Matthew 9:14
Then came to him the disciples of John, saying, Why do we and the Pharisees fast oft, but thy disciples fast not?
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(14) The disciples of John.—The passage is interesting as showing (1) that the followers of the Baptist continued during our Lord’s ministry to form a separate body (as in Matthew 11:2; Matthew 14:12); and (2) that they obeyed rules which he had given them, more or less after the pattern of those of the Pharisees. They had their own days of fasting (the context makes it probable that the feast in Matthew’s house was held on one of them), their own forms of prayer (Luke 11:1). They, it would seem, acting with the Pharisees, and perhaps influenced by them, were perplexed at conduct so unlike that of the master they revered, and came therefore with their question. But they were, at least, not hypocrites, and they are answered therefore without the sternness which had marked the reply to their companions.

Matthew 9:14-15. Then — While he was at table, came to him the disciples of John, with those of the Pharisees, Mark 2:18; saying, Why do we and the Pharisees fast often — Have frequently our days of solemn devotion, in which we fast, and offer up to God many prayers and supplications? but thy disciples fast not — Not at all, or very seldom, but on the contrary eat and drink freely. “In the law, we find only one fast-day enjoined, namely, the tenth of the seventh month, on which the national atonement was made. But the Jews, of their own accord, observed many other days of fasting; (see Isaiah 58:3;) and in our Lord’s time, days of this kind were more frequent than ever, especially among the Pharisees, who, it seems, generally fasted twice a week; Luke 18:12; and therefore as Jesus did not pretend to teach his disciples a more lax kind of doctrine than that of John and the Pharisees, the disciples of the latter were surprised to find them overlooking so essential a duty.” Jesus said, Can the children of the bridechamber — The companions of the bridegroom, mourn — Mourning and fasting usually go together, as long as the bridegroom is with them? — As if he had said, While I am with them, it is a festival time, a season of rejoicing, not mourning: or, as others paraphrase the words, As it would be improper for the guests at a wedding to fast and weep while the marriage solemnity continues; so it would be equally improper for my disciples to fast and mourn at the time when I am personally present with them to give them joy. But the days will come — And are at no great distance, when the bridegroom shall be taken from them, then shall they fast — After I am gone, all my disciples likewise shall be in fastings often — “Christ did not mean, as the Montanists affirm, that the Pharisaical fasts should be introduced into his Church when he was gone, but that his disciples should fast and mourn on account of the various calamities befalling them after his departure, and that they should repeat these fasts as often as the circumstances of distress and danger in which they were placed required it.” — Macknight.

9:14-17 John was at this time in prison; his circumstances, his character, and the nature of the message he was sent to deliver, led those who were peculiarly attached to him, to keep frequent fasts. Christ referred them to John's testimony of him, Joh 3:29. Though there is no doubt that Jesus and his disciples lived in a spare and frugal manner, it would be improper for his disciples to fast while they had the comfort of his presence. When he is with them, all is well. The presence of the sun makes day, and its absence produces night. Our Lord further reminded them of common rules of prudence. It was not usual to take a piece of rough woolen cloth, which had never been prepared, to join to an old garment, for it would not join well with the soft, old garment, but would tear it further, and the rent would be made worse. Nor would men put new wine into old leathern bottles, which were going to decay, and would be liable to burst from the fermenting of the wine; but putting the new wine into strong, new, skin bottles, both would be preserved. Great caution and prudence are necessary, that young converts may not receive gloomy and forbidding ideas of the service of our Lord; but duties are to be urged as they are able to bear them.Then came the disciples of John ... - This narrative is found also in Mark 2:18-22; Luke 5:33-39. The reference here is to John the Baptist. It is probable that they had understood that John was the forerunner of the Messiah; and if such was the case, they could not account for the fact that there was such a difference between them and the disciples of Jesus. The Pharisees fasted often - regularly twice a week besides the great national days of fasting, Luke 18:12. See the notes at Matthew 6:16-18. This was the established custom of the land, and John did not feel himself authorized to make so great a change as to dispense with it. They were desirous of knowing, therefore, why Jesus had done it.

Besides, it is probable that this question was put to Jesus when John was in prison, and his disciples, involved in deep grief on account of it, observed days of fasting. Fasting was the natural expression of sorrow, and they wondered that the followers of Jesus did not join with them in lamenting the captivity of him who was the forerunner and baptizer of their Lord.

