JOHN’S DISCIPLES BECOME RELIGIOUS
Skipping over Matthew chapters 5, 6, 7 and 8, we come to chapter 9, where something very interesting occurred (vv. 14-15). The disciples of John came to Jesus, talking about something religious. Could you believe that after such a short time the disciples of John the Baptist, who had nothing to do with religion, could fall into a kind of religion? They founded a new religion, and they took the lead to put a question mark upon the Lord Jesus. Furthermore, the disciples of John came with the disciples of the Pharisees (Luke 5:30, 33). What company! The Pharisees were the old-timers of religion. The disciples of John were the new-timers; they had only been on the way for perhaps two years. Yet within such a brief period, the disciples of John had become religious.
"Then came to Him the disciples of John, saying, why do we and the Pharisees fast oft, but thy disciples fast not?" The disciples of John came to Jesus and spoke to Him in such a way because they saw something—they saw Jesus sitting at a feast, not just an ordinary meal, but a feast (Luke 5:29). Furthermore, they saw Him feasting not with the high priests, the Pharisees, or the scribes, but with the sinners, the publicans. Jesus was feasting with the publicans, of all people. This really bothered the religious ones. Both John’s disciples and the Pharisees came to Jesus, and the new-timers in religion took the lead to rebuke Him. "Why do we fast," they said, "but your disciples do not?" Why? Religiously speaking, the disciples of John and the disciples of the Pharisees were one hundred percent right: it is much better to fast than to feast. "Why do we fast and Your disciples feast?" they asked.
JESUS PRESENTS HIMSELF
AS THE BRIDEGROOM
The Lord Jesus did not argue nor reply to John’s disciples and the Pharisees in a doctrinal way. He said to them, "Can the children of the bridechamber mourn, as long as the bridegroom is with them?" He answered not with a doctrine, but with a person. He referred to Himself as the Bridegroom! His presence causes them to rejoice, the presence of the Bridegroom. The Lord Jesus said nothing according to the teachings, according to the Scriptures, according to any quotation from the Bible in the old way. Neither did He say anything concerning Himself as the Almighty God, the Creator, the Lord or the Master. God in the religious concept is such a One, but the Lord Jesus mentioned nothing of this. On the contrary, He referred to Himself as a Bridegroom.
A Bridegroom is the most pleasant person in the entire universe. You say that you fear God, you want to please God, you like to serve the Lord, etc.—that is good, but it is rather religious. Have you ever had the concept that your Lord Jesus Christ is not only the most Holy God, the Creator, the Almighty Lord, and the Master, but He is your Bridegroom, the most pleasant person? In the presence of the Bridegroom, fear is nonexistent. He is so lovely; He is so pleasant; we need not fear such a One. Hallelujah, we have the Bridegroom! The Lord Jesus said that the Bridegroom is here, the most pleasant person is here. Suppose that when He replied to the disciples of John and the Pharisees in such a way John, James, and Peter suddenly shouted, Hallelujah! Do you think the Lord Jesus would rebuke them? Surely not; the Lord Jesus would be so happy.
The Lord Jesus is so much to us: He is the very God, He is the Creator, He is the Lord, He is the Master, He is the Lamb who bears away our sins and accomplishes redemption in a full way, and He is also the One with the Dove who imparts life into us and baptizes us with the Spirit. But, beside all these, He is the Bridegroom. Eventually, at the end of the Bible we have such a term, "the wife of the Lamb" (Rev. 21:9). This is a matter which is to some extent contrary to religion and religious thoughts. The Lamb is the Redeemer, but the Lamb who took away our sins on the cross is also our Bridegroom.
Some of you have been recently saved, while others have been saved for a considerable time. Have you ever prayed in this way, "O Lord Jesus, You are so lovely; You are my Bridegroom. Lord, I love You, I love You just as one who loves her bridegroom." Have you ever spoken to the Lord like this in your prayers? More or less we are under the influence of a religious concept. It is exceedingly easy for any Christian to pray, "O Lord. You are my God, You are my Father, You are my Master, You are my Creator." We could say this, but I fear we are not accustomed to saying, "Lord Jesus, You are my Bridegroom!"
(Christ versus Religion, Chapter 1, by Witness Lee)