Luke takes us to my most difficult subject today; fasting. I was looking back to see what we have already covered on the subject and found 8 posts dealing with it in some form or fashion. I really don’t want to go there again today. Honestly, it has been a very long day for me and I would rather simply skip this section, BUT that’s not what God wants us to do. So here we go. I’m at least saved from having to go through the same material again because I was prompted to look at a couple of different things in our reading.
In Luke’s telling of Jesus’ answer to the question of why Jesus’ disciples didn’t fast he shares some parables that Jesus used that day. The first one is about the new and old garments. In Matthew’s telling of this parable he talks about using a piece of unshrunk cloth as a patch for an old garment. In Luke’s telling he uses the analogy of tearing a piece from a new garment to patch the old one. This subtle difference brings a whole different concept into my mind.
The new garment represents the new covenant between God and man. The covenant bought through Jesus’ blood. Both the new and old are made from the same foundations. In the case of the garments, they are both cloth. In the case of the covenants, they are both based on God’s love for us and that there is a price for sin. Each also begins with a sacrifice. The old begins with the first animal killed to cover man’s sin. The second begins with Jesus shed blood to wash away our sins. But each is distinct, separate and complete.
The old covenant is not made perfect by tearing a piece out of the new covenant and fixing the shortcomings of the old covenant with it. They don’t match. The old is based on rules and regulations; works of man move the hand of God. The new is based on grace and mercy; given freely because of the work of Jesus alone. Jesus’ works qualified Him alone to meet all the demands of the old covenant so that He could become the first building block of the new covenant. If you rip pieces from the new to try and fix the old, both are ruined. The holes in the old are by design. It was not meant to last forever. Once the new was created the old was no longer needed or desirable. All those who continue to hold fast to the old and reject the new, cling to a discarded and damaged remnant. In political terms, the old was “defunded.” God doesn’t honor it any longer because it rejects the new altogether, and God only gave us the old as a stopgap until the new was ready.
The second thing I noticed in today’s reading is verse 39: “And no one after drinking old wind desires new, for he says, ‘The old is good.’” This struck me as speaking about the Pharisees and anyone else who clings to the old covenant.
Let me start off the discussion here by saying that I don’t drink wine so I’m making uninformed observations here. Here in Oregon, people are always coming up with new flavors or blends of wine. Peach wine, Apricot wine, you name a fruit I’m sure they have combined it somehow to create something new. For a connoisseur of new wine this is exciting. After a respectable fermenting period, the new tastes are sought after, simply to see what they might be. But to someone who believes wholly in the requirement for wine to age for MANY years, the new wines hold no appeal. The older the wine the better. There are a few more factors involved in choosing the best old wines, but there is NO desire from this connoisseur for the new.
This was how the Pharisees viewed what Jesus was offering. They believed they had THE best God had to offer and flatly refused to even consider something new or even entertain the idea that their covenant was insufficient. It didn’t matter that their covenant was limiting and entrenched in the rigid requirements. They had acquired an appreciation for what it offered and had no desire for anything else.
That is why Jesus didn’t try and “sell” His ideas to the religious establishment. Instead He took it to the hurting people. They were the ones who could appreciate the personal and individual appeal in the new covenant. The covenant that connected God directly with every man, woman and child seeking Him. The old only granted access through prescribed channels of religious government. God cut out the middleman. And the middlemen DIDN’T like that one bit.
Father God, thank You for the old and the new covenants. Without the old we would have been completely lost. You knew it had shortcomings when You put it in place. Those shortcomings were there to ensure that we looked towards the new. The new had hope the old never possessed. Thank You that You brought the new just in time. You knew exactly when the time was right and You waited patiently until then. Thank You again that I was born into the time of the new covenant. I am MORE than certain that I wouldn’t have made it under the old covenant.
I truly feel sorry for those still clinging to the old covenant, waiting for “their” Messiah. To have been walking the same streets as Jesus and missed the truth is heartbreaking. Then to pass that mistake on for generations is beyond understanding. How, after all that Jesus said and did, before AND after His death, could they still be in doubt? There will come an awakening to the truth, but even then not everyone will see it. That goes the same for the Gentiles too. You show Yourself so clearly. I don’t see how everyone doesn’t see. Help me at least shine Your love to those living in darkness. I don’t want to preach to them, just love them like You do. I know I have work to do in this area too, so please eclipse my attitudes with Your love. Work on my heart, mind and mouth each and every day.