Mark 2:18-28: New Wine and New Wineskin
April 7, 2021
TODAY'S BIBLE READING:
Jesus was constantly attacked by the Pharisees for seeming—in their eyes—to take liberties with the law. They wanted him to stick to their particular human interpretation of the law and not stray one inch either way, and it was a formula for controlling him and bringing him back into line with their theories about what was right and proper. It starts with a debate about fasting. John’s disciples fasted, but Jesus’ do not.
Fasting—if medical condition allows and not taking it to dangerous extremes—is a perfectly valid way to find extra time to pray and read the Bible. When you fast, it is remarkable how much more time you have. You are not eating, you are not preparing food, you are not cleaning up after meals. You gain so much extra time to focus upon God with seriousness and intensity. But while Jesus was with his disciples it would have been inappropriate for them to fast.
Jesus uses the illustration of a wedding. Who would fast at a wedding feast? With Jesus physically present, it is not the time to fast. It is the time to celebrate.
Jesus then uses an illustration of unshrunk cloth, and new wine into old wineskins. A new piece of cloth will not stretch with the old garment and will tear it. Likewise, new wine into old wineskins will burst the old wineskins. The reality was the Pharisees (the “old wine”) would not and could not “get” what Jesus was saying or who he was—they needed a complete change, a regeneration, in order to be able to receive the new wine of the gospel. So often today people attempt to follow Jesus without allowing the Bible and the gospel genuinely to influence them from the inside out. But to follow Jesus we must be made new by the power of Jesus’ Spirit.
The next controversy is over the Sabbath. Jesus’ disciples pluck heads of grain to eat. The Pharisees don’t like this. To prove that what they were doing was not wrong, Jesus uses an example from the life of David. Interestingly enough, the example comes from when David was on the run from the attack of Saul—and Jesus was surely being pursued and attacked if at this point only verbally by the Pharisees. He again concludes with a principle. The Sabbath and its restrictions were intended to be a blessing for people, not a curse; it was made for people, not people to serve the Sabbath. The Pharisees had it all wrong, straining at a gnat and swallowing a camel, neglecting the great matters of the law and being picky about the small things, interpreting by the letter not the Spirit. What is more, the Son of Man, that is Jesus himself, is Lord even of the Sabbath. As God incarnate, he is able to not only make the rules, rightly interpret the rules, and follow the rules—he is also Lord of all, even that most precious institution, the Sabbath.
Jesus is so freeing. Perhaps your “religion” feels restrictive and harsh. Perhaps you are following more of a pharisaic approach to God. Follow Jesus, and be new wine and new wineskin.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Josh Moody (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is the senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL., president and founder of God Centered Life Ministries, and author of several books including How the Bible Can Change Your Life and John 1-12 For You.
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