Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Mark 2:18-22 New Wine for New Wineskins

18 The disciples of John and of the Pharisees were fasting. Then they came and said to Him, “Why do the disciples of John and of the Pharisees fast, but Your disciples do not fast?” 19 And Jesus said to them, “Can the friends of the bridegroom fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them they cannot fast. 20 “But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast in those days. 21 “No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; or else the new piece pulls away from the old, and the tear is made worse. 22 “And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; or else the new wine bursts the wineskins, the wine is spilled, and the wineskins are ruined. But new wine must be put into new wineskins.”

Under the Law of Moses there was only one commanded fast day; the Day of Atonement (Lev. 23:27-32; Num. 29:7). Now as a general rule a fast lasted from morning till evening (Judges 20:26), if abstaining from food or food and water. Or it could last up to seven days if just abstaining from food (1 Samuel 31:13). A fast could also entail abstaining from all that came from the vine including wine as a part of the Nazarite's vow (Num. 6:1-8). Or food and water for several days as in case of Ester and Mordecai as they interceded for their Jewish brethren (Ester 4) or the Ninevites in their repentance before God (Jonah 3:5-9). Now fasting was often externally displayed to God by the wearing of sackcloth and ashes and or mourning (Nehemiah 9:1; Ester 4:1). While the purpose of fasting was often multifaceted; to express sorrow for ones sins (1 Sam. 7:6), mourn loss of life (2 Sam. 1:12), intercede on behalf of another (1 Sam. 12:15-23; Ps. 35:13), request God’s intervention in times of crises (2 Kings 19:1-4; Ester 4:16-17; Nehemiah 1:4-11; Daniel 9), to seek to know and do His will (Ezra 8:21-23), or express humility before, and dependence on God, when chastised, oppressed, or faced with His judgment (1 Kings 21:27-29; Ps. 69:1-36; Matthew 11:20-24). Though judgment is not something a Christian need fear because of their believing in Jesus Christ the Lord (John 5:24).

Now in time fasting became an integral part of Israelite worship and the means by which they often judged themselves as being in right relationship with God. God had other ideas about their fasting though when during their fasting they pursued their own pleasures, were exploiting their laborers, or were being unjust, oppressive, at odds with each other, or were living indifferent towards their brethren who were impoverished (See Isaiah 58). Therefore God commanded the Israelites that the fast He has chosen is not a day of religious affliction. The fast that God has chosen is not a day for a person to afflict their soul, or bow themselves down like a bulrush, or put on the wearing of sackcloth and ashes etc., (Isaiah 58:5) but of drawing near to Him daily by “doing justly, loving mercy and walking humbly with Him.” Micah 6:8 Therefore God commanded Israel to first render their hearts to Him and not just their garments (See Joel 2:12-17).

Unfortunately even in their exile and post exilic period, Israelite fasts were still often just ritualistic observances in God’s sight, since their hearts were not focused on seeking Him, or their lives were being lived devoid of doing justice, showing mercy and compassion etc. Not oppressing or planning evil against ones brother is what God wants. Therefore God by His Spirit through the prophet Zechariah rebuked their fasting for lacking those qualities that make for genuine worship of Him, like kindness and love (Zech. 7:5-14). Therefore drawing closer to God and especially Jesus Christ through the New Covenant means to draw closer to God's love, not His judgment. Similarly the Lord Jesus saw fasting beyond mere abstinence of food and He underscored right motivation behind it. As well He cautioned about disheveled appearances and making a display of ones fasting to be seen fasting by men (Matt. 16:16-18; 23:5). Rather Jesus commended fasting that it is done in secret, God will reward openly (Matt. 6:5-13; 6:16-18). Now in rare cases the Bible records prolonged fasts; Moses on Mount Sinai; Jesus in the Wilderness etc. These kinds of fasts are by their nature supernatural and are not fasts that the Lord Jesus Christ would have His people enter into on their own initiatives, as is clear by their contexts (See Ex. 24:12-18; Matt. 4:1-11; Mark 1:12-13).

