bridegroom, and that the Bridegroom Himself must receive all glory.  “He must increase, but I must decrease.”  But these disciples were so attached to their master that they could scarcely bear for him to have a rival.  In the truest sense, of course, there was no rivalry between John and Jesus.  John the Baptist precisely fulfilled his office, which was to be the great Forerunner of Christ, to prepare the way for His coming.  But so deeply ingrained in sinful human nature is the worship of man that many of his disciples could not see beyond John himself, and therefore they missed the great Messiah, whose shoe’s latchet John was unworthy to stoop down and unloose.

In response to the complaint that the disciples of Jesus did not fast as did the followers of John and the Pharisees, the Lord resorts to the same analogy the Baptist used in John 3.  He is the Bridegroom, and since His disciples are attendants upon the glorious Bridegroom, how can they mourn and fast in His presence?  Only when Christ was taken away would His disciples be able to mourn and fast.  So long as they were in the presence of the Messiah, they must rejoice in His company, and hearken diligently to every word which dropped from His lips.

Christ then offers those disputed words concerning the new wine and old, the new garment and the old.  One cannot mix the old with the new, else the bottles will break, and the garments will rend.  I confess that the precise meaning of this illustration has always escaped me.  The one explanation I have heard which seems to have some merit is that the Gospel liberty of the New Covenant must not be mixed with the legalistic self-righteousness by which the Pharisees and their cohorts had perverted the Old.  One cannot mix works and grace, for the smallest measure of works precludes grace.  One must be careful never to surrender the liberty he has in Christ to the bondage of seeking to appease God by his own righteousness and observance of the law.

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