Mark 2:18-22: The Lord of the Sabbath (pt. 3)

III. The Impossibility of Mixing the New with the Old (vv. 21-22)

a. The illustration of the unshrunk cloth

At this point you may be thing that it really isn’t all that big of a deal that these guys kept fasting according to their traditions, especially the disciples of John who disagreed with the Pharisees on virtually every other issue.  However, in vv. 21-22 Jesus provides us with two illustrations to prove that it is impossible to mix the old with the new.  You can either accept the new message of Jesus completely, or you will reject it completely.  There is no middle ground.  It is impossible to mix the two, in fact it is disastrous to even try and mix the two.

Jesus’ first illustration is found in v. 21 where He says, “No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. If he does, the patch tears away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear is made.”  If you don’t know a lot about sowing then this really doesn’t make much sense.  But when you understand what Jesus is saying it really is a brilliant illustration.  The unshrunk clothe is a brand new piece of fabric that is intended to fix a hole in a piece of clothing.  The problem is that the patch is unshrunk and the piece of clothing has already been shrunk.  This means that when the piece of clothing is washed the new patch will shrink it will tear away from the piece of clothing.  The result is a tear that is even worse than the original tear was.  Thus, the patch was meant to fix the problem but instead it caused an even bigger problem.

The point of this illustration, as John MacArthur explains it, is that “Jesus’ new and internal gospel of forgiveness and cleansing cannot be attached to the old and external traditions of self-righteousness and ritual.”[1] We cannot simply take the teaching of Jesus and attach it to the same old works based religion.

b. The illustration of the new wineskin

Additionally, the new teaching of Jesus cannot be contained in the old teaching of works based salvation.  In v. 22 Jesus says, “And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins-and the wine is destroyed, and so are the skins. But new wine is for fresh wineskins.”  This illustration is also a bit confusing for us who do not store our wine in animal skin, but it is a powerful illustration when properly understood.  In the first century wine would be stored leather pouches.  When the wine was first made it would be stored in these leather pouches as it fermented.  During the fermentation process the wine would actually expand.  Because of this it was important to use new leather for the wine patches.  If you used old leather, that had already been stretched, the expanding wine would cause the pouch to burst.  The result would be the destruction of the wine and the wineskins.

In this illustration the wine represents the new teaching of Jesus and the old wineskin represents the man centered religion that was epitomized the by traditions of the elders and the perversions of the Old Testament.  The gospel of Jesus was so different from the old man centered religion that the two could not coexist.  This remains true today.  The gospel of grace alone, by faith alone, through Christ alone, simply does not mix with a works based salvations.  Whenever people try to mix these two the results are disastrous.  No better example of this can be found than Roman Catholic Church.  Through their attempts to mix works based religion with the teaching of Jesus the RCC perverts the message of Jesus, encourages people to trust in their own works, forsakes the teaching of all of Scripture, and it give people false hope for their own salvation.

Conclusion:

As we look back on this passage it is clear that we must resist the temptation to hold onto the “old way” of works based salvation, and accept the “new way” of Jesus.  It is impossible for us to mix the two, and even if we tried there would be disastrous results.  With this in mind let me exhort you in several ways from the God’s word.  If you have never accepted this new message of Jesus then you must do so.  As Jesus said in Mark 1:15, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”  If you have accepted this new message of Jesus then continue to live in accordance with this new way.  Do not fall back into the trap of the trusting in your own works.  The apostle Paul dealt with Christians having this very problem in Galatians 3:3 where he said, “Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?”


[1] John MacArthur, The MacArthur Commentary Series: Matthew (Chicago: Moody Press, ????), 70.

Mark 2:18-22: The Lord of the Sabbath (pt. 2)

 

II. The Necessity to Accept the New (vv. 19-20)

  a. Jesus is the Bridegroom

   Jesus, of course, did not let this questioning go by without a response.  He answered these disciples directly by explaining exactly why His disciples were not participating in the fasts, and in doing so He revealed the necessity for accepting His “new message.” 

