Early in the twentieth century, the Russian Czar noticed a sentry posted in the middle of one of the gardens. As there appeared to be no explanation for the sentry's presence, he asked about the post. The reply baffled him. Late in the eighteenth century Catherine the Great had found the first flower of the year in that spot and commanded a sentry to be posted so that no one damaged the flower. For 127 years, a sentry had been standing in the same spot guarding nothing. Sometimes traditions last long past their usefulness - some leading to great expense or even danger. In Mark 2:18-22 Jesus answers a question about traditions. Study the passage to learn what God thinks about traditions.
Before digging into this passage, ask God to give you wisdom and understanding through His Word so that you can think and live in a way that pleases and honors Him.
Read Focus Verses
Read Mark 2:18-22 and notice the main issue in the passage.
What is Jesus questioned about in these verses?
Keyword - Fasting
Marking the words fast and fasting will help them stand out in this passage.
Mark the words fast and fasting in Mark 2:18-20.
If you look at the next few verses, Mark 2:23-28, notice that this is not the only question they use to challenge Jesus.
Who fasted often?
What question was Jesus asked in verse 18?
Jesus starts with questions in verse 19 and then teaching in verse 20 what is the other way Jesus answers their question in verses 21-22?
What is Jesus' answer in verses 19-20?
Whose presence makes the difference between the time to fast and the time not to according to Jesus' answer?
What illustration does Jesus give in verse 21?
What illustration does Jesus give in verse 22?
Keywords - Jesus Christ
Jesus is the main character in these verses. Marking His Name will emphasize this.
Mark the words naming or referring to Jesus in Mark 2:18-22.
Matthew 9:14-17 has a parallel account of the story in today's passage.
Luke 5:33-39 also recounts the same story.
Who does Matthew record asking the question about fasting?
Who does Luke record asking the question?
Who does Mark record asking the question?
Putting it Together
How do these parallel accounts, each recording a different but compatible perspective, help us understand how to read the parallel Gospel accounts?
What Jesus says about the Pharisees in Mark 7:6-9 helps us understand more about them in a way that will help unlock today's passage.
What does Jesus say about the Pharisees and their traditions?
Fasting - The Backstory
In the Old Testament Law that God gave to Moses, there was one day a year - the Day of Atonement - when He commanded the people to deny themselves to focus on repentance and worship. Leviticus 16:29-31 is the first of three very similar commandments about this.
Psalm 35:13 helps clarify that this humbling the soul includes fasting.
Isaiah 58:3-5 also makes this connection.
The Pharisees had added many days when they said people should fast. But Jesus reveals their motives in Matthew 6:16-18.
What was the Pharisees' motivation for their frequent fasting, and what did God think about that?
The Bible gives several reasons for fasting. We've already seen some in Leviticus, Isaiah, and Matthew. We see another in Ezra 8:21-23.
What are a few of the reasons to fast?
Jesus answers their question by proposing a situation. Can you imagine going to a wedding where they were fasting instead of rejoicing? What are some of the reasons you can think of that Jesus used the analogy of a wedding and what does that teach us about weddings?
John the Baptist also called Christ the Bridegroom in his testimony about Jesus in John 3:25-36.
2 Corinthians 11:2 speaks of the Christian life as a kind of engagement.
In Revelation 19:5-9 we read of the marriage feast of the Lamb (Christ) and His bride (Christians).
Ephesians 5:22-32 reveals that Christian marriage is to be a picture of the relationship between Christ and His people.
What do these verses teach us about the relationship between Jesus Christ and those who trust in Him?
What do they teach us about marriage?
In Acts 1:6-11 we read about the day Jesus Christ ascended to heaven which He refers to in today's passage when He says the Bridegroom will be taken away.
Thankfully He's coming again as we see in Revelation 22:20.
Which part of Jesus' answer applies to us right now? (Hint: He speaks of a time when the Bridegroom was there and of a time when the Bridegroom is not present.)
You've already read Matthew 6:16-18. According to those verses, how does Jesus want His people to fast? Why?
All Things New
In the two short parables Jesus gave in verses 21-22 of today's passage He speaks of new things often requiring new settings. Consider what 2 Corinthians 5:14-21 says about Christ making things new. As you read, notice that it also talks about Christ having once been present and no longer being present as today's passage does.
Who has made things new?
According to 2 Corinthians 5:14-21 what has Christ done so that those in Him are made new?
This video explains what God says about how to be saved so that you can be made new.
In Your Words
If someone were to say that they wanted to become a Christian, what would you say? How could you explain how to become a new person in Christ?
What does Jesus' answer about new things needing new settings tell us about traditions? Notice that this is not a matter of obeying God's Law since it did not require frequent fasting.
Colossians 2:6-9 warns us that the Pharisees are not the only ones who had traditions that pushed people away from God.
What is the danger with traditions according to these verses?
Not All Bad
2 Thessalonians 2:13-17 clarifies that this does not mean all traditions are bad.
For the Gospel
In 1 Corinthians 9:19-24 we see that sometimes Paul kept various traditions which weren't required but also weren't sinful so that he could more easily share the gospel with those to whom the traditions were important.
The Pharisees, along with most others who consider their traditions to be as important as God's Word, thought they were more acceptable to God because they kept their traditions. We see this attitude in Luke 18:9-14.
Colossians 2:10-23 gives us God's perspective on this.
1 Peter 1:13-23 shows us that this doesn't mean holiness is unimportant.
Before and After
Ephesians 2:8-10 reveals the difference between good works done to try to gain God's favor and those done out of gratitude and obedience.
Putting these verses together, what is the difference between good and bad traditions?
Even good traditions can be done wrong. What is the difference between good and wrong motivations for keeping traditions according to Scripture?
Based on what you've seen in God's Word today, what should Christians do regarding traditions that conflict with God's Word?
Based on what you've seen in God's Word today, what should Christians do regarding traditions that are not necessary but also aren't wrong?
Based on what you've seen in God's Word today, what should Christians do regarding traditions that are good?
Read Mark 2:18-22 once more in light of what you've studied from the Bible.
A Question about Traditions
In a few words summarize today's passage and what it teaches us about God's thoughts and how we should live.
All Things New
Have you believed in Jesus Christ, turning away from your sin and your own efforts and trusting Him alone to save you for eternity? If not, won't you do that today? If so, are you living like everything is new since it is?
How has God's Word challenged your view of traditions today? Are there traditions you need to stop keeping because they contradict God's Word? Will you commit to stopping them completely?
Are there traditions you need to embrace because they help you keep or remember God's Word? How will you start today or this year?
To Win Some
Are there traditions you know would help you win someone you know to Christ without disobeying Scripture?
We hope this study has helped you understand the danger and value of traditions and has challenged you to think about traditions like God does.
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