Something More Than Fresh

“And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the new wine will burst the skins, it will spill, and the skins will be ruined. But new wine should be put into fresh wineskins. And no one, after drinking old wine, wants new, because he says, ‘The old is better.’” (Luke 5:37-39).

New wine cannot go into old skins. Jesus used this figure of speech at the end of Luke 5 as He spoke with the religious leaders who pestered Him. They had challenged the Savior about the way He and His followers seemed to ignore the traditional practice of fasting.

In that time, the observant Jews fasted two days a week. It was seen as something to show God how serious you were about Him and His commands. There was one problem with this notion; the Lord never told them to fast in this fashion. The Law of Moses prescribed only one time of fasting — on the Day of Atonement according to Leviticus 16.

Through the centuries of disobedience and struggle, the people turned to fasts as ways to assuage their feelings of guilt. The prophets Isaiah and Zechariah pointed out the flaws in the practice. “Behold, in the day of your fast you seek your own pleasure. …” (Isaiah 58:3). “When you fasted and mourned in the fifth month and in the seventh, for these 70 years, was it for me that you fasted?” (Zechariah 7:5).

Sorrow and suffering can become idols like any other thing in life. Self-designed religious expressions and afflictions heighten expectations that God owes us something.

Take pains and get a payback. That’s the thinking behind any system of “righteous” works.

The system Jesus confronted had mushroomed and was beyond repair. No quick fix would work. Alterations prove futile when the fabric of something is worn thin and frayed.

This problem Jesus addressed with another word picture. “He also told them a parable: ‘No one tears a patch from a new garment and puts it on an old garment. Otherwise, not only will he tear the new, but also the piece from the new garment will not match the old’” (Luke 5:36).

False Coverings

Traditions and rituals manufacture a sense of service to God. Adam and Eve started it all when they stitched together fig leaves in awareness of their nakedness after their fall in Genesis 3. They heard the Voice in the Garden and scrambled to hide themselves.

Patchwork solutions only mask the deeper issues of the heart. Adam and his wife had bought a lie and mistrusted the simple truth given to them – “Don’t eat.” But they did eat, and then they tried to go undercover when the presence of the Lord was manifested.

God saw them, of course. And yet He sought them – “Where are you?” He asked, rhetorically, for He knew right where they were and what they had done.

In the gospel of Luke, the Lord was present on earth as the Son of Man. His words and works served to pose the same question: “Where are you?” He came reveal Himself and to expose hearts to their need of Him.

Most stayed hidden, it is sad to say. These people garmented themselves with their duties and sat satisfied with the comfortable, trite beverages they had always sipped. “The old is better.” That is, they kind of liked things as they were.

Their thinking and traditions left them inebriated, numb to the Truth that had crashed into their carefully structured world.

Jesus brought something that was more than fresh. Eternity came to earth. He operated along timeless lines, the lines of ever-new mercies and everlasting faithfulness.

Jesus brought something that was more than fresh. Eternity came to earth. He operated along timeless lines, the lines of ever-new mercies and everlasting faithfulness. Click To Tweet

A most unusual Rabbi had arrived on the scene. The old tired, well-worn standards He challenged with invitations to love and life. This was made obvious by the kinds of people Jesus was drawing to Him.

Go to the beginning of Luke 5. This One refused to cull followers from established schools of thought. He eschewed those places for the shores and taxation booths of Galilee. He gathered the sick and doctored the broken-spirited with friendship and acceptance.

Contrite hearts He would not despise (see Psalm 51:7).

The Savior called fishermen to His enterprise. The skin of these watermen smelled of sea salt; their hands calloused from long nights of casting and dragging their nets for catches. Fishermen cannot walk by sight. They float on the waves, moving and being moved as the winds and tides dictate.

Christ caught this group with a command and a blessing: “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” It had been a long, weary, unproductive night on the sea for Simon and his partners. But they took Jesus at His Word, and within moments their boats were overloaded to the sinking point.

These men were left baffled, repentant and worshipful – “When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, ‘Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.’ …And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed Him (Luke 5:8, 11).

The joy of full nets moved these men into a new line of labor. They would become fishers of people. The Gospel stories they would go on to tell and the sacred sermons they would preach would call thousands to the Lord and His Kingdom.

Healing of All Kinds

Who else came after Jesus? The sick and the lame sensed the presence of the Gentle Healer. They got His attention and cast themselves on His care.

A leper fell before the Lord and begged to be cleansed. Jesus touched the man and pronounced:  “Be made clean” and so his disease was gone.

One paralyzed was carried by his friends to a packed house meeting where Jesus taught. There was no room for them, so they got up on the roof and tore through the ceiling to lower the lame man before the Savior.

Here, Jesus took the moment to play to the crowd, which included a number of scribes and Pharisees. He addressed the real problem in our world. “And when He saw their faith, he said, ‘Man, your sins are forgiven you’” (Luke 5:20).

The statement left the religious gang aghast. In their minds, they slandered the Son with accusations of blasphemy: “Who can forgive sins but God alone?” He read those thoughts and revealed His power: “That you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the man who was paralyzed—‘I say to you, rise, pick up your bed and go home.’” The man stood, picked up his bed, and went home, glorifying God with the others there.

New Wine was being served, and those who were ready and willing drank it up.

Next, the cup of salvation was extended to an outcast of the outcasts – the tax collector, Levi or Matthew. These men who cooperated and made good money in the service of the Roman governors were ostracized and spat upon for turning their back on their brothers and sisters of Israel. They were among the most despised and rejected.

Jesus saw Matthew at his workplace, doing what brought hatred upon him. The Son looked beyond his sin and situation and saw his need.

“Follow Me.” Jesus said. And so this man left it all.

The call of the Lord captured Matthew. His sudden release moved him to such joy that he threw a feast. Outcasts of all kinds showed up. These came to meet the Friend they were so looking for in Jesus.

The old religious system left them unwelcome. Jesus gathered them as a company into His new and living way.

This flow of life needed new wineskins, empty containers were necessary. Only these would be ready to be made full. And once they were filled with what Jesus brought to them, they were equipped to transform the world.

Let’s ask God to bless us with the joy of His salvation all over again.

We are ready and willing to receive Your Life, Lord.

Pour it out. Please.

 

Steve Andrulonis
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