“Put new wine into fresh skins to preserve both.”At play in this gospel passage is the tension between to fast and not to fast. However, the main point here is the identity of Jesus. The disciples of John advanced the surface issue of fasting, but Jesus redirected their focus to a deeper concern, that is, His identity as the “bride- groom,” as the Messiah.As the one who calls for re- pentance and grants forgive- ness of sins, Jesus celebrates when one is reconciled back to God, as in the case of Matthew, the other tax collectors and sin- ners who gathered in his house. Having repented and having been forgiven and reconciled to God are a definitive reason for Jesus to celebrate. In this way, the inauguration of the kingdom of God in Jesus public ministry has brought a radically new dimension to the religious practices of John’s disciples and the other Jewish groups at that time. Fasting needs to be maintained, together with the celebration of God’s mercy that Jesus brought while awaiting his return (Brendan Byrne). By intro- ducing this, Jesus transformed an understanding of fasting or mourning that is now able to ac- commodate the celebration of God’s mercy.
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