My preliminary thoughts on the passage to be preached this Sunday.
Luke has established the divine origin of Jesus, recounted His temptation in the wilderness, and discussed the beginning of Jesus' ministry. One final note on Chapter 4: Jesus fulfilled the prophecy in Deuteronomy 18:15 which says, "The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers - it is to him you shall listen." And just as Moses fasted forty days on the mountain, Jesus fasted forty days in the wilderness.
This is just another interesting pointer to fulfilled prophecy, the unity of scripture, and the beauty of God's plan of redemption!
It is interesting to note also how God works in ministry. Just as Peter had a horrible night fishing and then a bursting net of fish a few minutes later, so he also found a bountiful harvest fishing for men on the day of Pentecost when God moved with power. It was almost as if the nets were bursting then as well.
Jesus begins to become famous as a miracle worker. But he is not merely a miracle worker. He goes farther and forgives sins. This is an act reserved to God alone as testified by the Pharisees, "... who can forgive sins but God alone?" Surely, the messianic role of Jesus was clear both to Himself and all who attended His early ministry. Had his disciples added these incidents later they would have been widely dismissed by all who witnessed these things. The theory that Jesus' disciples made things up later regarding His divinity are hyper-sceptical in that they depart from the accepted methods of historic inquiry for the sole purpose of denying Christ's divinity. When several primary historic sources concur with consistency the evidence is not so easily dismissed by simply inventing sceptical negations. Luke purposely indicates the divine aspects of Jesus' actions.
For someone like me, who is a finance professional working for a large corporation, I find the call of Levi very reassuring. God can use finance people too, be it in secular or ministerial vocation.
But infinitely more reassuring is the wonderful statement, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance." I am such a horrible sinner and I can identify myself more clearly as one who is sick. This is one of the most exciting and comforting verses in all of scripture. Are you a sick and wretched sinner at the end of your rope? Then you're just the type of person Jesus came to save. "All the fitness he requireth is to feel your need of Him" quoted from Come Ye Sinners a hymn by Joseph Hart 1712-1768.
Now to the meaning of the wineskin analogy. It seems that Jesus is saying that fasting during His time on earth is not fitting. Similarly, it is not fitting to put new wine into old wine skins because the new wine will burst the skins due to fermentation and all the wine will be wasted. Is this simply a statement regarding a practice not being fitting or appropriate? I have never researched this one and perhaps the question will be explored tomorrow, but that is what this passage seems to be saying.
But I must also say that this is yet another passage of scripture which points to the appropriateness of drinking wine. Else, would not Jesus have chosen a more "seemly" analogy? But that is a side issue and this would not be the most convincing of such passages anyway. And yet it does sit there asking the question, "how can you say all drinking of alcohol is sin?"
This passage also begs the question, are you fasting? This practice has fallen out of favor it seems. I know the proper approach to fasting is to go about your business as any other day so perhaps the proper method of fasting is widespread and I just don't know who is fasting and when. But I doubt that very much. I've been close to enough Christians to know their eating schedule and habits and this practice has certainly fallen on hard times. Not that I am the fasting police and not that I am the model of proper fasting. But where is fasting taught and relished in our day? I'm not sure. Granted, it is one of the lesser issues the church faces today and is no cause for making a ruckus. And yet it is an issue that ought to be more clearly taught and modeled in the church.