"Meanderings in Mark"
Series on Mark, Lesson 10

The Good Old Ways?

Read: Mark 2:18-3:6

Text: Luke 5:39 (KJV) No man also having drunk old wine straightway desireth new: for he saith, The old is better.

Theme: Jesus' way was a new way, not a remake of the old way.


ILLUS. - I lived for several years in New Jersey. God gave my wife and I a nice little house to live in and a wonderful ministry in which to serve Him. While we lived there, we decided to remodel the little house, and I set to work. Of course, we had no money, so I tried to make repairs and renovations on a shoestring budget. One of the things I tried to do was to reuse old wood. I would tear down a wall, and carefully remove the nails from the old 2x4 studs, so that they could be reused. However, when I would attempt to reuse the old wood, I found that driving nails was very difficult. The wood had become nearly petrified with age. When I did manage to drive one through, it would almost invariably split the wood and ruin it.

Jesus was faced with a similar situation. The Pharisees and the disciples of John were trying to "reuse old wood." They were trying to fit Jesus into their old ways.

Let's notice, this morning, how He responded to those who longed for "The Good Old Ways."

I. Jesus Brought Gladness, Not Sadness (Mark 2:18-20)

QUESTION - We notice right away that something called "fasting" is taking place in this account. What is fasting?

QUESTION - Does fasting have a place in the Christian life?

QUESTION - What is the purpose of fasting? What is the benefit of fasting? Has fasting ever had a place in your life?

A. John's disciples were fasting.

QUESTION - Why? What might have been the purpose of their fasting?

1. Perhaps because he was in prison?

2. Perhaps as a sign of repentance?

B. The Pharisees' disciples were fasting.

QUESTION - Why? What was the purpose of their fasting?

1. Perhaps it was just tradition?

2. Perhaps it was a way to be seen of men?

C. Fasting is a good thing if done properly.

1. Godly men did it.


Exo 34:28 (KJV) And he was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights; he did neither eat bread, nor drink water. And he wrote upon the tables the words of the covenant, the ten commandments.


1 Ki 19:8 (KJV) And he arose, and did eat and drink, and went in the strength of that meat forty days and forty nights unto Horeb the mount of God.


Dan 10:3 (KJV) I ate no pleasant bread, neither came flesh nor wine in my mouth, neither did I anoint myself at all, till three whole weeks were fulfilled.


Luke 4:1-2 (KJV) And Jesus being full of the Holy Ghost returned from Jordan, and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, Being forty days tempted of the devil. And in those days he did eat nothing: and when they were ended, he afterward hungered.


Acts 9:9 (KJV) And he was three days without sight, and neither did eat nor drink.


Acts 10:30 (KJV) And Cornelius said, Four days ago I was fasting until this hour; and at the ninth hour I prayed in my house, and, behold, a man stood before me in bright clothing,


Acts 13:2 (KJV) As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them.

2. Even some not-so-godly men did it.


1 Ki 21:27 (KJV) And it came to pass, when Ahab heard those words, that he rent his clothes, and put sackcloth upon his flesh, and fasted, and lay in sackcloth, and went softly.

3. When done from the heart, it is good.

Pharisees did it to be seen of men.

Mat 6:16 (KJV) Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.

They "disfigured their faces."

They disheveled their clothes.

They wanted everybody to know they were deep in fasting.

Jesus said to do it from the heart, to God.

Mat 6:17-18 (KJV) But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.

Jesus said fasting is an aid to prayer.

Mat 17:21 (KJV) Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.

QUESTION - We can see then, if fasting is all these things, why the Pharisees were perplexed by the fact that Jesus' disciples DID NOT seem to fast. What was the reason that Jesus gave as to why His disciples did not fast?

D. Fasting implies SORROW, and Jesus didn't come to bring sorrow.

QUESTION - What illustration did Jesus use here to indicate that He came to bring joy, not sorrow?

1. He likened His presence with us to a wedding feast. (Mark 2:19)

John had introduced Him as the bridegroom. (John 3:29 (KJV) He that hath the bride is the bridegroom: but the friend of the bridegroom, which standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom's voice: this my joy therefore is fulfilled.)

His first miracle had been at a wedding.

Now He says His presence brings the joy of a wedding!

2. No life brings joy like the Christian life.

Salvation is just the start of it.

Each step in the Christian walk brings new cause for rejoicing.

SONG - "The longer I serve Him the sweeter He grows.

The more that I love Him more love He bestows.

Each day is like Heaven, my heart overflows.

The longer I serve Him, the sweeter He grows."

Heaven will be the culmination of it.

QUESTION - Did Jesus say that this would always be the case for His disciples, or that there would come a time when they would feel the need to fast?

QUESTION - Jesus gave another answer in response to the question, Why don't your disciple fast. What other reason did He give for why they did not fast?

II. Jesus Brought a New Way (Mark 2:23-3:6)

QUESTION - Our text verse this morning (Luke 5:39 (KJV) No man also having drunk old wine straightway desireth new: for he saith, The old is better.) indicates that we tend to prefer the "good old ways." Is this true? Why?

QUESTION - Are the old ways better? Always? Why or why now?

