It’s interesting, I believe that the thrust of the New Covenant (written on our heart) VS the Old Covenant basically (The Old Testament Law) simply boils down to doing things for the right reasons. Why do we go to church, pray, fast, get baptized or take communion? Are we simply trying to follow tradition or a set of rules?
Jesus challenges our motives. Do we do things simply to indicate that we “believe” or even a step further, do we establish patterns in our lives so that we will “look” Holy or righteous to others? Jesus taught that good actions done for the wrong reasons have no moral or spiritual effect. In Mark 2:18-22 (above) Jesus is questioned yet again by the religious authorities (whom, by the way, established elaborate behavior patterns in order to look Holy….and I believe that they indeed felt they were Holy). Here, Jesus is asked about fasting, which is basically going without food in order to spend time in prayer. It is also an act that helps humble us before God, our creator. The key is, like all things, Jesus taught that it should be done sincerely and not simply for show or because it was mandated by tradition or rules.
Mark 2:18-22 (TNIV)
18 Now John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting. Some people came and asked Jesus, “How is it that John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees are fasting, but yours are not?” 19 Jesus answered, “How can the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? They cannot, so long as they have him with them. 20 But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them, and on that day they will fast. 21 “No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. If they do, the new piece will pull away from the old, making the tear worse. 22 And people do not pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins.”
ANSWER 1 (Mark 2:18-20): Jesus says, “How can the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? They cannot, so long as they have him with them. 20 But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them, and on that day they will fast.”
I have heard it best explained this way: “The Pharisees fasted as a show of piety; the disciples of John the Baptist fasted as a sign of mourning for sin and to prepare for the Messiah’s coming. But, like Jesus’ disciples, they did not need to fast because the Messiah was with them! To be with Jesus the bridegroom is as joyous as a wedding feast. Wedding guests do not mourn or fast; a wedding is a time of celebration and feasting. Likewise, Jesus’ coming was a sign of celebration, not mourning and fasting. “
Jesus did not come to patch up the old religious system of Judaism with its rules and traditions. Jesus clearly came to fulfill (or fully explain and set the record straight) these rules, though they had been prophesied for centuries. Again, I have heard it best explained this way: “The newness of the gospel and its relationship to people could not be combined with the religion of Judaism any more than a piece of unshrunk cloth should be used as a patch on a worn-out garment. When the garment is washed, the patch will shrink, pull away from the old garment, and leave a bigger hole than before.”
ANSWER 3 (Mark 2:22): Jesus says, “And people do not pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins.”
In ancient days, wine was kept in goatskins sewn around the edges to form watertight bags called wineskins. New wine expanded as it fermented, stretching its wineskin. After the wine had aged, the old wineskin (that had gotten brittle with age and couldn’t stretch anymore) would burst if more new wine was poured into it. New wine, therefore, was always put into new wineskins. What Jesus was saying here was that we must be careful that our heart does not become so rigid that it prevents us from accepting the new way of thinking that Christ brings. Our life is more about the heart and our motivations…and less about simply following the rules.
BRING IT UP TO TODAY:
Why do you go to church? Is it to socialize, to fit in, to look religious? OR….. do you go to church to praise and worship Jesus, indeed God, who created and creates all, who loves and wants us to love?
Why do you pray? Because you were taught to do it before meals, maybe because you want something, or so that you will look religious? OR……. is prayer a sincere communication between you and Jesus, indeed God?
Why do you fast? Because it’s that time of the year again and you are expected too? OR….. do you fast as a way of humbling yourself before God, indeed Jesus?
Why did you get baptized? Because it was expected at some point in your life? Because you want to go to heaven? OR……….. were you baptized because you recognize a new change in your life as you accept and live the love of Jesus? (There is nothing wrong, by the way, with rededicating your life to Jesus by being baptized again)
Why do you take communion? Because the rest of the church does it? OR…….. do you take communion because you truly are thankful for the sacrifice that was made by Jesus on the cross so that you could enter into a personal relationship with God?
There may be many other answers to these questions; I have only provided a few to show the contrast. The key is, don’t do things in life merely for show or because you are following a rule or tradition. Embrace the love of God, indeed embrace the love of Jesus and sincerely live a life loving Him and loving others. This is the key to true fulfillment and joy in life. When we follow Christ, we must be prepared for new ways to live, new ways to look at people, and new ways to serve.