Tuesday, October 02, 2012



In the last section of Luke chapter 5 we come to an interesting encounter between Jesus and the Pharisees. After Jesus called Levi to follow Him and Levi's response was to have a party, the Pharisees and scribes are very upset and offended. So, they pitch out a criticism to Jesus about the behavior of His disciples:  
They said to him, "John's disciples often fast and pray, and so do the disciples of the Pharisees, but yours go on eating and drinking." Jesus answered, "Can you make the friends of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; in those days they will fast."

The implication of the criticism was, "Your disciples are not as spiritual as John's disciples or our disciples." There is indeed a fasting theme throughout the Scriptures. You must remember that the Pharisees of Jesus' day were called hypocrites, but it is best to understand that word to mean hyper-critical. They were hyper about everything, including fasting. Fasting was a practice, but the Pharisees took it to a new level with a super-spiritual pride attached. They fasted twice a week--Mondays and Thursdays.

NOTE Jesus answers with a word picture: "Can you make the friends of the bridegroom fast while he is with them?" Jesus fashions Himself as the bridegroom and this bridegroom is ushering in the Kingdom of God. And, while He is here, there is to be celebration. There will be a time when the bridegroom (Jesus) will be taken away and then fasting will be appropriate.

Then Jesus takes this opportunity to do some teaching and shares a parable with them. The point He wants to make is that His teaching and His disciples cannot and must not fit into the mold of the traditions of the Pharisees and scribes. He first uses the metaphor of patching a garment:
He told them this parable: "No one tears a piece out of a new garment to patch an old one. If they do, they will have torn the new garment, and the patch from the new will not match the old."

NOTE the contrast between the new and the old. To try to somehow attach the new of what Jesus is teaching to the old traditions will not work. It will be destructive. The new garment will tear and it won't match. He then uses a second example--pouring new wine into old wineskins:
And people do not pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the new wine will burst the skins; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, new wine must be poured into new wineskins. And none of you, after drinking old wine, wants the new, for you say, 'The old is better.' " Jesus is referring to the fermentation process of wine. New wine will ferment and burst an old wineskin. Again, He contrasts the old and the new. His point is that you can't attach the new to the old or you'll ruin both the new wine and the old wineskin.

Jesus (the new) has come with a radical message of the good news of God. He especially appeals to those who don't have it together--the broken, oppressed, sick and the poor. His entire appeal was about the internal factors of the Kingdom (the heart). That's the new. The old was embodied by the list of do's and don'ts of the Pharisees which had an external focus and much of that was for show.

There is a curious statement made by Jesus that might throw you. He says, "None of you after drinking old wine, wants the new, for you say, 'The old is better.'" What is He saying, "The old is better"? I think he's pointing something out that is in human nature. Change is so difficult. It's always easier to go with the familiar, the convenient, the comfortable--the old wine--rather than to step out into being led by Jesus through His Spirit. One has the visible security of a list of do's and don'ts and the other has only the invisible security of walking with Jesus, walking with others and waiting on Jesus to lead out. One way is an easy check-list of performance for all to see with all sorts of measurables that can be seen. The other is an invisible lifestyle that can only be measured by God, because it's a matter of the heart.

Jesus didn't come to abolish the old, but to make it full and meaningful. What are the old boxes and structures of your life that lean toward the comfortable and the convenient? Break down those boxes and burst your bubbles, so that you can enjoy the new that Jesus has come to give you. It's not a time for fasting, because Jesus is here. It's time to party!



Along the shores of the northern end of the Sea of Galilee was a tax-collector booth. Levi, Matthew, was the one who manned the booth. No doubt Levi had observed many of Jesus' miracles and heard lots of speeches and conversations with Jesus. And, like the local barbershop in a small town, Levi probably picked up lots of people's opinions about Jesus.
Now, Jesus comes from the house that was bustling with people coming and going to be healed. After this, Jesus went out and saw a tax collector by the name of Levi sitting at his tax booth. "Follow me," Jesus said to him, and Levi got up, left everything and followed him.

Can you imagine? Here is Levi, a very non-popular tax collector who was known by most everyone around the Sea, has been personally chosen by the new and most popular rabbi to follow and study under Him. Levi had never excelled in his studies with the rabbis, yet now finds himself "chosen" by this Jesus to be a follower. Levi may have fantasized about being a part of a rabbinical school and maybe even thought about how wonderful it might be to just hang around this Jesus. I can imagine that he and Jesus most likely had exchanged glances on several occasions. Then, shock of shocks, this Jesus walked right up to Levi and invited him to "Follow Me." It was an invitation that said, "You are welcome and acceptable to be a follower." Levi was ecstatic and threw a party!
Then Levi held a great banquet for Jesus at his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were eating with them. He naturally invited his best friends who were not part of the religious community. Levi, who had been an "outsider" has now been invited to be an "insider" with the new rabbi Jesus. And, those who have been the traditional "insiders" are now standing on the "outside" of this unusual appointment.
But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who belonged to their sect complained to his disciples, "Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?" Two of the primary tenets of the "religious" were keeping the Sabbath and separation from sin and sinners. They viewed themselves a pure and holy--separate from the non-religious who were the sinners and tax collectors. For Jesus to hang with the unclean rather than with the pure was unthinkable and offensive to them.
Jesus answered them, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance." Jesus responds to their thinking by revealing His mission--to reach out to the sick, because they need the doctor. Those who deem themselves healthy had no need of a physician. The sinners saw their need for God's Messiah while the so-called "righteous" were too busy trying to keep themselves separate and pure, mostly to keep their lofty positions among the people.

By calling the non-religious, the sinners, to Himself, Jesus turned the world upside down and is still doing it today. His call is summed up in the two most revolutionary words ever spoken: FOLLOW ME! It's not follow this denomination or religious system, but FOLLOW ME. He's looking for those who need Him most and are interested in what He can do for them. Let me ask you, "Do you see your need for Jesus and what He can do for you?" FOLLOW HIM!