A. The human mind rebels against anything new.

ILLUS. - Christopher Columbus' theory that the earth was round, is one example.

ILLUS. There is a management process that is written about often in management books, called Change Management. It refers to ways of minimizing the stress and strain of change in the workplace. It is necessary because people do not usually like change.

ILLUS. We see this in marriage. A person enters the marriage relationship having always squeezed the toothpaste tube in the middle, and is very resistant to the idea of learning the new and better way of squeezing from the end!

QUESTION - Can you think of other examples of this? When have people rebelled against something new, just because it was new… when have people resisted change?

B. The religious mind may be the worst at this.

QUESTION - Are religious people sometimes guilty of clinging to a belief or a behavior simply because they have always done it that way, or always been taught that way? Examples?

C. The Pharisees had built up a tradition which they considered DIVINE LAW.

1. While the actual law said only one fast was required, on the Day of Atonement…

Lev 23:27 (KJV) Also on the tenth day of this seventh month there shall be a day of atonement: it shall be an holy convocation unto you; and ye shall afflict your souls, and offer an offering made by fire unto the LORD.

2. … the Pharisees' tradition required fasting at least twice a week.

QUOTE - "Once again we have a group of offended Pharisees. Evidently this was a fast day on which this incident occurred. The Law of Moses required only one day of the year to be a fast day -- the day known as Yom Kippur, which the Jews observe to this day. The Day of Atonement is the only fast day the Law requires. But the Pharisees, in order to show how zealous they were, had through the centuries designated day after day as fast days, for they regarded fasting as the best way to call God's attention to their piety -- and, incidentally, the attention of men. This is why the Pharisees put on sackcloth (burlap), rubbed ashes on their faces, and sucked in their cheeks so they would look gaunt -- to call people's attention to how pious and righteous they were. And they hoped God would take notice, too. Many days of the year had become fast days, long established in custom. So it was taken for granted everyone would fast on these days." (Ray Stedman)

D. The Pharisees wanted to fit Jesus' new teachings into their tradition… into their old way.

QUESTION - Does this happen today? Do some try to fit Jesus' new way into a previously existing "old way"? Examples?

1. Some try to fit the "new way" of grace into the "old way" of works.

Rom 11:6 (KJV) And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.

ILLUS. In Israel there is a group that is once again being trained in the temple sacrifices. (Even thought the perfect Passover Lamb has already been sacrificed!)

2. Some try to fit the "new way" of grace into the "old way" of tradition.

In the first case, salvation is the issue. In this case, lifestyle, worship, and methods of serving God are the issues.

QUESTION - What do you think of the following QUOTE? "We have to fight tradition. Jesus fought it in his own day. It was the most pernicious and subtle foe he encountered. Everywhere he turned he found himself in face-to-face combat with the rigid traditions of the past -- the dead hand of the past locking in the present. He was ever opposed to that. And so we must learn to become the foe of traditions…" (Ray Stedman)

3. Jesus illustrated the fallacy of this thinking.

Putting unshrunk cloth on old, brittle, already-shrunken garment. The stronger new cloth will shrink and tear the old cloth.

Putting fermenting, gas-emitting wine into old, brittle goatskins that will not stretch. The wine will ferment, and the brittle skin will break.

E. Jesus came to free us from the tyranny of the old way.

1. We're not longer under the law, but under grace!

2. He fulfilled the old way on Calvary.

ILLUS. There are two ways to do away with something. You can either destroy it, or fulfill it. Think, for example, of an acorn. You can smash it with a hammer, or you can plant it. Either way, it is done away with. However, one thing destroys it, and the other fulfills it. Jesus did not destroy the law, but He did do away with it by fulfilling it on the cross of Calvary.

3. For the believer, everything is new.

2 Cor 5:17 (KJV) Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.

Rev 21:5 (KJV) And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.


Why didn't Jesus' disciples fast?

Because Jesus came to bring gladness, not sadness.

Have you discovered the joy that only comes from knowing Jesus Christ?

If you have accepted Him as your savior and Lord, you can know that joy.

Because Jesus came to bring a new way, not a rehash of the old.

Have you accepted that new way? Or are you like the Pharisees, trying to fit the new way into some old tradition… trying to be good and failing… trying to please God through some kind of good works?

The new way is to simply believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. (Acts 16:31) Have you done that?

ILLUS. I heard the testimony of one of the singers in a well-known gospel quartet. This young man told of how he had trusted Christ in one of the services the quartet had recently sung in. This was somewhat of a shocker, since he had been singing with this famous quartet for some time, and had been singing in other gospel quartets and groups for years and years.

How could he have sung about Jesus Christ for so long without actually being saved? It seems strange.

And yet, there are many good, church-going people, who have been very faithful to the house of God, who are not saved, because they are tied up with the "old way." They have never turned their life over to Christ in a personal way. They have never actually trusted Him completely, but are still putting just a little trust in works, or baptism, or church membership, or denomination or something other than Jesus, and Him alone.

Jesus came to bring a new way.

Please direct questions, comments, and submissions to William E. Johnson
Copyright © 1997 William E. Johnson.