“Then came to him the disciples of John, saying, Why do we and the Pharisees fast oft, but thy disciples fast not?
And Jesus said unto them, Can the children of the bridechamber mourn, as long as the bridegroom is with them? but the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken from them, and then shall they fast. No man putteth a piece of new cloth unto an old garment, for that which is put in to fill it up taketh from the garment, and the rent is made worse. Neither do men put new wine into old bottles: else the bottles break, and the wine runneth out, and the bottles perish: but they put new wine into new bottles, and both are preserved.” (Matthew 9:14-17)
After the time of Alexander the Great, the Jews had made a great deal fasting and prayer as their primary forms of worship to persuade God to act on their behalf, ignoring God’s instructions about fasting in Isaiah 58:3-7.
“Wherefore have we fasted, say they, and thou seest not? wherefore have we afflicted our soul, and thou takest no knowledge?
Behold, in the day of your fast ye find pleasure, and exact all your labours. Behold, ye fast for strife and debate, and to smite with the fist of wickedness: ye shall not fast as ye do this day, to make your voice to be heard on high. Is it such a fast that I have chosen? a day for a man to afflict his soul? is it to bow down his head as a bulrush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? wilt thou call this a fast, and an acceptable day to the LORD? Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke? Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh?” (Isaiah 58:3-7)
They were used to fasting to try to force God to do what they wanted, almost like a hunger strike. They made a big show of being sad, of walking around with their head bowed and wearing sackcloth and smearing ashes on their flesh. God was not interested in such ritual fasting, but in a change in their behavior, to quit taking advantage of others and stop their own sin, caring for those who were worse off in an effort to get closer to God.
Jesus pointed out two reasons why his disciples did not fast like they did. Firstly, they were closely involved with the Lord himself, and had no need to separate themselves to get closer since they were already physically with him.
Secondly, Christianity was not just added on to the Jewish customs. Under John’s ministry, the people just added baptism as a sign or repentance to the old Jewish practices, in effect sewing a new patch on an old garment or putting new wine into an old wineskin. As Jesus warned, trying to just add it on to the old Jewish religion ends up with the loss of the physical benefits of the law, and they loss of the spiritual benefits of being a Christian. They neither fulfill the laws requirements, nor do they put their faith completely in Christ. Paul addresses this issue quite thoroughly in Galatians 1:1-5:15.
“While he spake these things unto them, behold, there came a certain ruler, and worshipped him, saying, My daughter is even now dead: but come and lay thy hand upon her, and she shall live. And Jesus arose, and followed him, and so did his disciples.” (Matthew 9:18-19
Mark describes the girl of being at the point of death, and of having actually died by the time Jesus arrived, in Mark 5:23 and 5:35. Luke 8:40-42 supports his statement. Either way, she was dead by the time Jesus arrived. Her father stated clearly that he knew Jesus was able to heal her even if she were already dead.
“And, behold, a woman, which was diseased with an issue of blood twelve years, came behind him, and touched the hem of his garment: For she said within herself, If I may but touch his garment, I shall be whole.
But Jesus turned him about, and when he saw her, he said, Daughter, be of good comfort; thy faith hath made thee whole. And the woman was made whole from that hour.” (Matthew 9:20-22)
While Jesus was on his way to help Jairus’ daughter, the woman with the issue of blood touched him. She had tried for several years to find a doctor who could help her. She came to Jesus, not expecting to even be able to get his attention in the crowd, but convinced that just a touch was all that was needed. As Matthew, Mark, and Luke all record, Jesus said that her faith was what effected the cure. The effort to touch him just demonstrated her faith. It is precisely the point James made in James 2:14-26, that faith that doesn’t result in action is worthless, but as Ephesians 2:8-9 points out, it is the faith, not the action that saves.
“And when Jesus came into the ruler's house, and saw the minstrels and the people making a noise, He said unto them, Give place: for the maid is not dead, but sleepeth. And they laughed him to scorn. But when the people were put forth, he went in, and took her by the hand, and the maid arose. And the fame hereof went abroad into all that land.” (Matthew 9:23-26)
By the time Jesus arrived at Jairus’ house, his daughter was definitely dead and they had started the ritual wailing and preparing for burial since it was the custom to bury the person the same day to control the stench of a rotting corpse. When Jesus told them she was just asleep, they made fun of him because they were sure she was dead. Like people today they didn’t understand that physical death is only a temporary thing until the judgment.
Mark and Luke tell us he took her by the hand and told her to get up, and she did, just as Lazarus did when Jesus spoke to him. After all, God spoke and the world came into existence, and Jesus is God. Not fully understanding this, the people were amazed. It quickly became the main topic of discussion.