Doing the right thing (Matthew 9:14-17)

Published on Wednesday, 03 January 2018 12:25
It seems that this conversation between the disciples of John followed on from the meal in the home of Matthew rather than happening sometime later. Mark tells us that the disciples of John and of the Pharisees were fasting (Mark 2:8), so maybe the meal that Matthew gave for Jesus and his disciples was held on one of the two days each week that the Pharisees fasted (Mondays and Thursdays). If that was the case, we can see why people would have been curious at why the disciples of Jesus were not fasting.

It is common to say that today the presence of many different churches, each saying different things, creates confusion for people. No doubt that is true, but we can see from this incident that religious groups experiencing confusion has been around for a long time. What seems to have caused part of the confusion here is that Jesus and his disciples were not part of the traditional religious movements in Israel. The two groups mentioned here – the followers of the Pharisees and the followers of John the Baptist – would have been included among the more traditional groups as opposed to the liberal Sadducees and the political Herodians. 

The disciples of John observed one difference at that time between them and the Pharisees on the one hand and the disciples of Jesus on the other – the practice of fasting. On this occasion, the disciples of John did what the Pharisees had failed to do in the previous incident. Initially in Matthew’s house, the Pharisees had tried to get information from the disciples of Jesus and they probably were unable at that time to answer the question. Here the disciples of John take their question to Jesus, which was them doing the right thing, even although their motives may have been confused. They went to him to get answers because they wanted to know why he did things differently.

In doing this, they give us a good example. While we cannot ask Jesus physically, we can ask him prayerfully to show to us whether our practices are valid. When we do, it is incredible the way that his Word will show us the right path. These disciples of John were a bit like the people in Berea who searched the scriptures to see if the things Paul said were true. After all, the Bible alone is our guide. 

Read more