Then They will Fast

Fasting was a customary practice on the annual Day of Atonement among Jews of Christ's time, although the Mosaic Law did not specify or require fasting on that feast (Leviticus 16:29).
On the Day of Atonement, Israelites were to “humble their souls”; in later centuries this evolved to include fasting. By the time of Jesus, the Pharisees routinely fasted twice each week, typically on the second and fourth days.
In the Old Testament, fasting is associated with mourning and repentance, especially during times of national calamity. But when a marriage took place in a village even the most devout Jew ceased from fasting for the duration of the ceremonies. Weddings were a time of feasting and joy, often the ceremonies lasted several days.
(Mark 2:18-22) - “And the disciples of John and the Pharisees were fasting; and they come and say unto him—For what cause do the disciples of John and the disciples of the Pharisees fast whereas thy disciples fast not? And Jesus said unto them— Is it possible for the sons of the bridechamber while the bridegroom is with them to be fasting? So long as they have the bridegroom with them it is impossible, to fast. But there will come days when the bridegroom shall be taken from them And then they will fast in that day. No one seweth a patch of unshrunk cloth upon an old mantle— otherwise, at least, the shrinking teareth away from it— the new from the old—and a worse rent is made. And no one poureth new wine into old skins,—otherwise, at least, the wine will burst the skins and the wine is lost, and, the skins. But new wine is for unused skins.” [Citation from the Emphasized Bible].  (Parallels: Matthew 9:14-17; Luke 5:33-38).
Mark’s gospel states simply, “they came to” Jesus with this question. In Matthew’s version, this group is identified as certain disciples of John the Baptist (Matthew 9:14-17). His disciples were known for ascetic practices, including fasting (Matthew 3:4; 11:16-19).
The Greek sentence describes the practice of John’s disciples with a present tense participle, “fasting.” This stresses the habitual nature of the practice. Fasting was a common religious ritual among Jews of this period. The truly more devout fasted twice each week (Luke 18:9-12).
Jesus made the point: when the “bridegroom” is present it is a time of joy and fulfillment, not sorrow and mourning. At such a time fasting is inappropriate. When the Messiah was present disciples ought instead to proclaim the arrival of the Kingdom of God. 
Jesus was characterized not by ascetic practices but by his table fellowship and participation in communal meals, even with the “worst” of society’s sinners: 
(Matthew 11:16-19) - “But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the market places, who call out to the other children, and say, 'We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.’ For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, 'He has a demon!' The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, 'Behold, a gluttonous man and a drunkard, a friend of tax-gatherers and sinners!' Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.” 
(Luke 5:29) - “Levi made him a great feast in his house; and there was a large company of tax collectors and others sitting at table with them. And the Pharisees and their scribes murmured against his disciples, saying, "Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?”
(Luke 15:1) - “Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. And the Pharisees and the scribes murmured, saying, "This man receives sinners and eats with them.”
The time when the “bridegroom” was “taken away” from the disciples was at the arrest, trial, and crucifixion of Jesus. Following his resurrection and the Day of Pentecost, he was again present with his disciples by means of the Spirit.
Christ’s reference to being “taken away” shows already he had some inkling of where the opposition would lead. The Greek verb for “take away” is apairō, a compound of the preposition apo, “from, away,” plus the verb airō, “to take.” This form of the verb occurs only here in the New Testament and in the two parallel passages in Matthew and Luke.
This is a strong verb; it implies a removal by force, not voluntary departure. Christ’s words echo a passage from Isaiah’s “Suffering Servant” song. In the Greek version of the Old Testament (Septuagint), the simple verb airō is found in Isaiah 53:8; “By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, for the transgression of my people to whom the stroke was due?”
Fasting in this passage represents some of the old forms of Judaism. In the analogy of the wineskin and the un-shrunken cloth, Jesus illustrates that the old forms cannot contain the new things brought about by the messiah, the “bridegroom,” the proclamation of the kingdom of God. Attempts to combine old wineskins with new wine, or un-shrunken cloth with shrunken cloth, resulting in the destruction of both.
Jesus does not imply the old is inherently bad. Wineskins and cloth are used to compare the old and the new. There is continuity and discontinuity between the old and the new. But the old cannot contain what the new brings. Jesus did not come to patch up the old system, but to offer something new and complete.



The Living Word

The Suffering Servant