A Bridegroom, Patches, and Wineskins


An ankle injury sustained in pursuit of my dance degree required surgery, and a physical therapist  encouraged weight lifting as part of my recovery. Accepted thought at the time was that lifting weights would cause muscle bulk unwanted on a dancer’s form, and my instructors strongly discouraged such pursuit. Instead, a thoughtfully chosen lifting plan yielded greater strength and bettered my skill. Surprised Dance Department instructors took notice and began recommending others follow suit.

  • What areas of conventional thought in your life could use some challenge?


18 Now John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting. And people came and said to him, “Why do John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” 19 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. 20 The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in that day. 21 No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. If he does, the patch tears away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear is made. 22 And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins—and the wine is destroyed, and so are the skins. But new wine is for fresh wineskins.”

English Standard Version, copyright 2001 by Crossway Bibles. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


  1. What differing behavior was observed between John’s disciples and the Pharisees versus Jesus’ disciples (vs. 18)? Why do you think this was a concern?
  2. Recount the three analogies Jesus used to answer their question. What differences and commonalities do you read among them (vss. 19-22)?
  3. Who is “the bridegroom” in verse 19?
  4. What do a bridegroom, patches, and wineskins have to do with one another? What did Jesus imply that those who were fasting were missing?
  5. How might clinging to familiar, comfortable spiritual ways be hindering God’s work in your life or that of others?


Religious practice in Jesus’ day was as much a part of daily life as turning on a computer and checking email is for many today—daily, habitual, without much thought. If his disciples carried on habitual religious practices, they would have lost precious time with Jesus, and for what purpose?

Following religious practice will never accomplish what being with Jesus will. It can neither save nor sanctify. When we sing songs or recite Scripture by rote, when we practice liturgy without thought, or when we pray in prescribed ways, we miss opportunities to be with Jesus himself. Are you missing Jesus in your comfortable ways?

  • Spend some time in quiet reflection. Ask God to show you any religious practice that has become rote and without true worship.
  • Ask him to give you a fresh sense of his presence and desire for him. Worship your God who loves you deeply and desires you.