URC Daily Devotion 22 January 2024

St Mark 2 18  – 37

Now John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting; and people came and said to him, ‘Why do John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?’  Jesus said to them, ‘The wedding-guests cannot fast while the bridegroom is with them, can they? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast.  The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast on that day. ‘No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old cloak; otherwise, the patch pulls away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear is made.  And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and the wine is lost, and so are the skins; but one puts new wine into fresh wineskins.’ 

One sabbath he was going through the cornfields; and as they made their way his disciples began to pluck heads of grain. The Pharisees said to him, ‘Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the sabbath?’  And he said to them, ‘Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need of food?  He entered the house of God, when Abiathar was high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and he gave some to his companions.’ Then he said to them, ‘The sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the sabbath.


The Mosaic Law demanded only one fast each year, the Day of Atonement, but religious leaders had piled many more on the calendar. No wonder they are nervous about and challenge the new preacher. His travels are barely under way, and he is already flouting their diktats.

But here’s a question. Who is he trying to reach out to with his talk of feasting and fasting, of a bridegroom being snatched away, of new garments and healthy wineskins?

Surely not the Pharisees; their claim to authority relies on keeping everyone in their place..

It seems – to me at least – that he is speaking to his disciples. They are “new to the job”, having just answered the compelling call of this charismatic teacher and healer, yet they barely know him.  Besides, they had grown up steeped in the very regulations he is now pushing aside.

Just what would become of them was still a closed book, but Jesus knew it was vital to make them aware that the old ways were coming to an end for them. Fasting had a time and place, but this was not it. New opportunities to say “yes” to God in meaningful and often risky ways would emerge from their apprenticeships and enrich the world to an extent they could never have imagined.

How well – how confidently – do we as individuals, as church and as The Church respond to the call of Jesus at a time when many people are turning their backs on the Christian faith, often from sheer indifference?
It is good to worship together, to care for and share with each other. But it is not enough. We are called to serve those in greatest need, to protect people who are abused and vilified, to call out injustice, to advocate openly for peace. In other words, to be an active part of the world and not just onlookers.


Lord, make us instruments of your peace:
where there is hatred, let us sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.

Adapted from the prayer of St Francis of Assisi


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