Sermon: When the Bridegroom is With Them Matthew 9:14–17

Truth Taught- When the Bridegroom is present, celebrating and feasting are appropriate not mourning and fasting.


What will you do when the day comes and you see Jesus face to face?  When forgiven sinners in the NT see Jesus there is a celebration.  Banquets are thrown in Jesus’ honor, costly perfume is poured out upon Him, fishing nets, tax booths and earthly honors cast aside as worthless, lives are changed because allegiances and treasures are changed.  Everything else falls away and Jesus becomes the center and ultimate focus.

This truth becomes even more intense when our Lord returns.  At that moment we will be made like Him and we will be able to see Jesus as He really is.  On that day, beloved there will be great celebrating and great feasting because the Bride of Christ will have the Bridegroom and forever be with Jesus.

1 John 3:2–3 (ESV)

Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure. 

We don’t feel much like celebrating when a tragic event has just taken place.  Then, mourning is appropriate.  At the same time when a wonderful event takes place we don’t mourn but celebrate.  Here Jesus explains why He and His followers are not fasting like the Pharisees and the disciples of John the Baptist do.

The text before us today is a text where the deeply religious are complaining that Jesus and His disciples just are not quite solemn enough.  They are just not fasting often enough and they are not mourning at all when they do fast.  After all, fasting is a time where one refuses food to spend more time in deep prayer to God. 

The two main issues before us today that Jesus brings out are when is fasting appropriate and when is celebrating appropriate and secondly, why the New Covenant of grace cannot be made to fit into Old Covenant traditions.   

Within this section for today we also will see three very important images and all three have OT significance picturing the dawn of salvation by grace through faith.

The three images are the wedding, a new garment and new wine.

The Prophet Isaiah compares salvation to a wedding…

Isaiah 54:5–7 (ESV) 

   For your Maker is your husband, 

the Lord of hosts is his name; 

       and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer, 

the God of the whole earth he is called. 

   For the Lord has called you 

like a wife deserted and grieved in spirit, 

       like a wife of youth when she is cast off, 

says your God. 

   For a brief moment I deserted you, 

but with great compassion I will gather you. 

Hosea 2:19-20, Revelation 19:7-9, 21:2-9 all have this picture of salvation being like a wedding where the Redeemer is the Groom and the Redeemed, His Bride.

Revelation 19:7–9 (ESV) 

   Let us rejoice and exult 

and give him the glory, 

       for the marriage of the Lamb has come, 

and his Bride has made herself ready; 

   it was granted her to clothe herself 

with fine linen, bright and pure”— 

for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints. 

And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.” 

Then we have the old and new garment image.  Old garments have been used to picture the old world or old covenant, namely, something old and worn out that will be replaced by something new.  

Hebrews 1:10–12 (ESV)

10 And, 

       “You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning, 

and the heavens are the work of your hands; 

11    they will perish, but you remain; 

they will all wear out like a garment, 

12    like a robe you will roll them up, 

like a garment they will be changed. 

       But you are the same, 

and your years will have no end.” 

Psalm 102:25–27 (ESV) 

25    Of old you laid the foundation of the earth, 

and the heavens are the work of your hands. 

26    They will perish, but you will remain; 

they will all wear out like a garment. 

       You will change them like a robe, and they will pass away, 

27        but you are the same, and your years have no end. 

New flowing wine has been used to picture the new age the time of the gospel and New Covenant, the Days of the Messiah, and the time when God would do an amazing work in the hearts of His people.

Joel 3:18 (ESV) 

18    “And in that day 

       the mountains shall drip sweet wine, 

and the hills shall flow with milk, 

       and all the streambeds of Judah 

shall flow with water; 

       and a fountain shall come forth from the house of the Lord

and water the Valley of Shittim.

These are the images that those who heard Jesus that day would have already understood.  So, if we are to understand what our Lord is telling us we too must have these wonderful pictures in our minds.

Matthew 9:14–17 (ESV) 

14 Then the disciples of John came to him, saying, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” 15 And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast. 16 No one puts a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch tears away from the garment, and a worse tear is made. 17 Neither is new wine put into old wineskins. If it is, the skins burst and the wine is spilled and the skins are destroyed. But new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved.” 

1.  Feasting, Not Fasting, Is Fitting When the Bridegroom is Present  

14 Then the disciples of John came to him, saying, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” 15 And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.

Jesus handles John’s disciples with care as those who are inquiring and not like the Pharisees and Scribes.  He teaches them and corrects their criticism.  

We might paraphrase what John’s disciples are getting at like this…We fast, as do other religious people, so why don’t you?  Then we could also paraphrase Jesus’ response by saying, while I’m with you it’s time to celebrate and feast, not fast.

John the Baptist had been put in prison…

Matthew 4:12 (ESV)

12 Now when he heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew into Galilee. 

John was in prison but he still had disciples who followed after him.  It seems that in many ways John’s disciples had taken back some of their former practices.  Without their great teacher they reverted back to what they knew.  They had come out of a religion that fasted twice a week; Mondays and Thursdays were the fasting days for the Pharisees and others in the land of the Israelites.  Jerusalem Chick-fil-ee was closed on Mondays and Thursdays because no one ate those days.  

John the Baptist’s disciples along with the Pharisees fasted often; and their fasting was apparently accompanied with a spirit of mourning and sadness. And yet, Jesus’ disciples didn’t appear to fast. Nor did they appear to mourn. In fact, if you read the story that just precedes this one, you see that – far from fasting and mourning – they were feasting and celebrating! Jesus answered the concern of John’s disciples by telling them that it wasn’t appropriate for His own disciples to express a spirit of mourning through a fast. He was right there, present with them; and His presence was reason to rejoice and celebrate.

