Anticipation & Newer, Better Models & Grace: Jesus & Old Testament Law

Posted: December 7, 2014 in Uncategorized

Luke 5:33-39 — Little kids and grown-ups alike love the anticipation of Christmas. The buildup is part of the fun. College game day in Clemson. The tailgating, the Tiger Walk, and The Run Down the Hill are all part of the build-up to the game. Waiting is part of the fun. Sometimes, we have enjoyed the build-up so much that we forget to recognize and enjoy the event itself. I think that Jesus is trying to tell these religious leaders that it’s Christmas morning. It’s game time. The event is here. The Messiah has come. No more build up. The Messiah is here.

In this passage, we are still at Matthew’s house at the party being thrown by Matthew for Jesus. As you may remember, the Pharisees are trying to understanding why Jesus is breaking with their conventions of the day and dining with a group of sinners. Now, they are trying to trip him up with the religious customs of the day. The only fast prescribed in the Law is on the Day of Atonement (Lev. 23:27). However, customs had developed over the years within the Jewish religion to fast on other days as well. The Jewish leaders question Jesus on why His followers do not fast on the customary days like the followers of other religious teachers such as John the Baptist. Jesus answers them in three ways.

First, He compares himself with a bridegroom at a wedding. In Jesus’ day in Jewish society, weddings were not just an event that lasted a few hours as they do today. Weddings were in some cases week long celebrations. The whole town was invited typically. The hosts would roll out the best food and wine and it was a party! It was a celebration of life and the new bond between husband and wife that had been formed. Jesus is saying that no one ever fasted at these celebrations. It would have been rude and just plain dumb. Jesus is telling them that the Messiah was here and that His disciples should enjoy His presence while He was here. Fasting is usually reserved for situations where we are dissatisfied with the present state of things. Fasts are often in response to a great loss such as death. Fasts are also often performed in anticipation of some great change we are asking God for. We do not like the present when we fast. Jesus is saying the future is now. He is the thing that fasting in the past was in anticipation of. He is here. The bridegroom has arrived at the party and it is now time to celebrate. It’s game time. It’s Christmas morning. Everything previously hoped for is here. The bridegroom is here. Let the party begin. The Messiah is among us.

Second, He compares himself to new garments. He tells them that their way of thinking is like trying to take a patch from a new garment and using it to patch up an old. Jesus is saying that the point of the old garments, the Old Testament law, was to prepare us for the new garment, Jesus Christ. It was never intended to be the all to end all by itself. Strict adherance to the the law becomes religion, an old garment. The law was intended to teach us that we needed a Savior. It was to teach us that we are incapable without God giving us intervention. The old garment is a precursor, a forerunner of the new garment. According to Jeremy Myers in his meditation on this passage entitled, “Christ: The Life of the Party”, “the robes of righteousness do not come by adding Christ to the Old Testament law. We do not become righteous by obeying the law and believing in Jesus Christ. Jesus came to hand out fresh, new clothes, free of charge to all who believe in Him alone for it. There is no cost.” What Myers is saying is that Jesus is the software upgrade. Jesus is Old Testament 2.0. He is the newer model. The new model was built on what we learned from the Old. The old model was preparation for this newer, better model. We do not use VHS tapes anymore because DVD has replaced it. However, VHS was the beginning of the technology and pointed us toward DVDs. Jesus is saying He is the DVD to the Pharisees’ VHS tape.

Finally, Jesus compares himself to new wine and new wineskins. If you know anything about leather, it is most flexible when it is new and freshly tanned. As the leather gets older and older, it becomes less flexible. That’s why you see that leather furniture eventually develops rips and tears as it gets older and older. With regard to wine and wineskins, the fermentation process creates chemical reactions and cause the container in which wine is in as it ferments to need to expand. That’s why first century winemakers would use new wineskins to ferment new wine. Old wineskins would burst. Jesus is telling the Pharisees that He is new wineskin. The old ways of the Pharisees had become like old wineskins. Their ways were inflexible and judgmental. Their ways were actually reducing the number of people who were considered right with God. Their ways were inflexible religion. Their ways lacked love. Love was, believe it or not the intent of God’s law. God wanted us to realize that we need Him and to love Him for the granting us restoration through the atonement sacrifices. The law itself is inflexible. Either you are or you are not in compliance. The law is the old wineskin. The law shows us how desperately flawed we are and that we need help. Jesus is the new wineskin. New wineskins represent grace to us. Grace is flexible enough to handle our sins. Grace allows for imperfection. Grace flexes to keep us within the wineskin. Without grace, the new wineskin, we have to be placed in old wineskin, the inflexible law, and we fail in comparison to it. We push the inflexible until we break it. Grace is what we need. The law teaches us we need the new wineskin. Grace is our flex to cover our multitude of sins. Grace preserves us so that we do not burst the old wineskin. Grace keeps us within God.

The bridegroom is here. The old ways have prepared for the new. Grace is the oil that flexes the wineskin to keep us right with God. Jesus is all these things. We celebrate with Jesus because He came. We celebrate the new life that He has given us. We are no longer measured by our shortcomings. We are given grace to match and exceed our sins. The bridegroom has given us reason to celebrate. We are no longer dissatisfied with our present state of affairs. We have our Messiah. Jesus is here now. The pre-game is over. The anticipation of Christmas morning is over. He is here. Our present and future are changed forever. Celebrate good times, c’mon!

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