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New Wine

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We can get so hung up on our own external judgment system, can’t we?

As you look at your fellow man, do you ever find any of these thoughts running through your mind?

Do you ever wonder if he/she….

parents the “right” way (whatever way we think that is)?
drinks alcohol ad nauseam, to the point of getting admitted for a inpatient treatment?  lives a tee-total lifestyle?
listens to the “wrong” kind of music?
allows his/her children to listen to the wrong kind of music?
has tattoos/piercings/ OR allows his/her child to have tattoos/ piercings?
attends the “wrong” denomination (whatever we judge that to be)?
doesn’t even attend church at all?
watches movies/read books we have deemed to be godless?
eats that processed crappy junk food? (now I’m just meddlin’)
eats only whole foods?
sits in front of the computer all day and never exercises his/her fat bottom-bam-a-lam?
has Jillian Michaels on speed dial?
wears dowdy clothes and never takes care of his/her appearance?
spends way too much money on high fashion clothes and skincare?
lacks education?
has too much book larnin’ but not a lick of common sense?
needs a bath and a visit to the dentist?
overindulges in Crest Whitestrips and cologne?
Twitters/Facebooks her life away?
has not a clue in regard to the importance of social media in this day/age?

You name it, we can judge people for it.

We can, and, we do.

It’s a funny thing, but the more things change, the more they seem to stay the same.

And judging on the basis of externals is a problem common to man.

The Pharisees were doing it, back in the day, and Jesus called them on it.

I ran into this passage in Luke chapter 5, and it’s a little harder for us 21st century folk to relate to, but if you’ll hang with me for a moment, I think you’ll see what I mean.

Jesus ran into a guy named Levi, who was a tax collector: the most despised profession of his day. They were despised not only because, after all, who likes to pay taxes, but they were Israeli Jews who were in cahoots with the occupational government of Israel: the Romans. Sort of like being a Nazi collaborator in France during Dubyah Dubyah Two (the big one). I was trying to think of what profession we might detest in this day and age and I came up with a lawyer who works for the IRS. I think that ought to cover the poor hapless victims of lawyer jokes (!) and the IRS (!), all in one swell foop.

(My apologies to any and all attorneys, employees of the IRS, and attorneys for the Internal Revenue Service and their spouses, whom I have just offended. Mea culpa.)

Jesus not only stopped to talk to Levi (the IRS attorney), but He also told him to follow Him. Scripture tells us Levi left everything, immediately, and followed Jesus.

Then, Levi was so completely enthralled by Jesus, he decided to throw a huge party and invite all his friends, who happened to be tax collectors, and sinners, a lot like Levi, coincidentally. Amazing how that happens.

So, anyway, they were all having a great time, eating and drinking, Jesus and Levi, and all Levi’s friends. But this really bothered the important holy guys, those Titans of the Temple, the Pharisees. You know them today as the Big Kahunas at church.

“WTHeck???” they inquired. “All the other holy guys: their followers fast. What is Jesus THINKING, eating and drinking with the riffraff?”

Jesus’ answer to them was that it’s only a sick guy who needs a doc, and he had come to call the sick guys to repentance. (Now, if the Pharisees didn’t get the fact that they were sick, too, there wasn’t much Jesus could do about that. But He decided to give them another opportunity to contemplate that possibility by telling this somewhat-cryptic-to-us-in-the-21st-century story.)

 vs 36 “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.
vs. 37 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. 
vs. 38 No, new wine must be poured into new wineskins. 
vs. 39 And no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for they say, “The old is better.”  
This kingdom of God (the new wine)  that Jesus was announcing wasn’t a patch to fix Judaism. It could not be contained within the confines of the law: like new wine in old wineskins – the flexibility needed to contain it could not be found within law. 
Maybe the new wineskins were the tax collectors and sinners, and those who realized they WERE sinners. Those who recognized their need for strength and help from somewhere outside themselves. They recognized their own inadequacy.
If you are happy with the old law, you are probably not going to like the coming kingdom, because it is not what you are used to. The kingdom of God is new and vital, and is radically different from the old way of looking at things.
This is the old wine: the law, which looked at externals, and measured holiness by looking at external actions.  With the law, if one had done the external requirements, one could state with assurance: “I am holy…(and, by extension) … he is not”. This measurement of self against the standard of the law leads to either a sense of smug self-righteousness, or hopeless despair in one’s inability to meet that standard,  in those who are focused on externals. 
But the new wine, which is the kingdom of God reigning inside the heart,  is not like that. In the kingdom of God, all that was necessary to make us righteous has already been done. No righteous external acts of our own will guarantee or demonstrate our salvation. The heart led by the Holy Spirit  ought be a heart filled with humble gratitude, overflowing with love, realizing its dependence on the Father, and then taking action out of that sense of gratitude and love.

And not one busy measuring and judging one’s self and others by the externals.




Pass me a glass of that New Wine, if you please, and fill it to the brim, Bartender.