Consciously Conforming: Mark 2:18-22

Focus Passage: Mark 2:18-22 (GW)

18 John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting. Some people came to Jesus and said to him, “Why do John’s disciples and the Pharisees’ disciples fast, but your disciples don’t?”

19 Jesus replied, “Can wedding guests fast while the groom is still with them? As long as they have the groom with them, they cannot fast. 20 But the time will come when the groom will be taken away from them. Then they will fast.

21 “No one patches an old coat with a new piece of cloth that will shrink. Otherwise, the new patch will shrink and rip away some of the old cloth, and the tear will become worse. 22 People don’t pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the wine will make the skins burst, and both the wine and the skins will be ruined. Rather, new wine is to be poured into fresh skins.”

Read Mark 2:18-22 in context and/or in other translations on!

Early in Jesus’ ministry, the gospel of Mark includes an event that touches on an issue we all face when interacting with others. In this event, which Matthew and Luke also include in their gospels, we learn about how to face peer pressure – even if this pressure is positive.

Mark opens this event by sharing a question. To set up this question, he begins by telling us, “John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting. Some people came to Jesus and said to him, ‘Why do John’s disciples and the Pharisees’ disciples fast, but your disciples don’t?’” (v. 18)

The detail in this verse that catches my attention is that it is other people who were outside observers to these groups who bring the question up. They noticed that the Pharisees often fasted, and John’s disciples fasted as well, but they didn’t see Jesus’ followers doing this spiritual discipline.

While Jesus shares a great answer, it is the question, and the tension that this question creates that is powerful for us to pay attention to. In life, whenever we interact with a group of people, there is the pressure to conform and be like them. The conforming pressure we face might be aligning with the group’s opinion for or against an issue, it could be conforming to a certain style of clothing, it could be conforming to talking a certain way, or really any number of other things. Conforming can take many shapes, and not all conforming is bad.

However, where conforming really becomes an issue is when we stop thinking about how we are conforming to those around us. The people in this passage are objectively looking at the differences between these various group of people and asking a relevant question. These people who asked Jesus their question demonstrate wisdom because they are not simply going to join a group of people without first counting the cost and weighing their options.

The wisdom this group of people demonstrates with their question challenges me to live and think more objectively. These people challenge me to be more conscious of the ways I am conforming to others, and to be more intentional about choosing only positive, beneficial groups to conform to. In a subtle way, this group of people emphasizes the truth that our choice of friends is one of the most important decisions we can ever make in this life.

This thought was inspired by studying the Walking With Jesus "Reflective Bible Study" package. To discover insights like this in your own study time, click here and give Reflective Bible Study a try today!

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