Bible Passage: Mark 2:18-22
The new relationship between God and his people can only be entered into with a new heart. #HopeEmerges #DaretoVenture
Series: Hope Emerges: The Story of Jesus
Discussion Guide: Old Wineskins & Fresh Timing
The Man of the Hour
The longer I live, the more I realize that one of the most difficult parts of life is to understand timing. We can all point to mistakes and missed opportunities in life where we did a good thing, but we did it at the wrong time.
There are many ways that we miss on timing in life, but I can think of at least a couple in which we often mess up.
We all know the person who is gripped with what we would call the “paralysis of analysis.” They literally never get anything done. Waiting for “the right time” to do something is an excuse for laziness. Don’t tell my wife, but this is the way I approach house projects. I never actually say no to anything, but it’s never the right time for me to block out a whole day or a whole week to get something done that I really don’t want to do anyway. This is also the person who has a perfect way of being predictably late to everything. For some people, it’s a fashionable thing to be late, but for others of us, we’re not late on purpose, but just because we can’t get it together.
Other people believe that everything worth doing is worth doing immediately. This is common for people who are young and don’t have enough experience to realize that time is on their side. It’s kind of like my kids. Whenever they get a dollar, it begins to burn a hole in their pockets. We teach them that they must set aside money for giving and for savings, but they really like to spend their money and spend it now. They don’t wait on sales; they don’t tend to have the discipline to save up for something bigger. They get a dollar and it’s 7 at night and they want to go to Five Below tonight! “It closes at 7” Well, we can go buy a slushie and a candy bar tonight at 7 eleven. “But we have juice and cookies already in the kitchen. For kids, there is no sense of timing, no sense of waiting for when it’s the appropriate time. But don’t we often live that way as adults?
The art of timing is the most misunderstood and least pursued life skill in today’s world. The reason so few of us can get it is simple: we don’t have perfect knowledge that can predict exactly what is going to happen in the future. So, when I don’t do a project around the house, I can always justify it by saying “how do I know a tree won’t fall tonight and ruin everything I just did?” Or my kids can justifiably say “how do we know that 7 eleven won’t run out of Slurpees?”
One really important quality of Jesus that I hope you don’t miss as we proceed through the Gospel of Mark is that he is the only man to ever live who possessed a perfect sense of timing. Jesus moves and acts and speaks with supreme confidence that the things he is saying and doing are true and right, that they are being said and done at exactly the right time. The very first words of Jesus in the Gospel of Mark are “The time is fulfilled; the kingdom of God is at hand.”
How can Jesus know these things that have remained a mystery to every human being until this point?
The reason Jesus could make such authoritative statements and act with the assurance that everything he did was in perfect timing is that he is the author of time and he understands its function better than any of us.
The most important aspect of Jesus’ sense of timing is related to the coming of a new covenant that had been promised for hundreds of years by Old Testament prophets
31″Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah,
32not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the LORD.
33But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
34 And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD, ‘for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”
26 I will make a covenant of peace with them. It shall be an everlasting covenant with them. And I will set them in their land and multiply them and will set my sanctuary in their midst forevermore.
Everything about Jesus’ life and ministry was pointing to the fact he himself was ushering in an exclusive new relationship between God and his people.
For the first time in the Gospel of Mark, Jesus has begun to use parables. Parables are common earthly examples of spiritual truths to help us understand what Jesus is teaching. In Mark 2:18-22, Jesus used parables to help us to recognize the ways in which the time has come for God’s relationship with his people to be made new.
18 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?”
19 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.
20The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in that day.
21 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.
22 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.”
Jesus gives us three truths about the perfect timing of the exclusive new relationship between God and his people.
The new relationship between God and his people is because of the presence of Jesus.
Have you ever been to a wedding where people expected it to be a sour and sad occasion? No, and in the first century, a wedding is an even grander and more spectacular event.
A wedding in first-century Israel was typically a week-long affair. Families would sometimes go into tremendous debt to put on a wedding that would impress not just the bride and their friends, but the entire community. A wedding was a community affair because it celebrated not just two people coming together in marriage, but it signified that two families were joining forces, that a new family was being created, and that there was hope for the future of the lineage, the wealth, and the standing of those families in the world. The whole village would take part in some aspects of the wedding throughout the week, but the friends and family closest to the ones being married were expected to be at the center of the celebration.
