#14: New Wine

Happy Wednesday! Welcome to Knowing Jesus, our study through Mark’s gospel. Last week we saw Jesus criticized for hanging out with “sinners.” Today, we’ll see Him tell His critics, “Get used to it. I haven’t come to bring more of the old. I’ve come to bring the new!” Let’s read.

Read Mark 2:18-22.
Also look at Matthew 9:14-17 and Luke 5:33-39.

A group of people approached Jesus asking, “Why don’t your disciples fast? The Pharisees and their followers do, and so do John’s disciples. Why don’t yours?” The Law required fasting (going without food for spiritual purposes) one day a year—the Day of Atonement. Jewish tradition had added a load of ceremonial fasts. By Jesus’ day, some Jews fasted twice a week, making a show of righteousness and imposing the same “proof of holiness” on others. (See Isaiah 1:11-17; Matthew 6:16-18; 23:1-32; Luke 18:9-14.)

They were sure they had godliness nailed. They knew the signs and they practiced them. Anyone who didn’t, they despised as ungodly. Then Jesus turned their neat religious world upside down. They couldn’t understand Him. In their view, He might talk the right talk, but He didn’t walk the right walk.

He analyzed their dilemma: “You’re trying to put new wine—wine that needs to ferment and expand and come into its richness—into rigid old wineskins. If you insist on this, both will be lost to you.” For emphasis, He used a second illustration. “If an old cloth has a hole, and you cut a patch for it from your new cloth, both will be ruined.”

Heart, Not Rules

What was Jesus saying? “Forget the rigid set of rules and traditions you’ve come to think of as religion. My ‘law’ deals with the state of your heart. If your heart is God’s, all else falls into place. But you’ll find it impossible to grow a godly heart out of your cold legalism.”

We can be just as smug. We decide that a real Christian will act a certain way, avoid certain places, shun certain people, and absolutely not do this or that. We create our own brand of religion, based on rules that are important to us (whether or not they’re important to God). When people fail to meet our standards, we criticize them and puff ourselves up—becoming less and less useful to God.

The Christian life is about heart, not rules—about love, not legalities. We need to trust each other, and give each other room to breathe and grow! We must each focus on Jesus as our example, and let others do the same.

Will I make mistakes? Yes. That’s where God’s grace comes in. Will others make mistakes? Yes, but that’s my business for only two reasons:
1. So I can sincerely pray for them. (Eph. 6:18b. See samples in Phil. 1:9-11 and Col. 1:9-14.)
2. So I can help restore them to strength. (Gal. 6:1-2)
Not so I can criticize, judge, gossip, or feel superior.

One lesson we Christians desperately need to learn: We’re all in the same army! We’re so busy battling each other, we forget there’s an Enemy. No good or growth occurs. Our churches are rendered useless. (Remember how Jesus said Christians should be known? By their love. John 13:35)

Jesus wasn’t a fan of self-righteous judges. He still isn’t. The rigid old wineskin of legalism still won’t hold His new wine of love, that requires give and take, breathing space, and room to grow.

Share your thoughts….

In what ways have you seen legalism at work? Can “freedom” in Christ get out of control? Where do we draw the line? Or should we? What do you think?

© Diane McLoud 2013

4 Comments on “#14: New Wine

  1. Easy-to-understand lesson here, Diane…but a hard-to-follow lesson!! Wow! The part about how to deal with others making mistakes being my business was so right-on. Praying and restoring…two hard tasks. I wonder how I would have reacted to Jesus face-to-face. What change and new ideas he brought to the people!

  2. The sad part is, many Christians are much more proficient at the “criticize/gossip/judge/feel superior” response. We ALL need to practice love, don’t we?

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