Questions From Readers
Mark 9:39, 40 is harmonious with Matthew 12:30, of course. In Matthew 12 the Pharisees displayed themselves as not being on Jesus’ side because of their false accusations, and so Jesus said to them: “He that is not on my side is against me, and he that does not gather with me scatters.” (Matt. 12:30, NW) The Pharisees were against him and were scattering Israelites away from him. But in Mark 9 the man involved was a fellow Israelite who was not falsifying about Jesus but who believed in the power of his name and was using it to cast out demons. The fact that he succeeded showed Jehovah God, Jesus’ Father, did not disapprove or leave the man in the lurch. So how could Jesus object? The record shows that he did not: “John said to him: ‘Teacher, we saw a certain man expelling demons by the use of your name and we tried to prevent him, because he was not accompanying us.’ But Jesus said: ‘Do not try to prevent him, for there is no one that will do a powerful work on the basis of my name that will quickly be able to revile me; for he that is not against us is for us.’”—Mark 9:38-40, NW.
Not all believers in Jesus followed him along with the twelve apostles. Some who wanted to follow Jesus were told to go back home and bear witness to him there. (Mark 5:18-20) Hence it was not necessary for this man to bodily follow Jesus to be on his side. There were only two sides in this controversy, either for or against Jesus, and since he was not against him he was for Jesus. From Pentecost and the outpouring of the spirit on the faithful it would be necessary for this man to associate himself with the congregation of Christians in order to receive the spirit and be approved of God for not being against Jesus. It is different with the religious systems that now preach in Jesus’ name. It cannot be said that all these are not against him for that reason, for they are against Jehovah’s faithful witnesses who do preach Jesus and his kingdom. So as they are against the least of these his brothers, they are against him and their mere use of Jesus’ name does not gain favorable recognition of them as true followers. Matthew 7:20-23 (NW) applies to them: “Really, then, by their fruits you will recognize those men. Not everyone saying to me, ‘Master, Master,’ will enter into the kingdom of the heavens, but the one doing the will of my Father who is in the heavens will. Many will say to me in that day: ‘Master, Master, did we not prophesy in your name, and expel demons in your name, and perform many powerful works in your name?’ And yet then I will confess to them: I never knew you at all. Get away from me, you workers of lawlessness.”
● At Matthew 9:14-17 Jesus was asked why his disciples did not fast as did those of the Pharisees and John the Baptist, and after some explanation he brought in the point that a new patch is not sewn on an old garment and new wine is not put into an old wineskin. This seems to have no bearing on the discussion. Why did he bring it up on this occasion?—B. Z., Washington.
Christ Jesus is making no abrupt switch of subject matter here, as might seem to be the case at first glance. The parallel account at Luke 5:33-38 (NW) shows it was for the purpose of illustrating the point at issue: “They said to him: ‘The disciples of John fast frequently and offer supplications, and so do those of the Pharisees, but yours eat and drink.’ Jesus said to them: ‘You cannot make the friends of the bridegroom fast while the bridegroom is with them, can you? Yet days will come when the bridegroom will indeed be taken away from them; then they will fast in those days.’ Further he went on to give an illustration to them: ‘No one cuts a patch from a new outer garment and sews it onto an old outer garment; but if he does, then both the new patch tears away and the patch from the new garment does not match the old. Moreover, no one puts new wine into old wineskins; but if he does, then the new wine will burst the wineskins, and it will be spilled out and the wineskins will be ruined. But new wine must be put into new wineskins.’”
What Jesus was pointing out by this illustration was that he was bringing in an entirely new system of things, and that this new system of things was not to be attached to the group that followed John the Baptist or the group that followed the Pharisees. The disciples of Jesus did not have to be associated with these other religious groups or attach themselves to such groups or follow their customs of fasting, or any other religious ceremony that these groups may have been practicing. Jesus did not come to patch up and prolong old worn-out systems of worship that were ready for discarding. He was establishing something entirely new, and any persons wanting life and who were still in the old systems must come to the new, and not try to use the new merely as a patch to bolster their failing religious systems that were due to be discarded. Hence the new Christian organization that Jesus was forming was not to be as a new patch on an old garment or as new wine in an old wineskin. It was not to be attached to or bound by or engulfed by previous religious groups. These old systems could not contain the new system of things, were not adequate for this new system, could not exist alongside the new system, but would be brought to their end by this new system of things. Even the Law of Moses was to be nailed to the torture stake as being fulfilled and canceled.
