Jesus Rediscovered: Part 2 - Don't Mix These - Hope 103.2

Jesus Rediscovered: Part 2 – Don’t Mix These

By Simon ManchesterSunday 20 Sep 2015Christian Growth with Simon ManchesterFaithReading Time: 0 minutes


Well friends, let’s pray and ask God’s blessing as we turn to the Scriptures.

Our Father we thank you for giving us the Scriptures and we pray that this little portion that we look at this morning would be light on our path, would be food for our soul. We pray that you would bless us in the study of your Word and that you would search us, help us, encourage us and take us forward in the knowledge and love of Christ.

We ask it in his Name – Amen.

We are continuing a little series which we have picked up again in Mark’s Gospel. It’s a series called “Jesus Re-discovered” and we hope it will be for many of you a fresh look at the Lord Jesus. And we see over the last few weeks when we’ve looked at Mark’s Gospel that he comes into the world and he really does very wonderful things – healing and helping people and at exactly the same time there is a cloud, a dark cloud of opposition. So just as he is giving tremendous things, he is facing tremendous hostility.

Remember, for example, the man down through the roof – the paralytic – Jesus looks at him and says ‘you are forgiven’. And the people around say ‘how dare he say this’ – there is an anger, there is a reaction. Or think of last week where he calls Levi, the tax collector, and then he goes back to Levi’s house and there are lots of tax collectors and the critics around say ‘why would he be eating with such dreadful people – what’s his problem?’

And today the passage which we have just looked at (chapter 2 verses 18-22) is where Jesus fails to keep a religious rule – just a made up arbitrary rule. He fails to keep it and the critics around him are saying how can he possibly be a good man?

So when we look at Jesus in the New Testament, we see a couple of things:

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  • We see the freest man the world has ever known
  • He doesn’t have any unbelief
  • He doesn’t have any doubts
  • He doesn’t have any anxieties
  • He doesn’t have any fears.

And therefore there is a lot to learn from him and receive from him but we also see a man in Jesus who is a deep threat – especially to those who have built their soul on religion. If you build your soul on religion Jesus will expose it as being a faulty foundation. And when of course he exposes a faulty foundation, people get angry or upse.t

Let me give you a small example of this just from my own experience. When I came here in December 1989 within a few days it was time to take the Christmas Eve Communion Service. In those days it was a Communion Service. It was held at 11.30 and I remember saying “Goodnight to Kathy” and coming across just from the Rectory building over to here just a few meters. And I came into the building and it was a very, very hot night. And I remember putting on all the clerical robes that were required and the place was absolutely packed. There must have been 600-800 people in the building standing in the aisles and everywhere you could possibly stand.

And I remember getting up into the old pulpit here and speaking from Luke 19 verse 10 “The Son of Man came to seek and save the lost”. And the huge privilege of standing there in absolute pin-drop quiet – nobody moved, nobody spoke – it was absolute attention.

And I walked out of the service at the end over to that vestry side room thinking that was one of the great privileges of my life. I would dress up in a ‘clown’s suit’ to speak the Gospel. And in the vestry, in the side room, there was a group of 7-8 women who were in tears together in a little circle. They were comforting one another because a reading in the service which should have gone to verse 18 only went to verse 14!! – And they were so distressed about this. And I wanted to say to them ‘but so many people have just listened to the news of Jesus – that’s wonderful”. But for them this little detail had been missed and so there was great grief and even anger.

Now the question that is raised in chapter 2 verses 18-22 is a question about “Fasting” and I have to admit to you that it is not an angry question, it’s not even an upset question but that’s where things are moving. Things are moving to anger. Next week when we get to chapter 3 verse 6 – the people are planning to kill Jesus. If you think that Jesus died suddenly, randomly, weirdly or at the very end of his life as if the crowd suddenly turned on him, no, the hostility has been building for 3 years.

And I want to look at our 5 verses in chapter 2 verses 18-22 under two headings –

The Joy of Knowing Christ
and The Grief of Mixing Ritual.

So look with me at chapter 2 of Mark’s Gospel verse 18 and you will see that we read there John the Baptist’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting and some people came and asked Jesus about this. Religious fasting – going deliberately without food for a time – you can see the disciples of John the Baptist DO FAST – you can see the Pharisees DO FAST – the religious leaders. Jesus’ disciples (and probably Jesus himself) DO NOT FAST.

The Old Testament Law about fasting was that you were to do it by Law once a year – one day in the year. Leviticus 16 – the Day of Atonement, the Day of Sacrifice, the Day the great sacrifice was made for the nation. And the Pharisees had taken this and had intensified it and multiplied and turned it into twice a week.

