Friday, November 21, 2008

New Cloth and Wine

Note: Posted by Farrah -- Greg has been busy!

Matt. 9
[14] Then came to him the disciples of John, saying, Why do we and the Pharisees fast oft, but thy disciples fast not?[15] And Jesus said unto them, Can the children of the bridechamber mourn, as long as the bridegroom is with them? but the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken from them, and then shall they fast.[16] No man putteth a piece of new cloth unto an old garment, for that which is put in to fill it up taketh from the garment, and the rent is made worse.[17] Neither do men put new wine into old bottles: else the bottles break, and the wine runneth out, and the bottles perish: but they put new wine into new bottles, and both are preserved.

John’s disciples and the Pharisees were accustomed to following the Old Testament laws and traditions that they had grown up with. They were used to fasting regularly and couldn’t understand why Jesus’ disciples didn’t fast as well.

One might ask: What is the purpose of fasting? I see it as a way of showing God how serious we are about wanting an answer to prayer or to draw closer to Him. But what would be the point of doing so when God is standing right there, big as life, talking to you? Jesus’ disciples had no reason to fast. Anything they needed to discuss with God could be addressed immediately and receive a direct flesh and blood answer.

There was a problem with the Old Covenant. It was insufficient in that it could not result in a changed heart or clear conscience. The Word says that the law was our school teacher and a shadow of things to come. We would not know what sin is unless there is a law telling us what and what not to do. The law was meant to open our eyes to our inadequateness for meeting God’s approval. It showed our great need for a Savior, the perfect sacrifice that could actually cleanse us from sin and write the law on our hearts, giving rise to real change.

One thing we know about old clothing and wine bottles is that at one time they were new. You might say the first covenant was beautiful in its youth. Imagine God carving out the Ten Commandments with His own Hand so that Moses could deliver them to His people. Picture a law that could bring peace and prosperity if God’s people would only follow it. Envision the temple in the time of Solomon with all of its earthly glory – the gold and precious stones, the carved flowers, cherubims, and the priests with their long and ornate, robes.

Yet the garment wasn’t perfect, and as time went by that became ever clearer. The threads began to wear as God’s people repeatedly disobeyed and were punished. The riches in His house were plundered, His temple destroyed, and by the time Jesus was born the last remnants of the first covenant were barely recognized. God’s house was overrun with corrupt Pharisees and opportunists seeking only prophet. It had become a den of thieves.

We know that there were good pieces of cloth left, people who were sincere and devoted, anxiously awaiting the promised Messiah. We get to meet a couple of them in Luke 2. There was Simeon, the priest who had been told he would not die until he had seen the promised Christ. And there was Anna, a widow of “great age” who rejoiced to see Jesus and spoke of him to those “that looked for redemption in Israel.” It’s interesting to note that these two people themselves were not unlike an old garment, being near to the end of their lives.

In both of Jesus’ examples, a problem was implied. The old, worn-out garment was in need of a patch, else why would a new piece of cloth be added? And the old wine bottles were empty, else why would we consider refilling them? In the same way, the Old Testament laws were worn-out and “ready to vanish away.” They were insufficient for meeting our spiritual needs. History was on the brink of prophecy fulfillment, the desperately needed “patch” had arrived, the new wine was about to be poured out. But some wanted to keep their old ways and traditions. They were comfortable with their old clothes and wine bottles.

The problem is that it won’t work. Remember that the garment has a hole and the bottles are empty. So what did God send to fix things? A patch? No, a brand new replacement, a set of divine royal robes far superior to anything the law could give. Jesus did not die simply to patch things up. He died so that old things could pass away and all things could be made new. He came to fulfill the law, not fix it. The law was trying to make us show love without having it in our hearts. Jesus came to give us a brand new garment and new wine to put into new bottles. If we attempt to cling to our old life or our old traditions or even the Old Testament laws, it just won’t work. The tear will be made worse and the bottles will break.

It can be hard to let go of traditions. To the Pharisees the old wine was best, and in real life old wine really IS the best. But they didn’t realize that the bottles were empty. With the death of Jesus approaching, those old bottles were going to be as dry as a desert. Once a better way has come, and the old and new are viewed side by side, the old looks even worse. Imagine an old shirt with holes. Next to it is a brand new one. Which of the following would you do: Cut pieces from the new shirt to patch the holes in the old one or toss the old shirt and wear the new one? People do a great disservice to Jesus when they try to keep their old ways and Him, too. It detracts from what He came to do and makes it appear as if He is insufficient. It interferes with His plans for our lives and causes us to miss out on blessings.