Hence the followers of Christ did not conform themselves to the practices of fasting while Christ was present. Jesus did say that when the bridegroom would be taken away, then they would fast. However, by this he was not meaning to say that they should do this, but the facts are that they did. After his death on the torture stake his disciples mourned and were greatly confused because they had expected him to establish his kingdom on earth at that time, and when he was put to death they did not understand why that had been allowed to happen, and they fell into their old ways of fasting and mourning because of this lack of understanding. However, after Pentecost and the outpouring of the holy spirit and their enlightenment on matters, they recovered from this temporary lapse into fasting such as the older religious groups practiced.
From all of this we see that Jesus was bringing in an apt illustration to drive home the point of the discussion. Just as a new outer garment was not to be cut up and used to patch up hopelessly old garments, but was to remain intact and entirely new; just as new wine was not to be poured into dried-up old wineskins that had lost their elasticity and would burst, but was to have its own new wineskin, just so the new Christian organization was to be an entirely new system of things, permanently separate from the old religious systems that had either failed or had passed the period of their usefulness.
● At Numbers 30:6-8 it states that a woman’s vows may be set aside by her husband. Does this apply today?—T. P., Indiana.
If we come into the truth and vow vows to Jehovah God, then we should pay such, especially our vow to do his will from henceforth. What the text above describes is the inferior position of wives under the Mosaic Law and how the husband was responsible for the obligations to which the wife bound herself. But we are not under the Law today and this subjection of women to their husbands with respect to vows does not apply, because if it did, then no wife who had an unbelieving husband opposed to the truth could really make a vow giving herself to the Lord God to do his will and follow in the footsteps of Jesus Christ. So now God deals with the women as individuals with regard to vows made, and the husband does not affect the matter or have any power to cancel or forbid them. Of course, a wife should not make unreasonable vows that would interfere with the performance of her proper Scriptural duties to her husband. (Eccl. 5:1-6) Additionally, we should remember that in Israel there would be no husbands not in covenant relationship with Jehovah God, and hence it is unlikely that they would disallow any proper vows involving godly devotion that their wives might make to Jehovah. Such vows are the vital ones.
● What does Isaiah 4:1 mean, which states: “And in that day seven women shall take hold of one man, saying, We will eat our own bread, and wear our own apparel: only let us be called by thy name, to take away our reproach”?—C. S., Washington.
Note that the verse Isa 4:1 opens with the conjunction “and”, which connects this verse with what has preceded. The closing verses of the preceding chapter read: “Thy men shall fall by the sword, and thy mighty in the war. And her gates shall lament and mourn; and she being desolate shall sit upon the ground.” (Isa. 3:25, 26) Isaiah was telling the delinquent Israelites of the time of war and desolation coming, and showed the inroads such times would make on the manpower of the nation, creating such a shortage that several women would attach themselves to one man. They would be glad to take his name and have some male attentions, even if they had to share him with other women. They would accept polygamy or concubinage, to have some little part of a man’s life.
So today, in these last days of trouble and strife and war, with many men being killed and others removed from civilian life by army demands, marriageable men are scarce. Some sociologists have even publicly expressed such views of having women share one man, that part of a man is better than nothing at all. In some nations polygamy is practiced, and everywhere sexual relations become more promiscuous and with less fidelity to legal mates, even where monogamy is the outwardly accepted practice. Many women are content to share a man with other women, if necessary, to have some male attentions and satisfaction for themselves. Hence it seems, in view of the context, that Isaiah 4:1 foretold the shortage of men that would later occur, both at the time of Jerusalem’s desolation and in these days. However, this condition is not the approved way for men and women to live today.