Have you ever read a passage of the Bible over and over, but you still don’t get it? And then one day, it finally makes sense? I’m reading through the Bible in a year. This morning I read the passage in Luke 5:33-39. Jesus is being questioned by the Pharisees as to why his disciples eat and drink while John’s disciples fast and pray. In response, Jesus tells a parable about patching garments:
“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. And no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for they say, ‘The old is better.’”
I’ve always struggled with this passage, because Jesus seems to be invalidating John’s ministry and the Old Testament ceremonial law. And that couldn’t be the case because both of those were put in place by God.
No, Jesus is saying something much different. His opponents were trying to fit his ministry into their current understanding of God, and Jesus was telling them that they couldn’t do that. John’s ministry was a precursor to Jesus’ ministry, and likewise the ceremonial law from the Old Testament pointed to a new and better ministry, that of Jesus. What Jesus was saying in these two analogies about patching clothes and wineskins was, “Hey, you can’t just append me to your current understanding of God and life. I’m not a patch or something to be added—I am the whole deal, the real deal, the beginning and the end, and these other things just point to me”. Jesus doesn’t just expand our understanding, he explodes it.
To use a food analogy, have you ever seen those plastic food displays in some restaurants? It’s like the Pharisees were trying to add Jesus in, like adding some hot sauce or jalapenos on top of a plastic food display. It might look good, but is completely inedible. Jesus is saying no, “I’m the real enchilada, the whole enchilada, the one you can eat and find satisfying. I am the answer to every serious question about life, I am the full representation of God. These other things were shadows that pointed to me; but I’m the real deal.”
I’m a computer geek, so another analogy: Jesus is not some add-on that you can click to enhance your internet browser. He’s the whole browser, the browser of life. The Old Testament law and John’s ministry were like very early software prototypes or “proof of concepts”. Jesus in the finished product. Don’t confuse the prototypes with the final product…throw them away and install the 1.00 (and final) version.
Jesus never allowed his listeners to think or believe less of Him than He was, and ultimately this is what put Him on the cross. And He will not allow you and I to categorize Him or fit Him into a box that makes us comfortable that we understand God. He is so much more than that. We must come out of our narrow two dimensional world into His multi-dimensional kingdom that is much bigger, more interesting, and vastly exciting, the world of what God is truly doing, the world of a New Covenant sealed by His blood, freely available to all who will come, the world of new life, abundant and riotously contagious life. “God loves you and has a great plan for your life” doesn’t even come close to expressing what God has planned for us.
All of us come to God with pre-conceived notions of Him, warped understanding. Perhaps we didn’t have a good relationship with our earthly father and this colors our perception of God. Many have been hurt by other Christians and run from God. And we are all just rebellious and want to run our own show, want to elevate our understanding or what makes us comfortable above the truth about God. Whatever the reason for our flawed understanding, we must replace it with the truth.
Jesus is not an add-on to our life’s browser or a sauce to be added to our religious stew, He the whole deal.