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TEXT: Luke 5:33-39
SUBJECT: Luke #16: All Things New
Today, with the Lord's help, we'll move on in our study of Luke's Gospel. It's main character, of course, is the Lord Jesus Christ, who dominates every story-and properly so, because, "In all things He must have the preeminence".
Thus far, the Lord has made a very bad impression on the Scribes and Pharisees. He got off on the wrong foot by telling them to repent. If they want to be acceptable to God, being better men isn't good enough. They've got to become new creatures in Christ. That didn't go over too well.
And then things got worse. In the synagogue one morning He read from the prophecy of Isaiah and said it-and the rest of God's Promises-were fulfilled in Him. This nearly got Him killed.
But it did not intimidate the Lord. A bit later, in a room full of Pharisees, eager to find fault with Him, he forgave a man all of his sins against God. Thus equating Himself with the Lord. Another black mark against Him in their book.
If all this wasn't bad enough, He called a tax collector to follow Him and then spent several hours enjoying the company of every lowlife in Israel.
The Scribes and Pharisees had had it up to here with our Lord. But He does not back down. In fact, He goes on in today's passage and others to up the ante, to offend them even more deeply than He has already.
The issue here-and in the next paragraph, especially, is the Old Covenant and it's public sign, the Sabbath.
Read in 2002 A.D., what He says is not that shocking. But at the time what the Lord said must have horrified His enemies-and left His friends scratching their heads too.
We'll get to that later today-and next week, Lord willing, but for now, the story.
The story starts with a question,
"Why do the disciples of John fast often and make prayers, and likewise those of the Pharisees, but yours eat and drink?"
Set the prayer issue aside for now (the Lord's disciples did pray, of course). But they didn't fast. Why not? That's the question.
Was the question honest or was it loaded? In other words, did it seek information or was it just trying to catch the Lord in His words and discredit Him?
It would be easy to say the latter, but Matthew's parallel says it was the disciples of John who posed it to the Lord. These men weren't sinless, of course, but they were honest men who thought highly of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The question, therefore, is honest. Why do the Pharisees and the followers of John fast, but the Lord's people don't?
The first part is easy to answer: The Pharisees fasted to be seen of men. But the followers of Christ were not proud hypocrites.
But the second part is much harder to explain: Why did the disciples of John fast? You can't say it was commanded in the Bible because-as far as I could find-the only required Fast was on Yom Kippur or the Day of Atonement. I would assume the Lord and His people did fast that day.
No, John and his followers fasted regularly, while the Lord and His disciples ate and drank like ordinary men do.
Why the difference? If John and his people were doing the right thing, then it would seem the Lord and His friends were in the wrong. And if the Lord and His people were right, then John and his disciples were wrong.
Yet the Lord does not apologize for what He and His friends are doing-nor does He criticize John for what he and his followers are doing!
So what's the deal?
Why did good men fast? In reading the Old Testament, you'll find they fasted out of a sense of guilt and while waiting for God to do something about it. Fasting just doesn't go with the forgiveness of sin and the smile of God. No, men fasted because their sins had cut them off from the presence of God. Humbly they waited for Him to make things right. That's what fasting was for.
And that's why the Lord's disciples didn't do it. Their sins were forgiven and, in Jesus Christ, God was with them! Heaven is not a vigil; it's a party. Because God is there and we have His favor!
This is exactly what the Lord says in His first figure of speech,
"Can you make the friends of the bridegroom fast while the bridegroom is with them?"
The implied answer is Of course not! When the groom arrives, the wedding starts. A wedding is a party-and nobody ever fasted at a party! Ecclesiastes 3:4 says
"There is a time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance".
The coming of Christ sets off a party. When He's here, His people celebrate! That's why He and His disciples don't fast.
But one day the disciples will fast. Because it won't be long until there's a funeral,
"But the days will come when the Bridegroom will be taken away from them; then they will fast in those days".
The Groom is our Lord Jesus Christ. In a few months, He'll be arrested, beaten, crucified, and buried. And then, Peter and John and the rest will be so overcome with grief that they'll lose their appetites. For three days and nights they will fast. But when Christ comes back to life the next Sunday Morning, the party will start all over again-and this time, it will never stop!