   First of all we see that Jesus’ disciples were not fasting because Jesus is the Bridegroom and He was present with them.  Mark records Jesus’ words in v. 19: “And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast.”  To understand what Jesus is talking about here we must first understand a first century wedding feast.  Kent Hughes helps us in this regard:

After an ancient Jewish wedding, the couple did not honeymoon, but stayed at home for a week of open house in which there was continual feasting and celebration. For the hardworking, this was traditionally considered to be the happiest week in their lives. The bride and groom were treated like a king and queen that week (sometimes they even wore crowns). They were attended by chosen friends known as “guests of the bridegroom,” which means literally, “children of the bride’s chamber.”[1]

These “children of the bride’s chamber” are the people that Jesus is referring to here in this passage.  For these individuals to fast during this great feast would have been totally inappropriate.  They would have been behaving more like they were pallbearers and a funeral then attendants at a wedding feast.

    The point of this analogy is clear.  The disciples are the wedding guests and Jesus is the groom. Jesus, with His new message of of salvation by grace alone, was a great source of joy for those who followed Him.  For the disciples to fast while they were with Him would have been duplicitous.  How could they externally show sorrow through fasting while internally experiencing the joy of being in the presence of Christ?  They had the Bridegroom with them that is why they didn’t fast!

   John’s disciples certainly should have understood this point. In John 3:29ff John the Baptist himself said this to his disciples:

The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. He must increase, but I must decrease.” He who comes from above is above all. He who is of the earth belongs to the earth and speaks in an earthly way. He who comes from heaven is above all. He bears witness to what he has seen and heard, yet no one receives his testimony. Whoever receives his testimony sets his seal to this, that God is true. For he whom God has sent utters the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure. The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.

Despite what their own teacher said, these disciples of John reject the new message of Christ.  They refuse to let go of the old in order to accept the new, and we must not make this same mistake.  We must do away with the old way of working for our salvation and we must put our faith in the bridegroom-Jesus Christ-in order to receive the eternal life that John spoke of. 

 

b. Jesus will be “taken away”

   Verse 19 is not the only thing that Jesus says in response to the question posed to Him.  In v. 20 Jesus goes on to say, “The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in that day.”  Here we see that Jesus did not prohibit His disciples from fasting, in fact there was coming a time when it would be appropriate for them to fast. Jesus predicted that He would be taken away from His disciples and at that time His disciples would fast.  There is something unusual about this though.  At a wedding feast it would not have been the bridegroom who would have left his guests.  The guests would have left the groom to be with his wife in their new home.  Yet, Jesus says that He, the Bridegroom, will be taken away.  Additionally, the word that He used here implies that He would be taken away forcefully. 

   The people listening to Jesus on that day most likely did not understand the full implications of what Jesus was saying, but clearly we see now that He was referring to His death on the cross.  His words are strikingly similar to the words of Isaiah 53:8 where the substitutionary death of the Messiah was predicted by the prophet.  There it says, “By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people?”  This is exactly what happened to Jesus.  He was taken away and He was crucified on a cross where He bore the sins of many.  It was through this substitutionary death that Jesus finally and completely ushered in the new covenant of grace.  Jesus made it possible for us to be saved through His work, and He confirmed the futility of using the old way to try and earn our salvation. 

   As we contemplate this sacrificial death there is certainly a measure of sorrow with which we look back on it.  Thus, as we are physically absent from Jesus because of the crucifixion there are times when it will be appropriate for us to fast.  However, there are a few things that we need to note about fasting:

 

1. Fasting must also be an outward sign of an inward attitude. Our fasting must never be “showy,” or done before the eyes of man.

2. The sorrow that is normally associated with fasting should not be our normal state-of-being. We have the confidence that even though Jesus was physically taken away from us He will be back (John 16:16-22).

3. Fasting is not an obligation that we must perform in order to be right with God. We do not earn anything by fasting, and there are not fasting requirements that we must meet.

 

This is how fasting is to be viewed under the new covenant, which Jesus initiated through His death on the cross.  All of this, however, implies that we must first accept this new message of Jesus before we can properly participate in fasting.  Unfortunately the disciples of John and the Pharisaic group were not willing to do this.  

 


[1]R. Kent Hughes, Mark : Jesus, Servant and Savior, Preaching the Word (Westchester, Ill.: Crossway Books, 1989), 77.

Friday Quote

“Our expectation as the sermon comes to an end, is not merely that people will understand or remember or enjoy our teaching, but that they will do something about it.”

John Stott

This is a helpful quote for those delivering sermons as well as those who are listening to sermons. The next time you hear a sermon ask yourself what you need to do “about it.”