The other possibility for fasting was that you would fast to mourn – either because you had suffered loss or because you were mourning over your sin. It is possible therefore that John the Baptist’s disciples are fasting because they are mourning the death of John. It is possible that the Pharisees are fasting because of sin because they want to speed up the coming of the Messiah. The irony of course is that the Messiah is standing right in front of them in the person of Jesus. Nobody however is really aware of who Jesus is.

And the question comes up in chapter 2 verse 18 – it seems to be quite an innocent question and they ask Jesus – ‘why don’t your disciples fast as well?’ The answer in chapter 2 verse 19 is amazing. He says ‘how can you expect the friends of a bridegroom to be acting like it is a funeral?’ This answer is very, very clever. It’s kind of veiled – you couldn’t get upset with this – he is just basically saying ‘look if I am with my friends, can we not have a good time?’ But for those who know their Scriptures, for those who know the Old Testament, this is a loaded, loaded comment.

Isaiah says “your Maker is your husband Israel.”

Isaiah 62 “God will rejoice over you like a bridegroom”.

That’s just a couple of examples of what is right through the Old Testament that God is the bridegroom of his people Israel. Now Jesus says “I am the bridegroom”. It couldn’t be a clearer claim to deity. And when you think that Mark chapter 1:1-8 is all about the identity of Jesus – Who is Jesus, who is this person? You can see that this is a very clear answer to the question. Jesus is simply saying that those who have ears to hear – I am God, the bridegroom. He couldn’t be plainer.

And the shock of this is that they have been waiting for a Messiah but they have not recognised that the Messiah could be God. The one who has come to save is God himself. Those people who have said outside the church or inside the church, in academic circles – ‘look Jesus is just a man – get over it – he’s just a man’ are obviously not grappling with the evidence because Jesus speaks of himself again and again and again in terms of God of the Old Testament.

  • I am The Light of the World – says Jesus
  • I am The Good Shepherd – says Jesus
  • I am The Bridegroom – say Jesus

The thing about this also is that it’s so quick. One of the things that makes me worship Christ and one of the things that makes me so thankfully impressed with Christ is his ability to respond to any question or attack with the reply that is infinitely better than anything that has come at him – the sort of thing that would take us days to think up.

Now I love a quick reply. When I was a new Christian at the age of 18 I went to the local church. We had an Assistant Minister and he was incredibly old – he was 33. I remember looking at him and thinking to myself – 33 you are nearly dead, is there any more time for ministry and you are just an Assistant? Anyway he was a very witty man and he was leaving us to go to his next position and we also had one of the members of our Youth Fellowship – a young boy and he was leaving us also to go to Moore College.

And I remember in the morning service, they said to this very witty Assistant (33 yr old) – they said you are preaching tonight, your last service – what are you going to preach on? And quick as a flash he said

“I thought I might take my text from Genesis 22 – You remain here with the asses, I and the lad will go yonder” !!

And I thought that is SO CLEVER and so quick – how did you do that?

My in-laws were in Ministry for 60 years or so together and once when they were travelling overseas, they met an official who was asking questions and worked out that my father-in-law was a clergyman. And quite gruffly and crossly he said “you are another clergyman – you clergyman are like locusts across the field”.

And quick as a flash my mother-in-law said “and I am his wild honey” !!

 How do you do that so quickly? It’s so fast. Now look at what Jesus says as he is put on the spot and ask the question – “why don’t you fast”? and quick as a flash he says “I am the bridegroom”. This is an answer which is attractive, it’s unanswerable, it’s full of power, it’s full of challenge and he takes another Old Testament picture of God and he says ‘this is Me’.

Then in verse 20 (the very next verse) he says ‘of course when the bridegroom is taken away, well my disciples will fast’ and he gives a prediction of his future arrest and crucifixion. So he says the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken away – my people will fast on that occasion.

Now what a weird thing to take a bridegroom away! Who takes a bridegroom away? Who plays that sort of game? But of course this is going to happen – Jesus is pointing out something of the strange policy of the people who are criticizing him that they are going to go to the extent of actually removing him from the face of the earth.

So one of the things that we need to know about Christ is that people either receive him – (think of Levi the tax collector and his friends saying ‘come to our place, come to our place, come to our hearts’) or they reject him. Think of it here chapter 2 verse 20 where the Pharisees are going to actually remove him.

And our world of course has no legitimate criticism of Jesus. It doesn’t really know what to say bad about him but even though it recognises his perfection, it has no place for him. It’s one (I think) of the very incriminating realities of our world that people who have nothing but praise for Jesus want nothing to do with Jesus. That’s an oddity. Secular opposition to Jesus is heating up. The religious opposition to Jesus is equally dismissive.

