Bible Readings Ps 145: 1-9 Luke 5: 27-39
If you go out for a meal what sort of diner are you? Do you tend to stick with the tried and true? Do you like to be adventurous and try new things? Do you prefer being served or are you more of a buffet person liking to take a bit of this and a bit of that?
Jesus was often found eating out at the home of others and our reading today’s no exception. This was no ordinary meal; Jesus was attending a banquet at which he was the guest of honour. It’s the first of many feasts in Luke and its more than just a party... for those who have eyes to see it signifies the beginning of a new age, the coming of God's kingdom which will be fully established at the end of time when Jesus returns for His bride the church.
Of which John had a vision recorded in Rev. 19:7 & 9
Let us be glad and rejoice,
and let us give honour to him.
For the time has come for the wedding feast of the Lamb,
and his bride has prepared herself.
And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding feast of the Lamb.”
Hold those words “blessed are those invited to the wedding feast of the lamb!”
It seems the religious rulers of Jesus day had serious issues with who Jesus chose to eat with... asking Jesus disciples “why do you eat and drink with such scum?” (NLT) Harsh words! Who were the scum? Many of them were tax collectors, the lowest of the low in Jesus day, known for being extortionists, working willingly for the Romans and mixing with gentiles in the job which made them ritually unclean...
For the Scribes, professionals trained in the interpretation of Jewish law and the religious rulers the Pharisees their main concern was to preserve the Jewish faith and way of life in the midst of Roman occupation so who Jesus ate with was a serious concern.
As one commentator observes “The Pharisees took seriously God's calling of Israel to be "a priestly kingdom and a holy nation" (Exodus 19:6). They sought to renew the faith by applying biblical laws concerning ritual purity to all Jews and to all aspects of daily life.” (James Hansen).
In their understanding of God they became unclean through mixing with people they believed to be unclean... They fasted, they kept every law, they never defiled themselves by mixing with sinners and yet here’s this Jesus doing exactly that…
This Jesus gets them rattled, he goes about touching unclean lepers, the sick and and eating with scum! Maybe they could’ve coped with this if he had done it in his own name but the trouble is this Jesus claimed to speak and act for God.... this Jesus who reached out to the untouchables of society was a very real threat to their religious and social order.
Elisabeth Johnson backs this up saying “While the scribes and Pharisees focus on separating themselves from sinners and keeping themselves ritually pure, Jesus shatters all boundaries between clean and unclean, righteous and sinners.”
Do you think Jesus is doing this just to attack their cherished beliefs and institutions? Or do you think he mixes with the sick and the sinners because that’s the only way to heal the sick and bring back the lost?
One thing’s for certain, even though the Scribes and the Pharisees were the leaders of God’s people their understanding of God was way too small.
Their type of dining was very traditional, ritual requirements shutting out those who were most in need of food. So Jesus tries to broaden their horizons saying “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners and need to repent.” “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick;” (Luke 5:31-32NLT)
Stop and think about your GP for a moment. Why do you think your GP goes to the practice everyday and not to a movie theatre? Because they know the sick people will be waiting for them at the surgery, they might have a nice time at the movie but they’re not going to be able to use their healing skills which they’ve dedicated their lives to obtaining. What would you think if you were ill at the practice waiting for your GP and you knew they were at a movie?
There’s something else going on here too. These leaders are powerful and Jesus could have been cowered by them but Jesus knows his purpose, he knows why he has come and it gives him clear boundaries in the face of opposition... his mission purpose is to find the social outcast, the sick, the lost and bring healing and bring reconciliation with God and others.
Jesus is our forgiveness for sin, Jesus is our light in the darkness, Jesus is our freedom from guilt and shame and Jesus is our life over death!!
Jesus didn’t just get questioned by the religious leaders, Luke goes on to point out that the people around Jesus noticed he and his disciples didn’t fast like the Pharisees or John the Baptists disciples asking “why are your disciples always eating and drinking?”
To understand this question, we have to understand that in Judaism fasting was a sign of waiting, a time of retrospect looking back and repenting over the disasters that had befallen Israel and turning again to God in hope of his mercy and His Kingdom coming.
Jesus answers by alluding to a wedding feast, pointing forward to the ultimate wedding feast we’ve already talked about... his underlying message saying the kingdom you’ve been fasting and waiting for is here, the reign of God has come near! This is a time for feasting!
Jesus had come to bring God’s kingdom on earth, Gods economy of grace, forgiveness, healing and eternal life.... And it was certainly something to celebrate…
Bring to mind the last wedding reception you were at... How would it have been if you had sat there refusing to eat because you were fasting? Not much fun for you or for those around you... The wedding breakfast is a time of joy, celebration of new beginnings for the couple getting married, a celebration of leaving behind the past way of being single even though that was good for that season, a single mindset is useless in a marriage covenant.
