Friday 03 September 2010

Bible Book:

"But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins." (v.38)

Luke 5:33-39 Friday 3 September 2010


This passage takes place at a lavish banquet at the home ofLevi, a former tax-collector, whom we also know as Matthew (seeMatthew 9:9). In this story, the presence of acrowd of tax-collectors and other 'sinners' has raised issues withthe Jewish religious elite. Jesus' response in verse 32 (that hehasn't come for the righteous, but to call sinners back to God)leads on to further comments about his conduct as a rabbi (a Jewishteacher). Was he leading his disciples astray? By comparing Jesus'disciples to those of John the Baptist, the Jewish leaders areimplying that Jesus' followers aren't as pious or prayerful as theymight be, and also that there's some disunity between Jesus andJohn.

Jesus' response takes them all aback. He compares himself to abridegroom. And while the groom's at the reception, the guests mustparty! And then, ominously, he alludes to a time to come when thegroom will be "taken away" - and this is, of course, taken to be anearly reference to his death.

So maybe the religious leaders are thinking too small. Jesus hasn'tcome merely to introduce new religious practices (like, forexample, having a celebration meal instead of prayer and fasting).He is the bridegroom - everything revolves around him - and he'scome to do something completely new! Where this new thing, thisgospel life, is found there are jubilant parties with unexpectedguests. You miss the point of Jesus if you think he's simply aboutreligious practices and patterns, or about making a few adjustmentshere and there.

Then Jesus gives his listeners some curious parables. What's neededis not to patch things up, but to put on a whole new garment. Orit's like a fantastic new wine. Tom Wright, the Bishop of Durhamand a New Testament scholar, says this is like trying to use oldsoftware on a new computer. But Jesus' words are more powerful.What Jesus is offering is a new wine so full of vigour and lifethat it would destroy the old wineskins it's put into.

Despite this, Jesus observes, people seem satisfied with the oldwine (without even tasting the new) - taste buds get conditioned towhat they're used to. 'They don't know what they're missing', Jesusmight have added.

To Ponder

At a baptism, a newly baptized persontraditionally put on new clothes to symbolise the new gospel life -'putting on Christ'. Why is a completely new start so much betterthan simply patching up the old?

The image of the bridegroom is a favourite onefor Jesus. Can you think of other parts of the New Testament wherethis illustration is used? And who, in your opinion, is hisbride?

Are there things in our lives and churches thatare easier to swallow because they're tried and tested? Has theChurch even now grasped the new wine Jesus is offering or do weallow the new gospel life to appear old and tired at times? To whatextent could his kingdom be more radical than we've evenimagined?

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