Because the wedding week was a celebration of two families and a hopeful view toward their future, it would be considered highly offensive for someone to show up at a wedding and say “You know, I see all of this expense and trouble that you have gone to have this celebration and open it up to so many people. But I really don’t feel like I want to partake of your food and wine. I’m on a diet, and I have some better stuff to eat at home.” Now if you were one of the bridegroom’s closest friends and you did this sort of thing, it would be considered the type of offense that would end your friendship with the bridegroom and his whole family. You just didn’t do it.
Not that fasting was considered to be a bad thing.
There were many reasons that a religious person would want to fast in the first century and even today. The Israelites were commanded to fast once a year on the Day of Atonement to reflect on their need for God’s mercy for sin. John’s disciples fasting would have been very consistent with the message that John preached about repentance because fasting could be seen as a sign that you were wanting to demonstrate repentance for sin. The Pharisees fasted not just once a year, but two days out the week. They wanted to show that they were religious superstars and could do that sort of thing.
To fast at the time of the presence of Jesus didn’t make sense because of the timing. The Messiah is here. The new way has come! The timing of fasting in the middle of the most joyous events the world has ever known would be highly offensive! It doesn’t fit the time when the man of the hour is here with us! People are celebrating, but it’s not a celebration for the sake of a party. There is something that is worth celebrating.
People are celebrating because of the presence of the bridegroom. The old reasons for fasting don’t make sense when the hero of the celebration is among us. This leads to the second truth that Jesus teaches concerning his new relationship with people.
The new relationship between God and his people is incompatible with old ways of thinking.
The first parable that Jesus tells in Mark 2:18-20 makes sense in regard to the question that Jesus was asked: “why do your disciples not fast?” But one thing I love about Jesus when he teaches is that he always goes a step further and answers the questions he is not asked, but that we need to know.
Jesus could have just answered the question about fasting, told us that fasting is sometimes good, but we don’t have to do it in his presence, and that would end the discussion. But the point that Mark is making in these verses really has very little to do with fasting and EVERYTHING to do with the most important thing in the world. Our eternal relationship with God.
“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.” Mark 2:21
What in the world is Jesus talking about? Jesus doesn’t explain this parable because an explanation wasn’t needed until recent days.
A lot of people have no idea what it is to patch clothes. Austin gives me grief about being cheap, but there is a method to my madness about cheapness. Let me explain.
Growing up, my mom actually knew how to sew patches onto clothes. I did this thing that kids today don’t know anything about. I played outside every day. This means that every single one of my pants had holes in the knees. So, what would my mom do with my pants? Instead of always throwing them away and spending money that she didn’t have on new clothes for me to just mess up again, she would sew a patch on the knees so I could just go on playing. This is the way clothing has worked for thousands and thousands of years before we just got so much Monopoly money that we don’t know what to do with it, so we just buy new everything. Some of you are smart and you’re like “I ain’t wasting money on clothes, I still patch mine up.” I’m with you, it’s just not for me anymore.
Since I don’t know how to sew patches, and I don’t want to take the time to learn, today I only buy clothes that cost a single digit in the dollar column. Make fun of me all you want to, but if I get a hole in my eight-dollar pants, I don’t have to feel bad about throwing them away.
I like my method because here’s the thing about patching clothes: it’s only a temporary fix. The patch is going to wear out. Specifically, the patch doesn’t usually wear out before the seam that holds the patch on the clothes wears out. Because the new patch and the old clothes are incompatible with one another. It’s not going to be a long-lasting relationship.
So, what does this have to do with the new relationship with God that Jesus came to proclaim? Jesus is telling us “the old ways of thinking about God, what he’s like, what he expects, and how we can be friends are completely incompatible with the Good News that I am bringing.” You can’t just take a Jesus patch, slap it onto old-time religion, and expect that you have a relationship with God that carries any lasting value. And yet that is exactly what we still try to do in the church.
There is a term moralistic therapeutic deism that was coined a few years ago by a sociologist at Notre Dame named Christian Smith. Christian authored a study about the religious lives of American teenagers some years back, and his conclusion is that what young people actually believed about God could not be summed up by the historic doctrines of the Christian faith but by moralistic therapeutic deism. What are the tenets of moralistic therapeutic deism?
- A God exists who created and ordered the world and watches over human life on earth.
- God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions. (Equality of all religious teaching)
- The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself. (Meism)
- God does not need to be particularly involved in one’s life except when God is needed to resolve a problem.
- Good people go to heaven when they die.