Note: No one is more critical of what I call Pentecostal worship than I am. It's too loud, it's too long, it has little content-and it's so repetitious! But having said that, there is one thing we can say about it-which is not always true of Reformed Christians: their music sounds like a party, while ours may more often resemble a.funeral.
This is the direct answer to the question about fasting.
THE BIG PICTURE
But the Lord does not leave it there. He goes on to give the big picture, to touch on things beyond fasting, in fact, what He's getting at is the whole religion of Israel. Not just the Pharisee's perversion of it, but also the purest Judaism, the kind practiced by John the Baptist and his disciples.
He addresses the issue with two comparisons, making the same point. Here's the first one:
"No one puts a piece from a new garment on an old one. Otherwise the new makes a tear and also the piece that was taken out of the new does not match the old".
Every housewife in Israel knew this: Fabric shrinks with washing. Thus, if you patch an old skirt with new material, the patch will shrink and tear a hole in the skirt. And besides, it will look tacky because it won't match.
The second is like it,
"And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; or else the new wine will burst the wineskins, and be spilled and the wineskins will be ruined. But new wine must be put into new wineskins, And both are preserved".
In those days, wine was not put into glass bottles. It was put into a wineskin or what we call a boatabag. An animal was skinned, the hide was tanned, the body was sewed up, and wine was poured into it. New wine skins were flexible or elastic. But old ones were not; they had dried out and gotten hard. Now, if you put new wine into an old wine skin, the gasses of fermentation and going to pop it! Old wine is fine for the old wineskins, but new wine requires new wineskins.
The Lord is not give a lesson in Home Economics. He's telling us what He's bringing into the world or what His kingdom will be like.
What He says was mind-boggling to the Jews at the time (and to many Christians today, even!). What He's saying is this:
His Kingdom does not fit into the Pharisees way of life. That was surprising to them at the time-but we know that. But what we may not know is this: It also doesn't fit into John's way of life.
And John was the highest example of Old Testament piety!
The Old Covenant way of life-though given by God-is like a dried-up wineskin. Jesus Christ brings something new. It is not new in the sense of despising or contradicting the past. But it is new in the sense of fulfilling the past.
AN IMPLIED WARNING
At the end, there is an implied warning. Some people prefer the old to the new. "The old is better" .they say.
But they're wrong. The Old served its purpose in bringing the People of God to Christ. But then, like John the Baptist, it stepped aside and gave center stage to Jesus.
The message then is this: In Jesus Christ all things are new.
The people of God are new. Under the Old Covenant Israel was the people of God, but most were unsaved. With the coming of Christ, however, the people of God are really the people of God,
"They shall all know Me-from the greatest to the least-for I shall forgive their sins".
The offices are new. The prophets, priests, and kings of Israel did much good for the people of God. But they gave way to One Man who would become "One Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus".
The sacraments are new. Circumcision gives way to baptism-but it's not for everyone born into the family of the Church, but into the Family of God! Passover, which looked back on the Exodus of Israel, is replaced by the Lord's Supper which looks back on a deeper deliverance.
Even Old Testament history is becomes new. In one way, He's the Ark to save us from the Flood of God's Wrath; He's the Temple where we meet God; He's the Rock from which the water gushed out; He's the manna that feeds us in the wilderness; He's the brazen serpent which saved dying sinners; He's David warring against our enemies; He's Solomon ruling in peace and wisdom; He's the Lamb that dies for sinners and the Scapegoat who carries our guilt away. On and on it goes.
Most importantly, our lives our new in Christ. We don't live as the pious Jews did, obeying Moses under threat of judgment until Messiah comes. No, Messiah has come, and now we obey Him from a sense of gratitude stirred by the Gift of the Holy Spirit.
Let us live, therefore, as the first disciples did. In joyful obedience to Christ with a keen sense of His Second Coming-only to make things even happier!
God bless you every one. For Christ's sake. Amen.
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