Monday, December 3, 2012

Luke 5 & 6 Selections: Teachings of Jesus

Luke 5:33 - 6:26

My thoughts on sermons at Andover Baptist.

Regarding Jesus' parable of the wineskins, I had previously asked the question in previewing this passage, "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."

No! There is much more going on in this parable than simply stating that it is not fitting for the disciples to fast.

And they said to him, “The disciples of John fast often and offer prayers, and so do the disciples of the Pharisees, but yours eat and drink.” And Jesus said to them, “Can you make wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in those days.” He also told them a parable: “No one tears a piece from a new garment and puts it on an old garment. If he does, he will tear the new, and the piece from the new will not match the old. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the new wine will burst the skins and it will be spilled, and the skins will be destroyed. But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins. And no one after drinking old wine desires new, for he says, ‘The old is good.’”
Luke 5:33-39 ESV

Jesus is using the picture of wineskins to illustrate the absurdity of seeking to continue the traditions of the Old Covenant and the ceremonial laws when the messiah, who is to fulfill the Old Covenant symbols, has already arrived. The clue to this interpretation of the parable is that Jesus first references Himself as the coming bridegroom.  It follows that the parable would also deal with the coming of Jesus and the New Covenant that would be put in place at His death.

There is nothing wrong with fasting.  The disciples will fast when it is appropriate.  But it will certainly not be according to the rules and traditions of the Pharisees. That would be completely missing the point of the newness of the covenant.

The point is not that Jesus feels it necessary to defend the question of fasting per se.  Instead, he uses the question of fasting to again point to His messianic intentions.  It does not make sense to continue with the pieces of the Old Covenant which are passing away when Jesus has arrived to usher in the New Covenant.

Remember that the veil was torn in two and Jesus became the once for all sacrifice, wiping away all of the ceremonial laws and sacrifices.

But did Jesus wipe away all of the law which applied to the Old Covenant saints? And how did Jesus interact with the Old Covenant law which was still in place until the veil was torn in two?

First we must recognize that the ceremonial law does not reflect the essence of God's character in the same way that His moral law (Ten Commandments) does.  For instance, in Leviticus 2 God commands His people to follow a specific procedure in preparing their grain offerings.  It had to include the salt of the covenant. The salt included in the grain offerings was a law that a sincere Israelite would follow from a heart of loving obedience to God. 

However, the salt in the grain was not a reflection of the moral essence of God in the same way that the command to have no other Gods before Him is. It is part of God's character to forbid idolatry and that continues into the New Covenant. The salt and the grain offering do not. The moral law and certain creation ordinances apply in the New Covenant.  Fasting and other traditions and ceremonies would certainly fall outside of this group of abiding laws, and so pass away.

But what about the laws in the Old Covenant that had yet to be abrogated by the New Covenant? How are we to understand the actions of Jesus with respect to the law still in place before His death?

Jesus shows that keeping the spirit of the law from a sincere heart of obedience is keeping the law. This should not have been a new understanding as we see this in the Old Testament when Daniel and his three friends seek to follow a kosher diet but can only approximate it. We would understand that these four Jews followed the law from their heart of obedience and their approach to keeping the spirit of the law even though it was impossible to be fully Kosher in Babylon. And similarly with David and his men who ate the show bread.  Jesus continues this practice by touching lepers (to heal them), dead bodies (to raise them), and other similar mercies. 

Instead of doing this, the Pharisees emphasized the letter of the law in addition to other rules that they had made up. The Pharisees twisted the law to their own advantage and showed no mercy.  While Jesus obeyed the spirit of the law while showing mercy to others.

And although Jesus does not appear to have even broken the letter of the law with regard to the Sabbath, He takes the same approach to the Sabbath as with the other ceremonial laws. He refuses to be bound here by the additional laws of the Pharisees.

But certainly the creation ordinance of the Sabbath day in addition to its inclusion in the Ten Commandments precludes it from passing away like the cremonial laws.

He chooses to show mercy on the Sabbath because it is a day made for man. Primarily to rest his soul and renew his relationship with God. And thus the Lord's Day in the New Covenant is a day for worship, spiritual renewal, works of mercy, and works of necessity as it was in the Old Covenant.  And it seems that this is the pattern set forth by Jesus.

This was a very helpful explanation of the deeper meaning of the parable of the wineskins.

Looking now at the Beatitudes we see three important things:
1) Poverty in material things is no sure sign of spirituality or of acceptance with God.  Jesus is here talking about those who are poor in the sense that they feel their need of Christ.  This is a recognition that all of our "good works" leave us poor in the sight of God and we need the riches of the righteousness of Jesus Christ. It is worth noting that it is more likely that the poor in material things will more easily recognize their poverty in spiritual things.  But clearly Jesus teaches that even the rich can be saved because, "with God all things are possible."

2) Hunger is your body's way of telling you that you will die without food. The metaphor here illustrates that those who hunger for righteousness will be satisfied.  Just as those who are poor will be made rich through Christ, so those who are hungry for righteousness will be filled in Christ.  When we repent of our sins and believe on Jesus Christ, we are given a fullness of joy and satisfaction which satisfies the infinite cravings of the human soul.  This is an important point.

Human desires are infinite. This truth is what makes life an empty, painful, and fruitless exercise if we do not have Jesus Christ. We will always be wanting more.  We see this truth illustrated when people become addicted to food, drugs, money, sex, work, or political power.  They seem to become a monster and eventually these addictions can lead to physical death. And they most certainly lead to spiritual death.

3) The world hated Jesus.  And when we link our reputation to Him we will also be hated.  This can come in many forms such as being excluded from friendships to being passed over for promotions at work. In other countries this takes the form of imprisonment, beatings, and death.  But we must always remember that a servant is not greater than his Master.  Just as Jesus was scorned, mocked, beaten, imprisoned, and killed, so we must be ready to follow Him in these things.

The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God and if children then heirs - heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ provided we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. Romans 8:16-18 See also Philippians 3.

As we saw in the evening service looking at Revelation 10 & 11, it is likely that Christians will increasingly suffer in these last days and times.  As the tares multiply among the wheat we will see the spread of the wheat but also the tares.  So we, like Christ, must suffer many things.   Within this framework we may still hope and pray that things get progressively better, for we do not know in what way the final plot will unfold. And yet, it is true that we will suffer.  But it is also true that Jesus will conquer His enemies and that the glory revealed to us will be much greater than the suffering we endure! But thanks to God that through His Holy Spirit He gives us peace in time of need and the courage and strength to follow the example of Jesus Christ. 

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