During the week when I was taking a small funeral here I said to the people who were at the funeral – look this is a great opportunity friends for you to think through whether there is any answer in Christ to the sadness you are facing. Is this not a great opportunity for you when you are faced with a parting, with a leaving, with a sadness – this is your great opportunity to go back and think – well Christ says he’s got the keys of life and death, would this not be a great thing to re-think whether he knows what he is talking about and can actually do anything about it. And I said to them – you know when we get to the little afternoon tea behind the Parkview Building, I am wondering if there is anybody who is going to show any interest in this great subject of Jesus’ promise? And you know, of course, there was no interest – changing the subject, getting on to any other possible subject.

So these two verses in chapter 2:19-20 are a summary of the whole message of Christ.

Who is he? – Mark chapter 1 – He is the bridegroom – He is God coming into his world.

Verse 20 – what has he come to do? – He has come for a mission which means he is going to be taken away and in the being taken away, he is going to die on the cross and he is going to pay for sins and he is going to save his people. There’s the whole summary in verses 19-20.

Now for all the opposition to Jesus – don’t forget that this bridegroom, Jesus, is going to collect his bride. Around the world, over the years, thousands, millions, and may be billions are going to come and become the bride of Christ. This is the joy and the freedom of knowing Christ.

Now secondly let’s think about The Grief of Mixing Ritual – this is in chapter 2 verses 21-22. He goes on to tell 2 little Parables. These are the first little parables in Mark’s Gospel. He says – “Don’t put new cloth on old cloth and don’t put new wine in old wineskins”.

Notice firstly how familiar with life Jesus is. He can discuss sewing, storing wine, building, farming a field, accounting, warfare and fishing – you name it – he understands the world. He is utterly familiar with the details of your day to day activities. Nothing is going to take him by surprise.

Notice also how accessible these parables are. These parables are not middle class parables. These are not upper class parables. He is not talking here about fashion walkways or restaurants. He is not talking here about wine tasting and smart clothes. This is the essential stuff of life. In Jesus’ day – if you lived in Jesus’ day you might have 2 shirts and sewing was a big part of life. If you lived in Jesus’ day you needed cheap wine because the water was very unpredictable. Jesus is talking here to the normal people of the world.

And they seem to be very simple parables – in fact you are probably sitting there thinking to yourself – ok this is really obvious. Jesus brings something new and you mustn’t try and sort of box it in. And I think that’s a very, very good conclusion or application. But at the risk of confusing you and with the interest of stimulating you, I want to ask whether there are two sides to these parables. I want to ask whether these parables (like so many of the parables) are a two-edged sword.

And the first thing I want to suggest to you (stay with me on this!) is that some new is bad. Jesus says ‘don’t put new cloth on old cloth and don’t put new wine in new wineskins’ – some new is bad. We are used to saying, aren’t we, old is bad – old is finished but new is wonderful.

But you will notice that the Pharisees have brought in a new rule – you must fast twice a week.

And it’s the new teaching which is doing the damage to God’s people – just like the new cloth and the new wine had a tearing/bursting effect – this new rule is damaging. The new is doing destructive work and those who are adding the cloth or the wine are looked on in the parables as silly and foolish.

So I wonder whether it is possible that Jesus himself actually stands for an old message, an old message of grace, of life, of covenant, of bridegroom, of bride and that relationship between God and us is held together by grace – not by rules. Because if that is the case, this couple of parables are foreshadowing a danger which is going to wreck the church for centuries and that is adding destructive ritual and rules to what should be a wonderful relationship with Christ.

I mean here in these little parables is the Galation Heresy in embryo – don’t try and add ritual to be saved. Here is an early warning of law which we see in Romans, Philippians and 1 Timothy and Revelation. Here is an early warning of trying to be saved by church sacraments – as if you could possibly be saved by church sacraments. Here is the human tendency to elevate our human performance as a way of making peace with God – neglecting grace and Christ’s performance.

So it may well be, you see, that these parables are teaching that in certain things new is bad because it is. However the major lesson of the parables is that Jesus’ new is good. There is no doubt that Jesus has brought in a new day. Remember his first words

“The Kingdom of God has come” –

“Repent and believe the Gospel”

“The time has come”

“The Kingdom is here”

We would be very blind this morning if we looked at these parables and we didn’t see that Jesus has brought in the Age which the Old Testament was looking forward to. I’ll give you some quick predictions:

  • Isaiah 25 – “The Lord will prepare a feast, a banquet of wine.”
  • 31 – “They will rejoice in the grain and the new wine.”
  • Joel 3 – “The mountains will drip with new wine.”
  • Amos 9 – “The new wine will drip from the mountains.”

Here is the Old Testament pointing forward to a day where the Messiah, the new Age will come, the Kingdom will come and here is Jesus, the bridegroom, the one who is feasting and he is talking about new wine – because he has brought the day to the earth so that you can now enter the Kingdom by putting your faith in the King. At some time of course in the future, he will bring the last day and then all his people will enter into his presence.

