Old vs. New

Last week we talked about Jesus’s answer to John the Baptist’s disciples regarding fasting. And about how freeing Jesus’s answer was.

Today I want to look at Jesus’s comments after He answers that question.

Jesus starts talking about something that at first seems totally out of place. But, of course, it’s not.

“No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch will pull away from the garment, making the tear worse. 17 Neither do people pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.” – Matthew 9:14-17

Jesus has just answered JTB’s disciples question about fasting. They were following the Jewish customs that had been handed down for centuries. Jesus was a Jew. In fact, He was the Son of God.

So you would think He would be very careful to follow all the Jewish customs.

But He wasn’t.

And what He says here is, I believe, the reason why.

Jesus talks about how you don’t use a piece of unshrunk cloth to patch an old garment (that has already been shrunk). If you do, the first time you wash it, the patch will shrink and pull away from the garment and it will be ruined.

Then He said you don’t put new wine in old wineskins. You put new wine in new wineskins so they can both expand. If you put new wine in an old wineskin, the wine will expand, but the wineskin has already expanded as far as it can go, so it will burst and the wine will be spilled.

I believe Jesus is talking here about the new covenant He’s bringing and how different it is from the old covenant that was still around at that time.

I believe He was saying that making His disciples keep all the Jewish customs (like fasting) at this particular time did not fit in with the new covenant He was ushering in.

In fact, trying to force the old structure around the essence of the new covenant would be disastrous. And combining the two covenants could create two different scenarios.

In one scenario, the new covenant would pull away from the old (like the cloth example), because it didn’t belong, it didn’t ‘fit.’

The other scenario would be like putting new wine in an old wineskin. The old wineskin (the Jewish religion structure of laws and rules and ancient customs) could never contain the new wine (the new covenant of love and mercy and grace). The old covenant had already gone as far as it could go. It couldn’t go any further. It couldn’t do any more than it already had.

Another way to look at it is the old covenant worked from the outside in. In other words, you had a list of things you did and things you didn’t do and that external structure was fairly easy to see—although not always so easy to do.

The new covenant Jesus brought does just the opposite. It works from the inside out. It can’t be seen until it has affected the believer’s behavior. So this requires an entirely different structure, a totally new paradigm.

And Jesus is saying that if you cling to the old structure of rules and regulations—and try to force that structure on people learning to follow the new covenant—you’re going to lose the new wine and the old wineskins. Because they just don’t ‘fit.’

It was time for a transition—the passing of the old and the entering of the new.

It was a total change in the way people relate to God—a change to a personal, intimate, individual relationship between each of us and our Creator.

And Jesus came to earth to show us how it’s done.

And to pay the high cost to make it accessible to us.

Thank you, Lord.

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What old structures are you hanging on to?

What new wine is that preventing you from experiencing?

Focused and Free

There are two major takeaways from the next section of Matthew 9 that I want to share. I’ll share the first one today and the other one next week.

 

The first is from the first two verses:

 

Then John’s disciples came and asked him, “How is it that we and the Pharisees fast often, but your disciples do not fast?”

Jesus answered, “How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them? The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast. – Matthew 9:14-15

 

 

John’s disciples (as in John the Baptist, JTB) came to Jesus with a question. The question was why they and the Pharisees fasted frequently (for religious purposes) but Jesus and His disciples never fasted.

 

And Jesus’s answer to them is my first takeaway. And it’s something I really needed to hear right now.

 

In my current life situation, I am involved in a project with several incredible Christian believers. These are people I want to be like when I grow up! Seriously. After spending time with them, I feel so honored and so blessed.

 

And sometimes later on I start feeling not so blessed. Because I try to go after the things some of them are doing – and I can’t do it all. I want to be like them in their area of strength, but I can’t. It just doesn’t ‘fit’ right now. And it may never.

 

And that’s why Jesus’s answer gives me freedom. In essence, what I think Jesus is saying is that at the exact same moment in time, it was okay for JTB’s disciples and the Pharisees to be fasting and for Jesus’s disciples to NOT be fasting.

 

How freeing is that?!? We’re all different. And we’re all in different places. And it’s okay. Jesus meets us where we are and we need to trust Him to take us where He wants us to go . . . when He wants us to go there.

 

Whew. So just because my good friend is spending hours a day praying and fasting, I don’t have to feel guilty because that’s not where God has me right now.

 

Notice that Jesus didn’t say His disciples would never fast again. In fact, He said they would. So it doesn’t mean I won’t go after some of the things my friends are so good at—but it’s just not for me right now. I have other things He wants me to focus on.

 

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Whose gifts are you trying to adopt into your life?

 

What does God want you focused on instead?

 

2016 Challenge

We’re back in Matthew 9. Today’s passage is about the calling of Matthew.

 

Jesus saw Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. He told Matthew to follow Him and Matthew did.

 

The next scene shows Jesus and his disciples having dinner with Matthew and his friends at Matthew’s house. Matthew’s friends are fellow tax collectors and “sinners” – or as the Amplified Version calls them: “especially wicked” sinners.

 

I’m not sure what that means exactly, but Jesus apparently didn’t even blink an eye at it. He didn’t have a problem having dinner with sinners—of any description.

 

But the Pharisees sure did! They had a big problem with Jesus having dinner with tax collectors and sinners.

 

But, like most troublemakers, the Pharisees didn’t go to the source with their question. Instead they chose to ask Jesus’s disciples why he was eating with tax collectors and those “especially wicked” sinners.

 

Jesus heard their question and answered it Himself. He said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.” Which He may have followed up quickly with one more syllable: “DUH!”

 

And then He insulted the Pharisees’ knowledge of the scriptures. He said, “But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

 

The Pharisees knew that verse from Hosea 6:6 as well as Jesus did.

 

Well . . . they had read it anyway . . . at some point in time.

 

But apparently they didn’t know what it meant.

 

Let’s take a look at the verse He’s quoting: Hosea 6:6 (AMP).

 

For I desire and delight in dutiful steadfast love and goodness, not sacrifice, and the knowledge of and acquaintance with God more than burnt offerings.”

 

Here’s what I think Jesus is telling these religious leaders (and us by default).

 

I think he was telling them that if they REALLY knew the scriptures, they would know that what God wants is people who are loving and good—not just religious people who are more concerned with following every sacrifice ritual. And that He desires people whose focus is getting to KNOW HIM—not just pious posers fixated on following the letter of the law and not missing one burnt offering.

 

I don’t think God’s wants have changed. I believe He still wants people who do what it takes to get to KNOW HIM and, because of the time they spend with Him, they’ll be more loving and good than the super religious people with their perfect church attendance certificates.

 

 

I challenge all of us to be more concerned with getting to KNOW GOD in 2016 than we are with doing any religious act that will make us APPEAR more pious to other people. And let’s be the loving and good people that God wants rather than people who are known by the world to be church-y or religious.

 

 

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Matthew 9:9-13 (NIV)

9As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him.

10 While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. 11 When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”

12 On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 13 But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”