June 6, 2010
INTRODUCTION – last sermon in Matthew 9 – – we looked at this fallen human tendency of criticizing and slandering and getting offended with Jesus and His followers – rather than seeing how screwed up we ourselves are, and how much we personally need Jesus, and those who truly are following Him to help us get cleaned up and transformed from the inside out.
In the early part of Matthew 9 – we see the scribes murmuring among themselves about Jesus’s audacity to tell someone their sins are forgiven. In vs. 11 we see the Pharisees complaining to Jesus’s disciples about the kind of people Jesus chose to wine and dine with.
In vs. 14 we see John’s disciples complaining to Jesus Himself about why they fast and His disciples do not. At least these disciples came to the source with their complaint, though their complaint was unfortunate because it revealed where their source of security and worth was, and it revealed how quick they were to turn on others when something in those others’ lives challenged something in theirs.
What I want to do in the rest of our time together this morning is explore Jesus’s three fold answer to their question of complaint. Matthew 9:14-17
In answering this question or complaint, Jesus resorts to 3 metaphors or word pictures.
I. Attendants of the Bridegroom – vs. 15
Jesus likens Himself and His disciples – to a bride groom and his attendants. Weddings and all the preliminary stuff leading up to the wedding are a time of rejoicing and feasting and partying – – a time of enjoying each other’s company and especially that of the bridegroom before he is taken away by his bride. It is not a time for fasting.
But Jesus says – once he is taken away – or once he leaves this earth – – then the attendants or His followers – can get back to fasting.
Jesus never commanded His disciples to fast while He was with them. Ch. 6:16f He taught them about the proper attitudes and motives for fasting. While they were physically with Him – fasting was not His major concern.
But Jesus did spend a lot of time preparing them for His departure; and from this passage and others it appears He expected that they would make fasting a part of their lifestyle. After all, it was a major part of His lifestyle. The question is why? Why would this spiritual discipline not be necessary when they were physically with Him; but would be necessary once He was physically removed from them?
Well I want to suggest that it has to do primarily with hearing and seeing.
Hearing and seeing Jesus when physically with Him
– can watch non verbal comm.
– Out loud words in their language….
– There were no competing voices
– You can ask Him to clarify if something is confusing, which they often did
Hearing and seeing Jesus when He is physically not with us.
No non verbal clues
No out loud words in a common language
Many competing thoughts; are they from God? From the devil? My own thoughts?
Fasting makes our spiritual sensors more acute
It sharpens our spiritual hearing and our spiritual seeing
Fasting enables us to walk with and hear the voice of Jesus and follow His will and way – – even though we never see His person with physical eyes; and we rarely hear His voice with our physical ears.
Fasting makes us more sensitized to the presence of the Holy Spirit, whose person and presence – Jesus said – would enable us to do even greater things than He did.
II. Patching garments – – vs. 16
A bit thorny to interpret because Jesus does not identify what the garment represents. But I think it is safe to say that – in terms of the big picture – – the old garment is probably the old system or the old covenant. And Jesus is most likely saying that the old covenant needs more than a band aid or a patch. It needs an overhaul. We need a new garment. A new way of living life and relating to God.
Now you could maintain that a pre-shrunk piece of cloth would solve the problem. But you would still have an old garment, which is very likely – very soon going to rip or tear again – – or just wear out. And because the next passage talks about newness; I think it is reasonable to say that He is pointing to a new system – – a new way of life – – a new way that will overrule and greatly improve on the old way of life. And thus old formulas and practices and rituals will not suffice. Especially when we do them for old reasons.
Wherever Jesus is – – old ways of thinking, old attitudes, ruts are going to be challenged. Whereas all the other major religions allow them to some extent to stick around – – to follow Jesus requires that all of the old is totally uprooted.
III. Putting wine into wineskins – – vs. 17
A. New wine is coming. The Prophet Isaiah had prophesied of this on several occasions, and the Jews knew it well. For instance:
Isa. 42:9 Behold the former things have come to pass, Now I declare new things; Before they spring forth I proclaim them to you.
Isa. 43:19 Behold I will do something new, Now it will spring forth; Will you not be aware of it? I will even make a roadway in the wilderness/ rivers in the desert.”
Isa. 48:6 You have heard; look at all this. And you, will you not declare it? I proclaim to you new things from this time, Even hidden things which you have not known.
B. The Jews and new things: Now the Jews were o.k. with new things – – As long as all these new things conformed to their old system and old way of doing things. In other words, new things were fine as long as they – the Jews – didn’t have to change, and they could still be in control; and the things they had put their security in were not challenged.
Example: I must admit – I have not traditionally been a lover of new things.
Steve Bolt at food court – my favorite restaurant up to that point was probably Burger King and Shoney’s (Bob’s Big Boy)
Anne at Baskin Robbins – 41 flavors – me = vanilla
My first Vineyard/charismatic conference in Hong Kong – – raising of hands and long extended worship;
My exposure to Jackie Pullinger’s ministry and the emphasis on speaking in tongues. I loved the obvious fruit I saw of Jackie’s ministry. But I did not like the connection speaking and praying in tongues appeared to have with it.
Now raising hands when worshipping is not a new thing. Has been around thousands of years. But it was new to me – – and participating in it would require me to do what I had never done in 30 years of church life.
