He saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax office, and He said to him, “Follow Me!” So he got up and followed Him.
While He was reclining at the table in the house, many tax collectors and sinners came as guests to eat with Jesus and His disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked His disciples, “Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
But when He heard this, He said, “Those who are well don’t need a doctor, but the sick do. Go and learn what this means: I desire mercy and not sacrifice. For I didn’t come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Then John’s disciples came to Him, saying, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast often, but Your disciples do not fast?”
Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests be sad while the groom is with them? The days will come when the groom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast. No one patches an old garment with unshrunk cloth, because the patch pulls away from the garment and makes the tear worse. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the skins burst, the wine spills out, and the skins are ruined. But they put new wine into fresh wineskins, and both are preserved.” (Matthew 9:9-17)
Mark Twain once said that it wasn’t the stuff in the Bible that he didn’t understand that bothered him. It was the stuff he did understand.
Jesus told the religious leaders that the sick needed a physician, not the healthy. Jesus told John’s disciples that fasting would be an odd choice at a wedding party. Then Jesus illustrated what he meant by talking of new wine in old wine flasks, and patching old clothes with unshrunk cloth. No one would be so silly. So what was Jesus’ point?
Some have suggested that Jesus was referring to Judaism versus Christianity, the Old Testament versus the New Testament, but in the context, that doesn’t fit. The context is the healthy versus the sick, fasting versus not fasting. Jesus continues that theme of polar opposites with old versus new. But he doesn’t say that one is better than the other.
Instead, Jesus’ point is very simple: do the right thing at the right time. Jesus was playing off the passage in Ecclesiastes, that there is a time for everything: a time to mend, a time to tear, a time for joy, a time for sadness. Thus, the disciples of John and Jesus’ pharisaical critics were failing to discern the times.