Mark 2:18-22: The Lord of the Sabbath

Tonight I will be at Game 1 of the World Series.  I am really looking forward to being there, and I am not sure how I am going to get all my responsibilities done before it is time to leave.  But before I leave I want to post some expositional thoughts on the passage in Mark that we were looking at last week.

Introduction:

When Jesus arrived on the scene in chapter 1 He immediately began to proclaim a new message.  This new message was testified to by John in 1:2-8, and announced by Jesus in 1:14-15.  The arrival of this “new way” marked the beginning of a new era in God’s redemptive history.  As is true with any new era, this new era involved change.  The apostle Paul explained this change in Galatians 3:22-26:

But the Scripture has shut up everyone under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed. Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.

Here we see that the Old Testament law was meant to be a tutor that would prepare and protect God’s people until the coming of Jesus.  The whole purpose of the law was to lead us to Christ.  In fact, when Jesus arrived he announced to the people that he came to fulfill the law (Matthew 5:17).  Because of this, God intended for His people to look at the law in a different way after Jesus’ arrival.  For instance, the sacrifices commanded in the Old Testament are no longer practice.  This does not mean that the Old Testament outdated.  The Old Testament still reveals God’s moral standard, His character, redemptive plan, etc.  If we did not have the Old Testament to study then we certainly would not be able to understand the New Testament.  However, the way that we view the Old Testament in the church era has changed because we have seen its fulfillment in Christ.

People generally do not like change, and the people in Jesus’ day were no different.  Many people had a difficult time accepting Jesus’ new message.  These people did not understand that the Old Testament was leading them to Christ.  They should have read the Old Testament and realized that they were sinners in need of forgiveness through the Messiah. But instead, they though that they could use the Old Testament to earn God’s favor.  A great example of this if found in Mark 7:1-23:

The Pharisees and some of the scribes gathered around Him when they had come from Jerusalem, and had seen that some of His disciples were eating their bread with impure hands, that is, unwashed. (For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they carefully wash their hands, thus observing the traditions of the elders; and when they come from the market place, they do not eat unless they cleanse themselves; and there are many other things which they have received in order to observe, such as the washing of cups and pitchers and copper pots.) The Pharisees and the scribes asked Him, “Why do Your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat their bread with impure hands?” And He said to them, “Rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: ‘This people honors Me with their lips, But their heart is far away from Me. ‘But in vain do they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.’ “Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men.” He was also saying to them, “You are experts at setting aside the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition. “For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘He who speaks evil of father or mother, is to be put to death’; but you say, ‘If a man says to his father or his mother, whatever I have that would help you is Corban (that is to say, given to God),‘ you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or his mother; thus invalidating the word of God by your tradition which you have handed down; and you do many things such as that.” After He called the crowd to Him again, He began saying to them, “Listen to Me, all of you, and understand: there is nothing outside the man which can defile him if it goes into him; but the things which proceed out of the man are what defile the man. [“If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.”] When he had left the crowd and entered the house, His disciples questioned Him about the parable. And He said to them, “Are you so lacking in understanding also? Do you not understand that whatever goes into the man from outside cannot defile him, because it does not go into his heart, but into his stomach, and is eliminated?” (Thus He declared all foods clean.) And He was saying, “That which proceeds out of the man, that is what defiles the man. “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. “All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man.”

Additionally, there were others who liked part of this new message of Christ but they were not prepared to completely give up the old way.  They thought that they could add to the work of Christ by keeping the laws.  In Acts 15:1 there was a group of people who claimed that “unless you are circumcised, according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.”  They go on to say in 15:5 that “it is necessary to circumcise them and to order them to keep the law of Moses.”

These two groups of people simply did not understand the message of the Old Testament.  Their view of the law reflects man’s tendency to rely on himself.  This kind of works based salvation is how every other message besides the message of Christ has always worked.  John MacArthur frequently reminds us that “there are only two religions in the world: the religion based on human achievement and the religion based on divine grace.”[1] The old way is man relying on himself to earn God’s favor.  The new way is God’s grace through Christ.  As we look at Mark 2:18-22 we will see that we must resist the temptation to hold onto the old in any way, and we must accept the new way of Jesus.