What the Pharisees didn’t realize is that with Jesus’ presence on earth, He had already initiated the abandoning of the old garment for the new. John had prepared the way for the New Covenant. Soon Jesus would be crucified and rise again. Then, He would return to heaven and send the Holy Spirit, which would guide men in their new lives. There would still be times for fasting and prayer, but not because of old laws and traditions, not the way the Pharisees viewed fasting as something that must be done repetitiously and out of duty.

The new garment is the only garment worth having.

10 comments:

Greg said...

Amen, Hon! Jesus did indeed do away with the first, so that He may establish the second. But the beauty of it is that in establishing the New Covenant, He fulfilled the Old.

Nitewrit said...

Farrah,

A discussion of this passage came up this past Sunday at church and what you said is exactly what was said there.

Nice, thorough post.

Larry E,

nutuba said...

Hi all,

Wonderful post! We (humans) have a tendency to want to follow a list of rules because then we feel we did it all ourselves.

You're writing hit the nail on the head. Fasting for fasting's sake is now meaningless. Fasting so that we can be in deeper prayer or a more focused Bible time, on the other hand, is a different matter ...

I'd like to add a link to your blog from mine. I look forward to more of your writing!

Regards,
Joel (nutuba)

Great Googly Moogly! said...

Very nice post, Farrah. I really enjoyed your imagery and your heart is displayed in your writing.

"It was insufficient in that it could not result in a changed heart or clear conscience."

"He came to fulfill the law, not fix it. The law was trying to make us show love without having it in our hearts."

These are excellent statements! The Law as promise was never intended to accomplish this because it only spoke of the One (Jesus) who, as the fulfillment of the Law, does accomplish this.

But I would go further and say that the Law was our "tutor", as Paul says, because it actually shows us Christ. It does this by defining who the "Israel" of God is--His "elect" consecrated "son", "servant", "disciple", who lives in intimacy with Him. The Law really shows us the "human being" who is truly conformed to Him as His "image-bearer". Jesus, as God's "elect" consecrated "Son", "Servant", "Disciple" and who is the "image" of God in the truest sense (2Cor. 4:4; Col. 1:15; Heb. 1:3, etc.), is this "human being" and we become this in Him as the Spirit now conforms us (back) into the image of Christ that was marred in The Fall!

"You might say the first covenant was beautiful in its youth."

I really like this statement. The beauty of the covenant is that it portrays Christ; it paints the portrait of Christ (as does all of the Scripture). The corruptions that came caused the people to miss Christ when He arrived because they did not recognize Him as the fulfillment of the covenant. The New Covenant is really the fulfillment of the Old Covenant and Jesus rightly condemns them for not recognizing Him as they continue to hang on to the "old garment" and "old wineskin".

I was very encouraged by your post. Greg can stay "busy"...you're doing a great job! :-)

(Sorry Greg...it will be nice to hear from you, too!)

GGM

Greg said...

Thanks for stopping by, Joel. I added a link to one of your blogs, as well.

Farrah said...

Praise the Lord! I appreciate all the kind words. :-)

Tamela's Place said...

Great post farrah, very well put and easy to understand! I choose the new shirt! :)

jeleasure said...

"There was a problem with the Old Covenant. It was insufficient in that it could not result in a changed heart or clear conscience".

Good insight. Then we get a perfect garmet without seems.

I have not been able to do much blogging this week. So, I am posting a link to my site, as I have published a new entry. Click here to go to Journaling For Growth.
Thanks, Jim

jeleasure said...

Hi Greg and Farrah,
We Christians have a responsibility to promote peace. I have something I would like for the two of you to consider for the sake of promoting peace.

Obama's born Conspiracy
The link above will take you to a blog from one of the analyst who determined Barak Obama's Certificate of Live Birth to be a forged copy. The blog will tell you exactly what he did to discover the fraud and display the evidence. It took me nearly two hours to get through this.
Give credit to Christine of Talk Wisdom for sending this on to me.
I believe if you ask your readers to take this link, and distribute it to as many people as they possibly can, we may be able to avoid a race war which the mainstream media is setting us up for by not reporting the story as it unfolds. What we can do is soften the shock and ease anger before the possibility of The SCOTUS announcing they will try the case.

jeleasure said...

Happy Thanksgiving!