11 March 2011

Matthew 9:14-15

"The wedding-guests cannot mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them, can they?" (v. 15)


As was pointed out earlier in the week, fasting was part of a devout Jew's life. John the Baptist's disciples were perplexed that Jesus and his disciples didn't fast like them or the Pharisees. Jesus points out that there are times and places for different aspects of spiritual life. That includes a time to laugh and a time to dance, as well as a time to mourn (see Ecclesiastes 3).

The American writer H L Mencken defined Puritanism as "the haunting fear that someone, somewhere is having a good time". Too great a focus on the 'thou shalt not' commandments and on people's sinfulness can lead to condemnation of others and give the impression that Christianity simply changes 'miserable sinners' into 'miserable saints'. We shouldn't forget the angelic announcement at Jesus' birth - "I am bringing you good news of great joy" (Luke 2:10).

This life isn't simply a preparation for everlasting life in the hereafter. Jesus made it clear that eternal life begins right now. If we live with a sense of God's presence, we can enjoy a renewed life of enhanced quality, filled with love, hope and faithfulness. This doesn't make us immune from times of sorrow, of course, but even the darkest of times can be illumined by the realisation that nothing "in all creation can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 8:39).

A wedding in Jesus' day was a big event in the life of a village. The festivities went on for a week and there would be an open house. The image of Jesus as the bridegroom, allows us to compare our relationship with God to the relationship within a marriage of love, commitment and mutual self-giving. This image may not sit easily with all men, however, especially when we sing about being held in the arms of Jesus or cradled to his bosom. We need to find ways of expressing a loving and committed relationship with God that speak to all people in our society.

To Ponder

How can we "spread scriptural holiness through the land" (from the Deed of Union, a founding document of Methodism) and at the same time show through our lives that following Jesus is an exciting and enjoyable adventure that leads to a life lived to the full?

How do you achieve an appropriate balance in your spiritual life between fun and seriousness, and between celebration and self-denial?

What images can you think of that speak of a whole-hearted commitment to following Jesus that might appeal to the masculine spirit?

Bible notes author

Philip Sudworth

Philip has retired from a career in the education service. He is now kept busy by voluntary work with local children's charities.