By Bill Spaans:
Luke 5 starts with a recounting of how Jesus started His public ministry by gathering together an unlikely group of disciples. For example, first comes Peter, a fisherman, probably smelling of fish, and discouraged because he had not caught a single fish all night. Jesus said “follow me because from now on you will not be catching fish, but men”. And then there was Levi, later known as Matthew, who was a tax collector and apparently wealthy. He gave a great feast for Jesus. The Pharisees and teachers of the law later criticized Jesus for attending this feast because Levi was considered to be a sinner.
However, I would like us to focus on how this chapter ends. It presents us with two teachings of Jesus which, on first read, appear to present us with a paradox. First Jesus says:
36-38“No one tears a piece out of a new garment to patch an old one. Otherwise, they will have torn the new garment, and the patch from the new will not match the old. And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, 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.”
So Jesus taught that we should not take a patch from a new garment to fix an old one, nor should we put new wine into an old wineskin. Commentators say this is a reference to the old and the new covenant. Many of the Jewish believers wanted to hold on to aspects of the old covenant such as dietary laws and circumcision. The Jerusalem Council described in Acts 15 was called to discuss how to deal with the application of the Old Testament laws to new gentile believers.
At the moment Christ Community Church is going through significant upheaval. We are without a Pastor, and we are in large part isolated because of COVID 19. Could it be that God is using this time to teach us to not stay in a rut of doing things as we have always done? And is He perhaps revealing some new avenues of ministry to us, and new ways to be used by Him, to spread the Good News? Is He presenting us with “new wine” to be put into a new “wineskin”?
On the other hand, Jesus also said:
39 “And no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for they say, ‘The old is better.’”
And this is where we are faced with a paradox! This text might suggest that we should hang on to the old ways of doing things. But what Jesus is actually saying is that faith, like wine, matures with age! God’s truth does not change, but how we live into this truth may. The challenge for us is to allow the Holy Spirit to mature and deepen our faith whilst at the same time not holding so tightly to the known and familiar that we get stuck in unhelpful attitudes and practices. This is not always an easy task, but by God’s grace and the guidance of the Holy Spirit we can find the wisdom to strike this balance! And to God be the glory!