March 10

Text: Matthew 9:16, 17

"But no one puts a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; for the patch pulls away from the garment, and a worse tear results.  Nor do men put new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the wineskins burst, and the wine pours out, and the wineskins are ruined; but they put new wine into fresh wineskins, and both are preserved." (NASB)

Jesus was not the norm.  When a person’s emphasis differs from EVERYONE else’s, it makes the person challenging to understand.  Why?  He thinks differently.  John’s disciples were accustomed to a leader being different—John was NOT an “everyday person.” However, to them, Jesus was confusing.

For example, Jesus and his disciples did not fast as did all religious people they knew.  Why?  Jesus explained at that moment fasting was not appropriate for him and his disciples. Then he gave this text.

Clothing was valuable.  Tears were patched.  If a tear was patched with unshrunk cloth, when the patch of cloth shrunk, it made the tear bigger.  The intended remedy made the problem worse!

Fresh, flexible wineskins were used as storage bottles for fresh grape juice.  The fermentation process made new, flexible skins become brittle and inflexible.  If grape juice were put in old wineskins, the gas produced by the fermentation process would destroy everything.  The wineskins would explode instead of expanding.  The result: all would be lost—grape juice and wineskins.

While Jesus’ examples need explanation to us, they needed no explanation to them.  His teachings were never intended to be the basis for a reformation movement in Israel.  Jesus was not about reform, but about stressing God’s ALWAYS intents, purposes, and values.  To use his teachings to attempt to “patch things up” or to force his teachings into old Jewish forms would result in matters in Israel becoming destructively worse.  He was the way to God, not a revitalization of old misunderstandings.

Following Jesus, now as then, demands thinking and understanding.   Jesus is not about making old religious forms workable, but about making us new by emphasizing God’s intents.

Suggestion for reflection: Do you use Jesus to reform old convictions, or does Jesus challenge you to think about matters you never considered?  (Read Romans 5:1-11.)

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