Matthew 9:10 (ESV)

10 And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples. 

Jesus and those around Him were celebrating and rejoicing over God’s mercy and grace not fasting.  Matthew and other sinners were now saved sinners and the presence of Jesus was call for celebration not a time for fasting and mourning.  

The Israelites viewed fasting as one of the signs of great devotion to God.  They also viewed it as mourning over sin.  

There is a time for fasting and a time for feasting.  When Jesus was with His disciples feasting was appropriate.

This picture is all about Jesus.  If Jesus is with us, feasting is appropriate.  If Jesus is not with us, fasting is appropriate. 

When Jesus says taken away, He’s referring to His death and His ascension then fasting will be appropriate.

Acts 13:3 (ESV) 

Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off. 

Acts 14:23 (ESV) 

23 And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed. 

2.  The New Makes the Old Obsolete, Mixing Them Destroys Both

16 No one puts a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch tears away from the garment, and a worse tear is made. 17 Neither is new wine put into old wineskins. If it is, the skins burst and the wine is spilled and the skins are destroyed. But new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved.” 

Our Lord gives us two pictures from everyday life…

I can remember back when I was a kid those iron on patches you’d put on jeans that were worn with holes.  Today, you buy them that way…not sure why but I guess it’s fashionable in some way.  So, we really don’t sew patches on old clothing much today.  Here, the idea is that if you sew a patch made of new unshrunk material on an old garment as soon as you wash it the new patch shrinks pulls away and makes the hole even bigger.

What we must conclude by Jesus’ example is that He is not trying to patch up Judaism.  He’s not sewing the New Covenant onto the Old Covenant. 

The second picture involves new wine that still has some fermenting to do.  When wine ferments it stretches wineskins.  So they never put new wine in old already stretched wineskin but used new unstretched so when it fermented it would stretch the new skin and both would be preserved.  Old wineskin with new wine would burst and both would be lost. 

Jesus is not trying to pour the New Covenant into the Old Covenant of Judaism.  He’s not trying to make it fit into an old wineskin.

So, both examples teach us that Jesus is not revising or even updating Judaism.  What Jesus is bringing into the world cannot be made to fit into or be sewn to the old it is new.  Examples are…His teaching cannot be made to mesh with everything found in the OT.  It is true, the OT points to the New but the new cannot fit within the Old.  His disciples cannot be made to adhere to all that Judaism taught and practiced.  The Gospel and the New Covenant cannot fit into the old Jewish system.  

This is further illustrated when Jesus at the Wedding in Cana turns water (OT Jewish purification system) into wine showing the Messianic day has dawned and illustrating that the land is flowing with sweet wine…you saved the best for last the guests told the host.  

Jesus told us about fresh wine and a fresh patch now, Id like us to look for a few minutes at the New Covenant…

3.  A Fresh Look at the New Covenant

In the Bible, a “covenant” is typically understood as a formal agreement between two parties – an agreement that binds them to do certain things on one another’s behalf. In this case, the two parties are God and His people; and it’s an agreement in which He promises to bless them if they keep to the terms of the agreement He sets for them.

One of the most significant covenants God entered into with the people of Israel was announced when He delivered them from out of bondage to Egypt. He had gathered them together before Him at Mount Sinai; and told them,

Exodus 19:4–6 (ESV) 

‘You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel.” 

Immediately after the people of Israel consented to these words, God then gave them His law through Moses. The law constituted the terms of the agreement that the people were to keep. But sadly, they were unable to do so. In fact, they began to break the covenant right away; and continued to break it throughout their history. This was because they – like we – are fallen in nature; and it never really was in any of us at all to keep God’s commandments as we should.

But this underscores the fact that what was really needed was a new covenant – one that didn’t depend on our ability to keep the law. It needed to be a covenant in which its terms were fully kept for us by Another; and one in which God’s law was placed in us in an internal way, and not in a way that depends on our keeping it externally.

And so, as we move along in the story of the Bible and come to the Old Testament prophecy of Jeremiah, we find that God promises His people that a “new covenant” was soon on the way. He says, in Jeremiah 31:31-34;

Jeremiah 31:31–34 (ESV) 

31 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, 32 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord. 33 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” 

What a glorious promise this was! What an encouraging hope it must have given! And I don’t have to tell you, do I that this new covenant has been brought into effect for us by Christ? Jesus Himself, just before He went to the cross, enjoyed that final meal with His disciples; and He gave them bread and wine and told them, “Take, eat; this is My body . . . Drink from it, all of you. For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins” (Matthew 26:27-28). The writer of Hebrews tells us,

And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance (Hebrews 9:15).

What Jesus is teaching us today is that you cannot place His glorious death and resurrection as a patch on an old garment.  The work of Christ for us in keeping the covenant and dying for our sin is the glorious new garment that will never need any patching by humans it is sparkling and glorious and given to us by our Savior.

Beloved delight in the work of Christ, celebrate the New Covenant Jesus brought into existence through His shed blood and never try to add to it in any way. 


Christianity while coming out of Judaism is not Judaism and should never be treated as if it is part of it.  There are those today who teach that as Christians we are to observe Jewish traditions and certain observances.  Christianity is the New Wine and the New Cloth, which should never be place on or over Judaism.

Next we learn that Jesus is the Bridegroom.  What the Bridegroom is to the Bride, Jesus is to us.  He pays all our debts to God; He supplies all our daily needs; he sympathizes with us in all our suffering; He does not reject us but redeems us and presents us pure before the Father.

*Resources Used:

Matthew by D A Carson in the Expositor’s Bible Commentary

A Theology of Matthew by Charles Quarles

A Gospel of Matthew by France

Matthew by Craig Bloomberg

Matthew by Doriani

Matthew by Charles Price

Matthew by Leon Morris

Blue Letter Bible

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