I.  The Temptation to Hold onto the Old (v. 18)

a. The disciples not following Jesus

The first thing that we see in this passage is that there are some disciples who are not following Jesus.  A disciple was someone who would attach themselves to a particular teacher.  They would become a student learner of their teacher following him closely to glean knowledge in every area of life.  In verse 19 we see two particular groups of disciples.

First, there are the disciples of John the Baptist.  John had many disciples during his ministry.  After his arrest some of these disciples left John and began to follow Jesus (John 1:35-42).  However, many of these disciples remained attached to John even after his arrest and subsequent execution (Mark 6:29).  In fact, in Acts 19:1-7 we learn that these disciples continued to exists as a distinct religious group for quite some time.  These disciples just could not let go of John.  He was their teacher, and unfortunately he became their idol.  These men continued to attach themselves to John despite the John’s own teaching.  In Mark 1:7-8 John made it clear to anyone who would listen that there was one mightier than he was.  This “Mightier One” is Jesus, and it was John’s desire to see all men follow this “Mightier One.”  Yet, even after his disciples returned to Galilee they continued to consider themselves disciples of John.

These disciples of John should have accepted the “new message” that Jesus proclaimed “after John was arrested.” (1:14)  However, the temptation for them to hang onto the “old message” was too great.  They did not like the idea of change.  John was their hero.  They loved John’s message, and they were not willing to look beyond John to see the glory of Christ.

The disciples of John were not the only ones present in verse 19.  Marks tells us that there were also “Pharisees” and “disciples of the Pharisees” present.  We are pretty familiar with who the Pharisees were, but it is a little bit more difficult to determine who the disciples of the Pharisees were.  The only other place in the New Testament where this group of people is mentioned is in Matthew 22:15-16 where Matthew simply mentions them in passing.  It is difficult to determine who these guys were because Pharisees did not normally have disciples.  They were not teachers.  They scribes were the teachers not the Pharisees.  There are several different explanations for who they were, but it may be that these individuals were disciples of the “scribes of the Pharisees” that we read of in 2:16.  These men were both scribes and Pharisees and so it would make sense for them to have disciples.  But however you explain it, it is clear the Pharisees and the disciples of the Pharisees both had a hard time accepting the new message of Jesus.  But it was for a slightly different reason than the disciples of John.

John’s disciples read the Old Testament and recognized their inability live up to the standard that it set.  That is why they participated in the baptism of repentance that John was teaching (1:4).  The problem, however, was that they did not accept Christ.  They did not want anyone taking the place of John, and they felt like the answer to their sin problem was to live an ascetic life.  On the other hand, the Pharisaic group read the Old Testament and refused to acknowledge their sin.  They rejected Jesus because they saw no need for him.  They didn’t want a spiritual Savior; they wanted someone who would punish all those who were not as righteous as they were (cf. 2:13-17).

Both of these groups were committed to the old way of works salvation, and they represent all of those who to this day are committed to the old way.  Like John’s disciples there are many who are willing to acknowledge their own spiritual imperfections, but they there answer to the problem is simply to work harder.  They think that they can overcome and make-up for what they have done in the past.  Others, like the Pharisaic group, think that they are inherently good and have not need for a Savior.  Because of who they are they think that they deserve the favor of God.

b. The disciple’s practice of fasting

These two groups of disciple, who really opposed each other in every other respect, were both committed to the old way of works salvation.  This commitment to the old way manifested itself on the area of fasting.  Mark tells us that both of these two groups were fasting.  They may have even been fasting while Jesus and his disciples were eating with the sinners and tax collectors (2:15-17).  The question is why were they fasting?

To take part in a fast simply means to abstain from food for some period of time.  Such an act was supposed to be an outward sign of an inner attitude (similar to John’s baptism), and it was usually associated with sorrow and repentance.

Surprisingly, the Old Testament only required one fast a year (Leviticus 16:29ff).  This fast was associated with the Day of Atonement, and it was to be a time of repentance and reflection upon sin.  Any other fasts that a person wanted to participate in were totally optional.  As time went by the people began to add more and more days of fasting to the calendar.  It got to the point where the Pharisees of Jesus day boasted that they fasted twice a week (Luke 18:12).  However, these fasts were not outwards signs of an inner attitude.  These fasts were simply outward works of pride.  In fact, Jesus warned of these empty fasts in Matthew 6:16-18:

“Whenever you fast, do not put on a gloomy face as the hypocrites do, for they neglect their appearance so that they will be noticed by men when they are fasting. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. “But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face so that your fasting will not be noticed by men, but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.

