THE COMMON ENGLISH BIBLE
John’s disciples and the Pharisees had a habit of fasting. Some people asked Jesus, “Why do John’s disciples and the Pharisees’ disciples fast, but yours don’t?”
19 Jesus said, “The wedding guests can’t fast while the groom is with them, can they? As long as they have the groom with them, they can’t fast. 20 But the days will come when the groom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast.
21 “No one sews a piece of new, unshrunk cloth on old clothes; otherwise, the patch tears away from it, the new from the old, and makes a worse tear. 22 No one pours new wine into old leather wineskins; otherwise, the wine would burst the wineskins and the wine would be lost and the wineskins destroyed. But new wine is for new wineskins.”
Both the followers of John the Baptist and the Pharisees were really into fasting. So fasting had become the local benchmark for spirituality. And people began to ask Jesus why he didn't emphasize fasting in the way that these others groups had done.
Jesus answered using an analogy that drew on the wedding experience and the Old Testament messianic language. "Wedding guests don't fast while the groom is present. The presence of the groom trumps any other religious disciplines. The party must go on! But it won't last forever. A time is coming when the groom will be taken away. Then you can fast."
He added a couple more analogies to illustrate how he would be torn away -- how events in the future would cause turmoil. "A sure way to ruin an old shirt," he said, "is to sew a piece of new, unshrunken material onto it as a patch. Once that material starts to shrink it will tear the shirt, making it worse than before."
"Or think of an old leather wineskin. If you put new wine into the old wineskin the new wine will eventually swell the container, causing it to burst open, spilling wine all over the place! That's why you put new wine into new wineskins."