Christ, in reply to them, used three illustrations, all of them going to establish the same thing - that "we should observe a fitness and propriety in things." The first is taken from a marriage. The children of the bride-chamber - that is, the bridemen, or "men who had the special care of the bridal chamber, and who were therefore his special friends" - do not think of fasting while he is with them. With them it is a time of festivity and rejoicing, and mourning would not be appropriate. When he is removed or taken away, then their festivity will be ended, and "then" will be the proper time for sorrow. So, says he, John, your friend and teacher, is in captivity. With you it is a time of deep grief, and it is appropriate that you should fast. I am with my disciples. It is with them a time of joy. It is not fit that they should use the tokens of grief, and fast now. When I am taken away, it will then be proper that they should fast. For an account of the ceremonies of an Eastern marriage, see the notes at Matthew 25:1-13.

Mt 9:14-17. Discourse on Fasting.

See on [1243]Lu 5:33-39.

See Poole on "Matthew 9:17".

Then came to him the disciples of John,.... Of John the Baptist, to whom they had addicted themselves, and by whom they abode: though their master was in prison, and the Messiah was known to be come, yet still they were attached to John, and particularly imitated him in the austerities of his life. These, either hearing of the great entertainment made at Matthew's house for Christ, and his disciples, at which they were offended; or else being moved, and set on by the Pharisees, with whom they were agreed in the business of fasting, came to Christ where he was, and put this question to him,

saying, why do we, and the Pharisees, fast oft, but thy disciples fast not? Not that they wanted to know the reason why they and the Pharisees fasted; that they could account for themselves, but why Christ's disciples did not: and this is said not so much by way of inquiry, as reproof; and their sense is; that Christ's disciples ought to fast, as well as they and the Pharisees, and not eat, and drink, and feast in the manner they did. The fastings here referred to are not the public fasts enjoined by the law of Moses, or in any writings of the Old Testament; but private fasts, which were enjoined by John to his disciples, and by the Pharisees to their's; or which were, according to the traditions of the elders, or of their own appointing, and which were very "often" indeed: for besides their fasting twice a week, on Monday and Thursday, Luke 18:12 they had a multitude of fasts upon divers occasions, particularly for rain (c). If the 17th of Marchesvan, or October, came, and there was no rain, private persons kept three days of fasting, viz. Monday, Thursday, and Monday again: and if the month of Cisleu, or November, came, and there was no rain, then the sanhedrim appointed three fast days, which were on the same days as before, for the congregation; and if still there was no rain came, they added three more; and if yet there were none, they enjoined seven more, in all thirteen, which R. Acha and R. Barachiah kept themselves (d). Fasts were kept also on account of many other evils, as pestilence, famine, war, sieges, inundations, or any other calamity; sometimes for trifling things, as for dreams (e), that they might have good ones, or know how to interpret them, or avoid any ill omen by them; and it is almost incredible what frequent fastings some of the Rabbins exercised themselves with, on very insignificant occasions. They (f) say,

"R. Jose , "fasted fourscore fasts" to see R. Chiyah Rubba; at last he saw, and his hands trembled, and his eyes grew dim: --R. Simeon Ben Lakish , "fasted three hundred fastings" to see R. Chiyah Rubba, and did not see him.''

Elsewhere it is said, that R. Ase fasted "thirty days" to see the same person, and saw him not (g). Again (h),

"R. Jonathan fasted every eve of the new year, R. Abin fasted every eve of the feast of tabernacles, R. Zeura fasted "three hundred fasts", and there are that say "nine hundred fasts".''

This may serve to illustrate and prove the frequency of the Jewish fastings. Luke represents this question as put by the Pharisees, which is here put by the disciples of John: it was doubtless put by both agreeing in this matter; and which shows that John's disciples were instigated to it by the Pharisees, who sought to sow discord between them, and to bring Christ and his disciples into contempt with them.

(c) Misn. Taanith, c. 1. sect. 4. 5, 6. & c. 3. sect. 4, 5, 6, 7, 8. Maimon. & Bartenora in ib. (d) T. Hieros. Taanlot, fol. 65. 2. & 66. 4. (e) T. Bab. Sabbat. fol. 10. 1. Maimon Taaniot, c. 1. sect. 12-14. (f) T. Hieros. Cilaim, fol. 32. 2. & Cetubot, fol. 35. 1.((g) Midrash Kohelet, fol. 79. 1.((h) lb. Nedarim, fol. 40. 4. & Taanioth, fol. 66. 1.

{3} Then came to him the disciples of John, saying, Why do we and the Pharisees fast oft, but thy disciples fast not?

(3) That is, wicked rivalry in matters of small importance.