Apparently it was not just the Pharisaic group that had fallen into this trap.  John’s disciples were also caught up in these fasts.  Neither of these groups were participating in these fasts out of genuine heart for God.  Their focus was on themselves, and these outward works became so important to them that they were willing to unite with the hated Pharisees in order to question Jesus.  Don’t underestimate just how amazing this is. Remember, the Pharisees had been open and fierce opponents of John (John 4:1).  For these two groups to unite on anything would have been like Republicans and Democrats coming together in full agreement on an issue.

The issue that brought these two together was the issue of fasting.  The disciples who did not follow Jesus could not understand why the disciples who followed Jesus were not fasting.  They were so caught up on external things that they completely missed the spiritual significance of Jesus’ new message.  They refused to accept Jesus to the point that they actually questioned the Messiah.


[1] John MacArthur, Fallen from Grace, Part 1: Galatians 5:1-6. Sermon preached by John MacArthur.  GTY 1665 (audiocassette).

What Happened to Freedom of the Press

This week the Obama campaign announced that they will be charging “coverage packages” to media outlets wishing to cover the candidate in Chicago on election night.

Here is what the the campaign put out:

The following coverage resource packages are available for purchase:

* Main Riser Position – $935 (Includes 4 Main Riser Credentials, 5’x8′ Slot on Covered Main Riser and one 20 amp circuit)
* Main Riser Position with Telecommunications – $1870 (Includes Main Riser Position services, PLUS two unlimited long distance/local phone lines and one wired high speed internet connection)
* Cut Riser Position – $880 (Includes 4 Cut Riser Credentials, 5’x8′ Slot on Covered Cut Riser, one 20 amp circuit)
* Cut Riser Position with Telecommunications – $1815 (Includes Cut Riser Position services, PLUS two unlimited long distance/local phone lines and one wired high speed internet connection)
* Press File Seat – $935 (includes 1 Press File Credential, seat in heated Press File Tent, Power, Cable Television, High Speed Wired Internet Service, Catering)
* Satellite Truck Position – $900 (includes 35’x20′ parking position and 100 amp electrical service)
* Radio Position – $715 (includes table space and chair behind the riser, power and an ISDN BRI line for radio — comes with two credentials)

Billing information must be submitted at as part of the request. Your credit card will not be charged until the campaign confirms your coverage resource package request. Coverage resource packages must be requested at:

http://www.barackobama.com/pressbilling

Additional services may be purchased a la carte:

* Unlimited Long Distance Phone Line – $300
* High Speed Wired Internet – $275
* One 20 amp circuit – $165

For telephone service internet connectivity and additional power, orders must be placed by October 23rd, 2008. For questions on pricing or additional telecommunications assistance, please contact (deleted)

The following credentials may be requested at no cost:

* General Press Area – No Charge (Includes access to bike racked press area with standing room only)

You must fill out the form to the right to request each individual General Press Area credential.

Request media credentials for the Election Night event:

Credentials to access the General Media Area are available at no cost. Please note that the General Media Area is outdoors, unassigned and may have obstructed views. General Media Area credentials do not include access to riser positions, satellite truck parking or the press filing center.

Access to those resources are available for purchase at http://www.barackobama.com/pressbilling. Space is limited.

Email: *
First Name: *
Last Name: *
Phone: *
Media Outlet/Affiliation: *
Media call letters (if applicable):
Base of Operations:
Country name (required if international):
City media outlet is based: *
Media Type:
Photography
TV Camera
TV Audio
TV Producer
TV Talent
TV Support
Radio
Print
Internet
* denotes required field

Read the article HERE.

The Rays Win the Pennant

Last night the Rays won the pennant and I was there.  It was the most unbelievable sports moment of my life (please note the qualifier).  I have never heard anything so loud in my life.  It really was great to see this season keep going for the Rays.  All season long a new guy has stepped up to help the ball club out.   Last night it was Garza, Longo, Rocco, & Price.    

Whether you like them or not you have to admit that the Rays this season are what baseball is all about.  There not a bunch of overpaid superstars, there not supposed to be where they are, they are just a bunch of guys playing baseball.