The wedding breakfast is a celebration of love that shatters the boundaries of single life and needs a new way of being to contain it...
Jesus then tells a couple of short parables to reinforce his point…. Who patches an old garment by cutting a patch from a perfectly good new bit of material? No one because it ends up ruining both, the old looks silly with a brand new patch that doesn’t match and the new is left with a gaping great hole….
And think about it, who in their right mind would put new wine into an old wineskin?
Wineskins were made from goats hide... a fresh hide was always used for new wine as it had elasticity and would stretch with the wine as it fermented and expanded. Old or used wineskins, on the other hand, became brittle and had no give so they burst as the new wine fermented wasting both the skin and the wine.
One commentator writes about the word used for the old wineskin saying “ Jesus is making a point with a play on words. He doesn’t use the traditional word for old, which is palai meaning ‘antique.’ Sort of like ‘vintage...’ a good kind of old. Instead, he uses the word palaios, which implies that something is useless and worn out.”
Very simply the old boundaries were useless and worn out unable to contain the new reality of God's reign coming near in Jesus.
Jesus was saying you can’t mix and match, you can’t take some of my teaching and fit it into the Pharisees way of teaching…. Jesus was bringing a whole new way of radical grace and forgiveness that couldn’t be contained in what was already present.
Leon Morris states “both parables drive home the point that Jesus isn’t just patching up Judaism, He is teaching [bringing] something radically new, if the attempt is made to restrict this within the old wineskins of Judaism the results will be disastrous.”
This short parable’s in all 3 synoptic gospels (Mat, Mark, Luke) highlighting the importance of the boundary shattering work of Jesus. Just prior to our reading he had healed a leper, healed a paralysed man even claiming divine authority to forgive sins... and in our reading eats with the unclean, the scum of society and because of this Jesus is very aware that some won’t want the new...
One commentator puts it beautifully “God's invasion of this world in Jesus is resisted by those who hold power, those whose lives are dedicated to keeping boundaries intact. Yet for the leper who was cleansed, for the paralytic who was healed, for the sinner who was forgiven and welcomed to the table, God's invasion in Jesus is welcomed as a mission of liberation, healing, and life.”
Jesus is still doing a new thing, across the centuries Jesus continues to offer new wine, forgiveness, healing, freedom and eternal life to anyone who will receive…
If we think about the church (world wide and local) have we cleared our plates of the old ready to receive the new or are we more buffet style eaters.... filling our plates with traditions we like, music we like, reaching out to people we like and just squeezing a little bit of the Jesus that is pleasing to our palate on the side?
Having found something that tastes good are we in danger of wanting to make church about us, about our needs and our wants rather than following Jesus to the homes of those no one else wants to know… the broken, the hurting, the lost… those just like us who Jesus came to save?
Are we in danger of being the Pharisees in this picture? Are we clinging so tightly to the Old wine because it’s familiar and good that we’re in danger of missing the new just because we are afraid to trust the unknown?
Tom Wright observes “Jesus is doing a new thing; this new thing still forms the basis of Christianity today. The real challenge of this passage is to see where in the world and of course in the church too, people are living today as though the old age is still the norm, as though the new life of the gospel had never burst upon us.”
So what about us as individuals...
Jesus is offering to fill us with his new wine
Jesus is offering us a radically new life of forgiveness and freedom, healing and joy
Jesus is calling us to let go of the old useless and worn out ways that can’t possibly contain the way of grace and love he brings....
What might the old ways look like for us...
Are our plates filled with a dollop of the need to be in control, a serving of separation that says we don’t need to mix with people who are different, a huge portion of ego that puts ourselves at the centre of our universe, all topped off with a generous sprinkling of bad habits? What fills your plate, what fills my plate?
Jesus is saying you can’t just add bits of me how and when you feel like it mixing the old and the new is a recipe for disaster.
What of the old, what of the useless and worn out might Jesus be asking us to give up?
Jesus, in offering us new wine, is offering a life far better than our old one,
What might that look like?
A life flowing freely with generous servings of grace, forgiveness, healing, justice, peace, joy and love, a love that offers radical hospitality and acceptance of others that are different from us...
But this new wine can only be contained in new skins... totally empty, totally ready to be filled completely with Jesus, Jesus offer of new wine comes with an invitation to let go of the old to let go of all that would hold us back and radically surrender all we are to Him... to let go of the known, to let go of the tried and true, to let go of the useless and worn out and instead be totally filled with Him trusting he is all we need... Jesus never forces... Jesus always invites
The last words are His can we hear Him today “New wine must be stored in new wine skins... but the one who drinks the old seems to want the new wine. The old is just fine they say.” Old or new the choice is ours today.