A question to ponder as we start today is this: Do you have any traditions in your family or among your friends that are very meaningful to you? Do you have a tradition that is so important to you -- if someone in your family or friend group breaks the tradition it affects you emotionally?
Some things that come to mind for me are family traditions around holidays especially Thanksgiving, Christmas, or Easter. For example, I’ll share that for the past 8 years or so, I’ve been the one to host Thanksgiving at my home, and my sister’s family came along with my parents and their children and my children every year. Well, last year – suddenly my sister and her family had a change in plans, and then my own young adult daughter decided to work on Thanksgiving rather than come home on that day, because she could earn overtime pay for the entire shift. And for awhile, I was hurt. I was very disappointed. I was even angry and judgmental. How could they be so uncaring? So disrespectful? I birthed that girl! I stayed that way, bitter and disappointed and judgmental for about a half hour or maybe an hour.
Now I know, some of you who are listening are thinking and would say to me, “Sherry, that’s silly. Just calm down. It’s life, it’s not personal. Just be understanding and be thankful for the times you do have together”. Others of you who are listening I know are saying, “Yes. I understand. Except I would have been very upset and I would have remained upset or held a grudge for a long time….maybe even months or years."
And I understand both sides now. I stayed that way for about a half hour or so, because by that point in my life maturity, I knew what Jesus would say or do, because I had studied the passage we are talking about today. I’d studied it several times. However, a decade or so ago, I probably would have held a grudge for a long time. Maybe even months…or maybe even a year.
Oh friends, those tiny grudges ….they block relationships. We think they are no big deal, but they block growth in our relationships with our friends and our family members; and they also block growth with God and our ability to draw near to Him.
“Now John's disciples and the Pharisees were fasting,” –
“and people came and said to him (they said this to Jesus), 'Why do John's disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast? But your disciples do not fast?'
Now in Matthew it tells us that some of these people that came and asked this, some of them were actually some of John’s the Baptist's disciples, so they were saying, “Why are we fasting, and you and your friends aren’t?”
And Jesus said to them, 'Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? 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 they will fast on that day.'”
Ok Jesus - for us today - we need a little background on the meaning of this metaphor.
In my research for this passage, I learned quite a bit about Jewish wedding feasts during the time of Christ. What happened, when a Jewish couple got married, they didn't leave and go off on a fancy honeymoon like we do today. They stayed at home; they typically had a big event at home; they had an open house where all the closest friends and family of the bride and groom could come. They held this open house for a whole week and they had feasting laid out. And there was understood to be an exception during such a week – if it was a regular fasting day or a fasting time, they didn't have to fast during the wedding week. The bride and groom and all their friends and family – anyone who was participating in the wedding celebration – they didn't have to fast.
So when Jesus was responding to this criticism that He and his disciples weren't fasting while the Pharisees and John's disciples were – he indicated – this was a very special time. He and his disciples being together was a time to celebrate. The fact that God had come near was a time to celebrate, and so they would not be following tradition at this time because they were enjoying their time together, and that was more important. That was more important – the relationships over the tradition.
After reading the passage today, we see how Jesus overlooked tradition for the sake of relationships. And this is not the only time Jesus demonstrates this. There are many other instances where Jesus indicated that relationships – especially our relationship with Him is more important than all these traditions.
But let's search our hearts today. The closing challenge for today, or the instruction, is to really think about your habits or your thoughts –
Maybe, just maybe, we tend to act like the critics in this story. Maybe there are times we are nursing grudges or a critical spirit towards other believers amongst our friends and family - when instead we should be appreciating them, appreciating the time we do have with them, and finding ways to grow spiritually with them. Letting go of grudges and bitterness against others for small slights, or for not meeting our expectations – letting go of these is a form of forgiveness.
I recommend that everyday if necessary, in the past I have had times I’ve had to do this everyday – I'm just being open here. I am getting better in this area, I believe, but I used to struggle with this a lot.
So I would pray this prayer; and it really helped to let the grudges go, so I could put relationships first, including the relationship with God. If this is something you struggle with too, then here is a prayer you may wish to pray as often as needed:
God, search me...
I want you to bring to mind the grudges and the bits of bitterness that are in my heart
Bring those to mind...
(Then when they start coming to you in your mind, you continue to pray...)
God I give this to you.
God I want you to pull this bitterness out of me
I know it is not your will for me to be bitter
Whatever bitterness I have against this person or that person
Pull it out of me
I do not want the grudge to be in me, I don't want to be like that.
If that is something you struggle with – I encourage you to pray that every single day, until the bitterness cannot even take root anymore!
With His Grace,
If you want to learn more deeply and fully about what Jesus taught, then you would enjoy He Called: 56 Daily Studies and Reflections with the Words of Christ. or one of her shorter study books also found at https://www.amazon.com/Sherry-Elaine-Evans
The author also posts on Facebook and interacts with her readers at http://www.facebook.com/GospelLifeBooks