This study was conducted in the early 2000s so the people who were teenagers then are parents now. And I can tell you this belief structure has not gone away. In fact, many of us have probably pushed some of this thinking on our own children without even realizing it.
So, what typically happens in a young adult’s life is they have some relationship with the church, maybe it’s good, maybe it’s bad, maybe it’s a little bit of both. But many people get to a point where they don’t see Jesus as a vitally important part of everyday life unless there’s a big problem that they can’t handle on their own.
But this tends to change when we have kids. All of a sudden, I have a big “problem” or several of them that I know I can’t handle on my own. Not only do I have to feed and care for and keep these little crumb crunchers alive, but I am responsible to do everything I possibly can to make sure they grow up and become good responsible people who not only can take care of themselves but can take care of me and my grandkids someday.
That thought has kept me awake freaking out many nights.
So that when we say “hey, I remember going to church and they taught me the ten commandments, which are really good rules that we should live by. And I learned stories about Jesus, who was this really great guy who loved people, healed them, and was really nice to everybody. And I learned some songs and poems and precious promises that made me feel really nice and secure on the inside, so maybe I can recover that feeling.”
Now, if that’s where you are at, I don’t want you to hear any condemnation. The church is a really awesome place for you to be and your kids to be. And we actually do need to learn all of the things that you are looking for. But just don’t think that is the point of why Jesus came.
Many people bring their kids to church hoping they will become better people, but it backfires, and they actually become worse. Many teenagers go to youth groups hoping to find some entertainment or thoughts that will help them feel better about themselves, but they only slip into deeper depression. In short, moralistic therapeutic deism may put a band-aid on your spiritual problems, but it will ultimately cause a deeper tear in your soul until you are able to get real about who Jesus really is and what he came to do.
Remember those OT Scriptures about the new covenant? Jesus didn’t come to make the same old people feel better about themselves, he came to create new people by giving them a new heart, which is the third truth about the timing of God’s new relationship with his people.
The new relationship between God and his people can only be entered into with a new heart.
“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 2:22
Back in Biblical times, they didn’t have factories that made bottles out of glass or plastic or aluminum that you could fill up with juice, or wine, or soda and then drink whenever it would be convenient. They would actually take and clean the skin of an entire goat or sheep, tie off one of the ends, and pour wine into the skin that had begun the process of fermentation. They would then tie off the other end of the skin to keep the wine secure and clean until it finished the fermentation process and was ready to drink.
Skins worked very well for making wine because as the wine fermented and produced gases it would expand. The new skin was able to hold the new wine because it had the ability to expand along with the gases that the wine was putting out. It would make no sense to put new wine into old wineskins because the old wineskin would just break apart and you would lose both the wine and the wineskin.
What is the lesson here?
With Jesus on the scene, there is a relationship, a closeness with God that has never before been fully realized.
You see the religion of the day was great at teaching people about how God was set apart. Everyone knew that God should be accorded respect. He was perfect. He was holy. And he was distantly set apart.
Do you remember the line about deism? Deism is one of the most destructive beliefs about God because it takes some partial truths and makes them the full reality. God creates the world. He gives us rules to live by and then he takes a step back.
But when Jesus comes telling us that he is God, that throws the concept of deism on its head. The holy creator God who set the entire world going has stepped into the world to know people, to know suffering, and to rescue us from our sins, failures, and shortcomings. He has done EVERYTHING to allow us to have a relationship of intimacy with God. It’s a new wine. It’s growing faith. And it’s very good.
It would make zero sense to take this good new relationship with God and attempt to put it into an old vessel that failed over and over to bring us any sort of intimacy with God.
Jesus came to put aside the old man, the old way of doing things, the old thinking, and to give us a new heart that sees him clearly and actually desires to be close to HIM. That is the Gospel. That is why Jesus came.
Am I doing things associated with following Jesus merely because I recognize that they can result in good outcomes for my life? Or am I pursuing Christ because he has given me a new heart with a new way of knowing Him fully and completely?
I can pursue good morals and good practices with absolutely zero thought to the inner man. I can be involved in all sorts of really great church activities but pay no attention to fellowship with Jesus and enjoying the love and intimacy that he has for me.
And ultimately, it may not be today or tomorrow, a life that does good things with no relationship with Jesus will crack and be exposed. And all of those really great activities will mean nothing because you missed Jesus, who is right here with you.
So, my invitation is to come and know Jesus.