Thursday, April 05, 2012

120405 - Mark 2-3 - the new wine

Thursday SOAP: What's showing in my life? Old cloth? A form of godliness with no real power behind it? Am I most comfortable when I look like the religious people? Or am I OK with an anointed head and a washed, smiling face?

S:     Now John's disciples and the Pharisees were fasting. And people came and said to him, “Why do John's disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in that day. No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. If he does, the patch tears away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear is made. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins—and the wine is destroyed, and so are the skins. But new wine is for fresh wineskins.” (Mark 2:18-22)

O: The Pharisees sent spies out to see John the Baptist conduct his ministry, and heard his warning. (Matthew 3:7-10) They said he had a demon. (Matthew 11:18) But they found common ground in his practice of fasting. Now they wanted to know why Jesus didn't teach such discipline to His disciples.

A: Looking again at John's advice to the Sadducees and Pharisees gives a better understanding to Jesus' words and a valuable warning to us. He warned them to bring forth fruits befitting repentance. If John's fasting was about repentance, like his baptism was (Luke 3:3, Acts 19:4), then it is a different picture of fasting than the fasting of the Pharisees. (Matthew 6:16, Luke 18:12)

Jesus said His disciples would fast. But not the way the Pharisees fasted. They believed their fasting made them righteous. (See Mark 2:17) That was the "old cloth" Jesus was talking about. Once Jesus was taken away, the disciples did fast. (Acts 13:2-3, 14:23, 1 Corinthians 7:5, 2 Corinthians 11:27) But it wasn't the same kind of fasting as the Pharisees. It was, as the AV calls it, "a day for a man to afflict his soul." (Isaiah 58:5, KJV) Not for show, with a sad look and a disfigured face (with ashes on the forehead, perhaps?), but as an experiment of faith: does my spiritual life take precedence over my physical comfort?

The new wine, or new cloth, is the use of spiritual disciplines like fasting to force me against my limitations and find my sufficiency in God alone. Is the Christian life all about performance and doing? No - it's about "abiding." (John 15:4,5) It's about being. But until my abiding in Christ conflicts with my comfort zone, how do I know if I'm living by His power or having only an outward appearance of godliness but denying the power thereof? (2 Timothy 3:5) That's the old cloth patched on the new garment.

To the Pharisees, external performance was equivalent to righteousness. That's why they were offended that Jesus hosted tax-collectors and his disciples didn't fast. He didn't dance to their sheet of music. (Matthew 11:17) James 2:18 breaks down entirely when we miss the subtle distinction between faith demonstrated by works and righteousness by works. My trust in Christ for redemption is demonstrated when I can also trust Him to sustain me when I attempt to do something that isn't natural.

P: Father, I pray always to be overshadowed by your power, that whatever is seen results in your glory and not my own secret gloating.


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