And speaking in tongues has been around for at least 2,000 years; but participating in that would require me to ignore the abuses and extremes I had seen (or actually mostly just heard or read about); and it would require me to receive from the Holy Spirit something that I could not manufacture on my own; and it might require me to sound like an idiot; and it would certainly cause some of my anti tongues speaking friends and colleagues to reject me.
There is something in all of us that clings to the old and resists the new.
That’s why there is pretty well universal agreement among the leaders of Christ’s church that the seven last words of the church are: “We’ve never done it like that before.”
I want to speak to that a little more; but first I think we should make sure we are all clear on the major differences between the old covenant or old system that the Jews clung to so zealously; and the new Covenant that Jesus Christ ushered in through His sacrificial death and resurrection.
The new wine or the new life that Jesus Christ came to bring could not be contained, much less preserved in the old Judaic system or the old covenant.
The Old Covenant: 5 things
The Old Covenant was a physical covenant based on physical promises such as the promise of certain lands, etc.
It required physical circumcision for boys once they were of age.
It required a full adherence to every law, and there were hundreds if not thousands of them.
It required all kinds of offerings of both crops, animals and monies for the remission of sins and cleansing – – even though none of those truly brought about salvation and cleansing.
Worship was dependent upon human priests of a certain genealogical line.
The New Covenant: 6 things –
The New Covenant on the other hand was a spiritual covenant based on spiritual promises.
Circumcision was a spiritual surgery of the heart, not a physical surgery.
Sacrifices and ceremonial cleansings are no longer required because Jesus Christ made the once and forever sacrifice of His own blood that provides both forgiveness, salvation and cleansing.
The Holy Spirit instead of coming from time to time for specific enablements for specific tasks for certain people – – comes and indwells every believer for the rest of his or her earthly life.
Direct access to the Father is available for every person through Jesus Christ all the time in every place.
Priesthood is given to every believer – not just a few.
These are just a few of the differences.
Certainly with such a major overhaul of the life we now have in God, the old ways of doing and seeing things have to be overhauled as well.
So what is Jesus wanting to say to us today through this passage?
A. Jesus Christ has a vast wine closet or cellar of new wine that He is longing to pour out on His church.
Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.
If you have been born again, and are seeking to follow Him – you need to know that you are in store for an amazing ride. Your walk with Christ will be one new experience and one new way of looking at things after another.
For us as a congregation, we need to long and cry out for new wine/new life; and be very careful that we do not get comfortable with the old.
B. A call to a new kind of fasting for sons and daughters of the King who are living in these last days – – with the ultimate goal of securing “undistracted devotion to the Lord”. You see the fasting of old – especially for the average Jew was all formulaic, performance driven, and law based. It was rarely out of relationship with the Father. But the fasting that Jesus Christ is calling for today is relationship based. And it might change from day to day.
Am I saying that we shouldn’t have regular times of fasting? No, I’m not saying that at all. But I am saying that your fasting should be for the sole purpose of knowing Jesus more, and being more useable in His hands – – not for getting His blessing and trying to measure up to what others expect of you. While discussions of fasting in the Bible typically refer to fasting from food, I believe the Lord would have us think of it as touching other areas of life as well.
Might be from food, from drink, from media, from work (careful with that one), from sex from time to time if you are married, from hobbies, from my afternoon nap, from anything that I tend to hold on to and feel I have a right to.
I Cor. 7:29-31 “But this I say, brethren, the time has been shortened, so that from now on those who have wives should be as though they had none; and those who weep, as though they did not weep; and those who rejoice, as though they did not rejoice; and those who buy, as though they did not possess; and those who use the world, as though they did not make full use of it; for the form of this world is passing away.”
C. So what you are saying today is that this passage teaches that new is good; old is bad?? Not necessarily. I do want to alert you to the fact that the father of lies is an expert at twisting scripture to bring about his evil purposes. Please know that any newness that Jesus Christ wants to bring about will never be in violation of – or cross ways to the character of God and or the word of God.
And as far as I can tell – – the newness Jesus most wants to pour out on us is newness of attitude, newness in our thought patterns, newness in our responses, newness in our priorities, newness in our habits, etc. – – always with the focus on me as an individual.
“Therefore if any man be in Christ; he is a new creature; old things have passed away; behold new things have come.” II Cor. 5:17
A word about traditions:
Now I praise you because you remember me in everything and hold firmly to the traditions, just as I delivered them to you. I Cor. 11:2
So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter from us. II These. 2:15
What are those traditions? Well he doesn’t spell them out in these passages. But if you study all Paul’s letters, they are probably things like:
– reading and teaching the scriptures when the church gathers
– appointing elders to lead and shepherd the congregations
– observing communion from time to time
– setting aside times for prayer in our gatherings
– encouraging the men to lead in their homes, in the church and in the community, and encouraging the ladies to support and follow their lead – – encouraging godly order in our homes and in our church structures
– encouraging the congregation to be about ministering to the poor and needy in their congregation first and then in their community
CONCLUSION – Most of the discussion I have followed over the years re: this passage have been focused on church structures as the problem.
Tis a trap of the devil to focus on anything other than my own need for growth and change.