Similarly by God’s design John the Baptists fasting and ascetic lifestyle belongs to him as the last of the Old Covenant prophets. For he was to live a life of the Nazarite and represent Elijah to the people, as the Lord Jesus Christ’s forerunner, as the angel Gabriel heralded at his birth. “For he will be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink. He will also be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. 16 “And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. 17 “He will also go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, ‘to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children,’ and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” Luke 1:15-17

Therefore John the Baptist lived a life that was exclusively for and dependent on the Lord, just as Elijah the prophet did (See 1 Kings 17:1-16; 2 Kings 1:7-8; Matt. 3:1-12; Luke 1:13-17 etc.). Now when John had preached repentance to Israel and baptized many people to prepare them for the coming of the Lord; and having both announced Jesus’ arrival as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29-34), and declared Jesus Christ to be the Son of God, Jesus being baptized by him, (according to the will of God to fulfill all righteousness) and Jesus Himself being testified to by the God the Father, as His Son and Anointed by the Holy Spirit (Matt. 3:13-17). John’s purposes were essentially fulfilled (John 3:30-36). Thus John went on to be arrested then martyred as the greatest and last of the Old Covenant prophets (Matt. 17:10-13). While the Pharisees made fasting and also tithing an end in of itself (Luke 18:9-14). There is nothing in the N.T. that indicates that their fasting drew them any closer to God or made them more concerned for the welfare of their fellow person. Unlike John the Baptist who preached doing works of repentance towards God by doing justice and showing mercy towards ones fellow person (Luke 3:10-14).

Now both John the Baptist’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting. And it was while they were fasting that they; that is John’s disciples (See Matt. 9:14) came to Jesus and said to Him “Why do the disciples of John and of the Pharisees fast, but Your disciples do not fast?” vs. 18 It is important to note that at this point John the Baptist had already been taken into Herod’s custody and placed in prison, which will be relevant to the answer Jesus will give them. Here then they ask the Lord Jesus why His disciples don’t fast, rather they eat and drink, while they; that is the disciples of John the Baptist and the Pharisees fast. In both Matthew and Luke it is said that they fasted often. Now Jesus responds to their inquiry by using an analogy of a bridegroom celebrating with his friends for as long as the bridegroom is with them they cannot fast. Jesus then likens His Presence with the disciples as such a time. Fasting is out of the question then for Christ’s disciples as long as He is in Bodily Presence with them. However Jesus immediately goes on and say’s “But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast in those days.” Vs. 20

The veiled reference here is of the time of Jesus’ own arrest, crucifixion, resurrection and ascension back to the Father. Not until then; when Jesus Christ having walk amongst His disciples forty days after rising from the dead on the third day, and having opened the Scriptures to them, in preparing them for their mission ahead, and the Holy Spirit being poured out on them, will the disciples fast (See Luke 24:44-53; Acts 1-2). Then fasting is clearly practiced as ministering to the Risen Lord, or by leadership before making critical decisions (Acts 13:1-3) or commending men for Christ’s service (Acts 14:23). It is even encouraged by the Apostle Paul for husbands and wives by mutual consent, to abstain from conjugal relations and give themselves to prayer and fasting for a time, but then to come together again (1 Cor. 7:5). Fasting then that is a time of abstinence of food or other things to seek or serve the Lord runs through the Old Covenant on into the New (Luke 3:36-38 Acts 10:1-8). The Apostle Paul being a former Pharisee who frequented relations with Jews in the hopes of winning them was a man who fasted often (Acts 18:18; 27:21; 2 Cor. 11:27). Though he never commanded anyone else too, rather he said that believers should not judge each other whether they fast or do not fast; since food; either eating or abstaining, does not commend us to the Lord (Rom. 14:3-4; 1 Cor. 8:8). Therefore he warned not to heed those who would command abstinence from either food or marriage (Col. 2:20-23; 1 Tim. 4:1-3). The Lord Jesus Christ also exhorted the disciples that certain demons do not come out without prayer and fasting (Matt. 17:14-21; Mark 9:14-29).

However what does not run through from the Old Covenant on into the New is attributing any efficacy to act of fasting itself. You do not need to fast to be in a right relationship with God. You need to have faith in Jesus Christ crucified and risen from the dead to be in a right relationship with God. Fasting then does not bring you into a relationship with the Lord, only faith does. Now Jesus goes on to say: “No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; or else the new piece pulls away from the old, and the tear is made worse. 22 “And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; or else the new wine bursts the wineskins, the wine is spilled, and the wineskins are ruined. But new wine must be put into new wineskins.” Vs. 21-22

