This coming Sunday we’ll keep moving through Mark’s gospel (Mark 2:18-28) and catch Jesus in a couple of encounters with observers trying to figure out what following him entails, and Pharisees- the good Jews who know what being in relationship with God requires and looks like.
First, the question is put to Jesus about fasting, essentially asking, “John the Baptizer’s followers and the Pharisees are taking this whole thing seriously, bending their wills and their bodies in order to worship God, why don’t you teach that to yours? Why instead do you hang out late with these scoundrels?” Keep in mind the major contrast that’s happening here, considering the previous scene shows Jesus wining and dining with Levi and Co. (Mark 2:13-17).
Jesus’ response is a deeply theological one. One that tells what time it is (not time for fasting, but rather feasting!?), and understands what’s going on not as anything less than a sacred event like Marriage (“how can the guests of the Bridegroom fast?”)
This frames Jesus’ call to and hanging out with Levi not as something periphery to, but as the main event of Jesus’ ministry. If Jesus had just identified himself as a Doctor (Mark 2: 17), now he describes his coming as a Bridegroom looking for a bride. In the Levi feast, we get a glimpse at what it looks like when Jesus finds one. And celebration is in order. Diet starts Monday because today it’s time to party (ie Luke 15’s story of the Prodigal Son that we studied in last fall)!
The next encounter around the Sabbath again shows this reckless perspective. It features a Jesus who does not seek to abolish the Law but to fulfill it. It reveals a God walking amongst us that is so full of Grace that He and only he is Lord, only he has the authority (a big word in Mark’s gospel that keeps popping up…), to interpret what such a grace-full thing as the Sabbath means for God’s people.
What it means is that the Sabbath is a time for feasting; a time to understand the freedom and joy in God. That God-with-us (the definition of Emmanuel) means abundance (John 10:10) and revelry. But not just a party for partying-sake, rather a party that celebrates when Jesus looks for his long-lost Beloved, often the least-likely looking bride in a soiled dress, and as the Bridegroom Lord, finds and claims her for His own!