People Ask about Going
(Matthew 9.14-17; Luke 5.33-39)
18The followers of John the Baptist and the Pharisees often went without eating. Some people came and asked Jesus, “Why do the followers of John and those of the Pharisees often go without eating, while your disciples never do?”
The friends of a bridegroom don't go without eating while he is still with them. 20But the time will come when he will be taken from them. Then they will go without eating.
21No one patches old clothes by sewing on a piece of new cloth. The new piece would shrink and tear a bigger hole.
22No one pours new wine into old wineskins. The wine would swell and burst the old skins. Then the wine would be lost, and the skins would be ruined. New wine must be put into new wineskins.
The disciples of John and the Pharisees are at odds with the disciples of Jesus. In accordance with Scripture, the disciples of John (and the Pharisees) regularly fast. All faithful Jews do. That’s what Scripture teaches. But the disciples of Jesus do not. Why? Isn’t Jesus teaching them to obey the Scriptures?
Jesus’ response draws on the fact that God is doing something new and the former thing is passing away. Like fasting at a wedding, some things are simply out of place. Jesus’ presence is inaugurating something new, and attempts to squeeze that into the forms of the old will not only destroy what has come before, but will spoil what is new. Jesus says that new wine requires new wineskins.
What an important thing for us to remember! God is indeed doing something new and we Christians get to participate in it today. We have been sent the Spirit to guide us into all truth (John 16:13). Yet, too often our tendencies are more in line with the disciples of John (and the Pharisees) than with the disciples of Jesus. Where the Spirit leads may not fit into the “old wineskins” but that’s okay, “new wineskins” will be provided.
So often, when we attempt to follow where the Spirit is leading we are confronted by the fact that it doesn’t fit into the ways we have done it before. That this sort of thing happens should not surprise us: people of the Spirit should expect just this response.
Gracious God, thank you for making all things new. As that newness swells, provide us with the new wineskins that protect your work from spoiling. Give us courage to move forward without fear in the power of your Spirit, in the name of Jesus our Lord. Amen.