So I want to say that the major point of these parables is that Jesus’ new day is good. Jesus’ new age is good. The Pharisees may attack him and not like it and they may want to control him but his ministry is going to burst out.

Just as it did when he called Levi and Levi said ‘I’m finished with work – Christ is my priority’.

Just as it did when Jesus spoke to the woman at the well and said I am going to put a water in you which is going to be like a spring welling up to eternal life.

Just as Peter did on the Day of Pentecost where he stood and everybody was basically changed in front of the crowd and Peter said ‘we are not drunk, this is the Spirit of God’.

So the message of the two parables – the cloth and the wine – is very simply that joyful fellowship which is good and hard rules which are not – do not mix. To bring Law to a relationship will wreck it, to reject Jesus for religion is going to mean a terrible split.

Dorothy Sayers, friend of CS Lewis and Tolkien and a great thinker and writer said this:

“The people who hanged Christ never accused him of being a bore. On the contrary they thought him too dynamic to be safe. It is been left for later generations to muffle up that chattering personality and surround him with an atmosphere of tedium. We have very efficiently paired the clause of the Lion of Judah, certified him meek and mild and recommended him as a fitting household pet for pale curates and pious old ladies.

 He was emphatically not a dull man in his human lifetime and there can be nothing about God. But he had a daily beauty in his life that made us ugly and officialdom felt that the established order of things would be more secure without him. So they did away with God in the name of peace and quietness.”

I want to finish this morning in my last minute or two by just asking

‘what would the new wine look like if it was running through you?’

‘If you belonged to Christ you are part of the bride to the bridegroom and his new life is working its way through you’

What will that new wine and new life look like?

You might like to just check yourself as I mention a few things that will characterize the person who has been transformed.

First of all, Jesus Christ is of greatest importance to you. He is your Saviour, he is your Lord, and you will have a deep desire for growing fellowship.

Secondly, there is a freedom in your life which Christ has brought you. He has freed you from condemnation. He has freed you for his very privileged service. Therefore there is a sense in which you feast with him. You are not fasting but you are feasting and one day you are going to feast at his table. The new life and the new wine do not free you from trouble – you will get opposition for being a keen Christian. You will pay a cost. There will be the normal struggles in life, disappointments, losses, illnesses, griefs and anxieties but his fellowship will shed a very special light on even a dark path.

Those of you who know Matthew 6:33 “Seek first the Kingdom of God” – you might like to learn Psalm 63:3 which says “His love is better than life”. And believers begin to understand that.

There is a gladness that spreads out from a Christian and goes into all different parts of life.

You are glad to hear that others believe.

You are glad to hear that others are growing.

You are glad to provide what you can for that process to take place.

If you have been a cheapskate – you become generous.

If you have been spending tens of $1,000 on yourself and $10 on Gospel work – there is a bit of a turn around.

The new wine thinks again and again about how much we have received – the spiritual blessings and longs to spread those spiritual blessings around.

On Wednesday at the Feast (at the Business Lunch) we had Richard Borgonon from the UK. He has been in Lloyds of London for 40 years. He said, you know, 8 years ago I belonged to the Rotting Sponge Society! That is I was a sponge, a Christian sponge. I went to a building, I took in a talk and it went nowhere. 8 years ago, he said, a friend asked me to read the Bible. I didn’t know how to do it very well. I got my Minister to help me. I’ve now got some printed notes which we are making available around the world. Simple verses, simple notes to read with an unbeliever.

He is now reading and I am not giving you this as a burden because I don’t know if I could do this myself. He is now reading the Bible with 20 different people each week apart from his work. And he said the regular question that he gets asked is ‘why didn’t anybody tell me this before?’ Because the interest and the hunger is much greater than we think. The new wine of Christ looks for ways to get out.

And it also keeps avoiding 2 ditches –

The ditch of rules and regulation which have a tendency to strangle us – and

The ditch of recklessness where we bring idols into our life or we commit ourselves to certain practices or policies which poison our fellowship with Christ.

We learn to avoid the two ditches.

We pay the price of avoiding the two ditches.

And the new wine looks back to Calvary where Christ shed his blood and the new wine looks forward to heaven where there is a table prepared for Christ’s people in the presence of the enemies. The cup is full, the head is anointed and we will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Let’s pray,

Our Father we thank you for sending into the world the Prince of Peace, the one who has brought freedom from sin, condemnation and guilt and freedom for eternal life, fellowship with you and great joy. We pray that you would give grace to each one here in this building and each one listening today to appreciate and benefit from the work of Christ and help us to live in the freedom and joy that he brings.

And we ask it in His Name – Amen.