Matthew 9:14. Concerning private fasting. See note on Matthew 6:16. On the fasting of the Baptist, comp. Matthew 9:18. On the fasting of the Pharisees (Luke 18:12), to whose authority on the rigid observance of the law the disciples of John adhere, see Lightfoot on this passage. Serar. de Trihaeresio, p. 36.

πολλά] frequenter, Vulg., Stallbaum, ad Plat. Phaed. p. 61 C, ad Parmen. p. 126 B; Kühner, II. 1, p. 270. A not inappropriate addition by Matthew (Weiss, Holtzmann).

οὐ νηστεύουσι) comparatively, to be understood from the standpoint of the questioners, who hold the freedom of the disciples of Jesus, as contrasted with the frequent fasting of themselves and the Pharisees, to be equivalent to no fasting at all.

Matthew 9:14-17. The fast-question (Mark 2:18-22; Luke 5:33-39). Τότε. Our evangelist makes a temporal connection out of what in Mark is merely topical, another of the group of incidents showing Jesus in conflict with current opinion and practice. Where it happened cannot be determined, but it is brought in appositely after the feast of the publicans, serving with it to illustrate the free unconventional life of the Jesus-circle.—προσέρχονταιοἱ μαθ. Ιωάννου. The interrogants here are John’s disciples; in Mark, unknown persons about John’s disciples with the Pharisees; in Luke, who treats this incident as a continuation of the last, the fault-finders are the same as before (οἱ δὲ). Mark probably gives the true state of the case. Some persons unknown, at some time or other, when other religious people were fasting, and the Jesus-circle were observed not to be fasting, came and remarked on the dissidence.—διατί: the interrogants wanted to know the reason. But the important thing for us is the fact, that Jesus and His disciples did not conform to the common custom of religious people, including the disciples of the Baptist. It is the first instance of an extensive breach with existing religious usage.—οὐ νηστεύουσι: the broad patent fact; if they did any fasting it was not apparent.

14–17. A Question about Fasting. Mark 2:18-22; Luke 5:33-39It is not quite clear whether this further incident took place at Levi’s feast. St Luke leads us to draw that inference.

Matthew 9:14. Τότε, then) At the time of the Feast.[413]—προσέρχονται Αὐτῷ, come to Him) of set purpose.—οἱ μαθηταὶ Ἰωάννου, the disciples of John) They were half-way between the Pharisees and the disciples of Jesus, and appear on this occasion to have been instigated by the Pharisees.[414]—Cf. Luke 5:33.—Σοῦ μαθηταὶ, Thy disciples) They proceed modestly, and do not enquire concerning John or Jesus Himself.

[413] It was also the day of the public fasts, as it appears, which were celebrated not by the enactment of divine Law, but according to the private will of certain individuals.—Harm., p. 283.

[414] For Matthew in this passage mentions the disciples of John; Mark (ch. Mark 2:18) mentions the same persons in company with the Pharisees; Luke mentions the Scribes and Pharisees.—Harm. 1. c.

Verses 14-17. - Christ's care for the free-dora of his disciples from ceremonial bondage. He teaches that the standpoint of the Baptist was preparatory (ch. 3.), and was not intended to be a permanent resting-place. Observe that of the three accounts St. Matthew's points out the most clearly that the objection originated with the disciples of John the Baptist. Perhaps St. Matthew found these possessing special influence in the part for which his Gospel was primarily intended. So also St. John thought it desirable to recall the teaching of the Master, that while he himself was the Bridegroom, the Baptist was only subordinate (John 3:29). On the survival of the teaching of John the Baptist, and the greater importance of its professed adherents during the apostolic age than is usually supposed, vide Bishop Lightfoot, 'Colossians,' p. 163, edit. 1875. Verse 14. - Then (τότε). In this case the close chronological connexion with the preceding incident is confirmed by the parallel passages (especially Luke). Came (come, Revised Version) to him. They move forward among the crowd, and draw near to him (προσέρχονται αὐτῷ). The disciples of John (vide supra), saying, Why (cf. ver. 11) do we and the Pharisees fast? (cf. Matthew 6:16, note, Schurer, II. 2. p. 118). Oft (πολλά); Textus Receptus, and Westcott and Hort margin, with all the versions and the great mass of the authorities. Yet probably to be omitted, with Westcott and Host, on the evidence of the Vatican manuscript, and the original hand of the Sinaitic. It may have arisen from a gloss on the πυκνά of Luke. But thy disciples fast not. The feast given by St. Matthew was evidently at the time of some fast observed by the stricter Jews. Matthew 9:14
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