The first analogy Jesus uses here is of repairing an old garment by sowing in a new piece of unshrunk cloth. Which only causes the new to pull away from the old, and the garment’s tear is made worse. The new garment is of course the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ and the New Covenant He ushered in. If you try to attach it to the Law, the tear (metaphorically speaking) which separates sinful man from God through the Law will only be made worse (See Gal. 2:16, 19-21, 3:10-14; 3:19-26; 4:21-31, 5:1, 4-5). You cannot combine faith in Jesus Christ with one's own works to attain to God's grace; otherwise both will be ruined (Rom. 11:6). For the gospel is a demonstration of God’s Righteousness to save every sinner who repents and believes in the Lord Jesus Christ crucified and Risen from the dead (Mark 1:15). While the Law says: “The man who does those things shall live by them” Lev. 18:5 That is the person who seeks to be saved by the law, must live by it all, not just certain segments of it. There is no grace than for the person who seeks to be justified before God through their own obedience to the Law yet fails to keep just one point of it, they will be held as guilty of all of it (James 2:13). Therefore justification before God through the Law is impossible for anyone to attain to (Rom. 3:19-28). It is for that reason the Biblical Apostles refused to command those Gentiles who were turning to God through faith in Jesus Christ to be put back under the law and its stipulations; which neither they nor their fathers could fulfill (See Acts 15:1-28, vs. 8-11 bellow). 8 “So God, who knows the heart, acknowledged them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He did to us, 9 “and made no distinction between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. 10 “Now therefore, why do you test God by putting a yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? 11 “But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved in the same manner as they.” Acts 15:8-11

The Apostle Paul in his epistle to the Romans summed up the difference between law and grace this way: “4 Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. 5 But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness, 6 just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works:

7 “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven,
And whose sins are covered;
8 Blessed is the man to whom the LORD shall not impute sin.” Rom. 4:4-8

Ultimately then you either grow in God’s grace which leads to living a more righteous life than you ever could’ve under the law (1 Cor.15:56) because you live a Spirit led life of liberty bound by “love, joy, peace, longsuffering , kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, against such there is no law (Gal. 5:22-23). Or you grow in your dedication to the law and express and bear the futility that goes with trying to do so (Rom. 4:15). Therefore grow in your dedication to the Lord Jesus Christ and the gospel and bear the fruits of it, by grace and truth (2 Cor. 3:5-6, 9, 17). “For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” John 1:17 The second analogy that Jesus uses is of new wine being put into old wineskins which no one does because the new wine bursts the old wineskins, the wine is spilled and both are ruined. Therefore new wine must go into new wineskins. Like with the first Jesus uses again the analogy of incompatibility through a metaphor common to those whom He spoke it.

Hence the Lord Jesus brings us into a relationship with God the Father through the gospel, not the law and the gospel, but the gospel. For the Holy Spirit will not be poured into someone bound under works of the law when Jesus Christ has made faith in Himself the only way to peace with God (John 3:16; 14:6; Rom. 3:19-28; 5:1; Gal. 3:2-3). Therefore when anyone believes in Jesus Christ crucified for their sins forgiveness and risen from the dead God’s Spirit indwells in them. No matter what they’ve done, or have not done, all alienation from God ends the moment someone believes in Jesus Christ (Eph. 1:13-14). Which is why the Apostle Paul, whose life portrayed Christ crucified to the Galatians was so upset with them for their turning away from the grace of God which brings His Spirit, to works of the law, which does not. “This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? 3 Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?” Gal. 3:2-3

God’s Spirit or your own flesh? In other words are trusting in Jesus Christ crucified for your sins forgiveness or your own works? For it is only by Holy Spirit regeneration that we being changed into Christ likeness, just as Jesus' righteousness is imputed to us, as it is to every sinner who believes in Him (2 Cor. 5:21). Therefore it's either Jesus Christ's Righteousness imputed to us by faith in His Person or ones own righteousness by one's obedience to the Law to try to justify one before God, which is again contrary to the gospel. For you cannot have both faith and works, as the Scripture says: “And if by grace, then it is no longer of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace. But if it is of works, it is no longer grace; otherwise work is no longer work.” Rom. 11:6 Therefore though faith is proved real by one’s works (James 2:17-18, 26). Ones own works does not bring one into God's, only faith in Jesus does (Rom. 3:26-28; Eph. 2:8-9 etc.). Hence the only way to have God’s salvation is by His grace through faith in His Son Jesus Christ crucified and risen from the dead for our sins remission. Then we are to do the good works; born out of a regenerated life; that He has prepared before hand for us to do, (Eph. 2:1-10; Titus 3:4-9).

The Holy Spirit is the Power Source and He only indwells and empowers us who hold onto Jesus Christ as our righteousness before God (John 3). The law on the other hand only brings a curse; not grace; judgment (Gal. 3:10-14). Therefore new wine must be put into new wineskins. The Holy Spirit’s outpouring is a result of the gospel’s completion and thus the New Covenant being enacted. Therefore the Holy Spirit is poured into the New not the Old.

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