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33. And they said unto him, Why do the disciples of John fast often, and make prayers, and likewise the disciples of the Pharisees; but thine eat and drink?
34. And he said unto them, Can ye make the children of the bride-chamber fast, while the bridegroom is with them?
35. But the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken away from them, and then shall they fast in those days.
36. And he spake also a parable unto them; No man putteth a piece of a new garment upon an old; if otherwise, then both the new maketh a rent, and the piece that was taken out of the new agreeth not with the old.
37. And no man putteth new wine into old bottles; else the new wine will burst the bottles, and be spilled, and the bottles shall perish.
38. But new wine must be put into new bottles; and both are preserved.
In this passage tonight, Jesus uses three different illustrations to show that the new found gospel, the new found joy, the new found life, the new found wine of His ministry, there was nowhere that it would fit and harmonize with Judaism. Jesus had come in and He had seen the temple. We will see later where He purges the temple. He will talk to these people in so many ways about keeping the Sabbath Day and other things. And all will be demonstrating the fact that there is no way to mix up some things. You just cannot mix up Judaism, as it was in those days, with the new Kingdom of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ. So, in this passage, there are three very striking illustrations that show this great new truth, that new life in Christ is in conflict with traditional legalistic religious formality.
I think that sometimes we have seen in our own times the oldness of ritual and the oldness of wineskins that could hold no new wine. And we’ve seen the conflict that came about. It is a natural kind of thing because the gospel of Jesus Christ does not accommodate. It is not broad enough to just take anything in under its umbrella, even though some would like to try to do that. They would like for us to be very broad-minded so that all religions, you hear a lot of people talk these days saying that all religions have something good and whichever one you choose really doesn’t matter. Well now, the Bible, and that’s what we go by here…the Word of God, the Bible would never allow that. It would say that there is none other name under heaven given among men whereby you must be saved, only through Jesus Christ the Lord. That’s the only way. And so tonight, we take our stand on that kind of truth and illustrate it with these three particular illustrations.
First of all, He presents something that looks like a choice between funeral or wedding. Let me explain. The Pharisees came to Him and said, ”What is it that our disciples and John’s disciples and others they keep the law and they keep every little regulation of Jewish teaching, including fasting…” You know, they were proud of their record of fasting. You remember the prayer of the man who bragged on himself and said, “I fast twice a week and I’m glad I’m not like this publican.” And you know what happened – what the verdict was about him and the publican. And so they were proud of their religion that they could show a kind of ‘good works’ religion that says look how holy I am because I fast so often. I give so much her and there and everything is done for show. And they said to Him, “Why don’t your disciples, why aren’t they mourning? Why don’t they go around with l-o-n-g faces and with fasting and show to the world that they are observing the law of Moses?” And Jesus said, “Well, you don’t understand. This situation is more like a wedding feast because as long as they have the bridegroom with them, the guests of the bridegroom they don’t fast, they celebrate the wedding. They celebrate the newness and the joy of this relationship with the bridegroom.” Amen! I’m glad that’s the way salvation really is. It’s coming into touch and in divine relationship with the divine Son of God who is the heavenly bridegroom. He is preparing a bride and He said as long as the bridegroom is here, they don’t go around acting like they are at a funeral. Jesus is saying funerals and weddings just don’t mix very well.
Well, they don’t most of the time. But I had one opportunity in my life just a few years ago to do both pretty much at the same time in a funeral home. I performed a wedding in a funeral home before the open casket of the bride’s father. The bride’s father was lying in state in the open casket in the funeral chapel and I performed the wedding on Saturday afternoon and preached his funeral on Sunday afternoon. Now that’s a little unusual, you know? That was my first experience! I’ve done a lot of things as a pastor, but that’s the first experience I did of that up in the mountains of Kentucky. The funeral director said, “Preacher, there are no surprises up here in these mountains.” And I guarantee you, that’s the truth. No surprises! But, that’s not ordinarily the way we do it. We don’t usually have wedding and funeral pretty much at the same time in the same place with the same crowd and so on.
So Jesus is saying you might as well try to mix weddings and funerals as to try to mix the new joy of the Kingdom and the new joy of the bride and the bridegroom as to try to mix that with the old mourning, long-faced ritual of fasting as they were doing just for show.
He said the day will come, now that’s not to teach against fasting at all, but He said the day will come when the bridegroom is taken away. He will leave and then He said the children will fast. Then will be a time of prayer and seeking God and fasting. But as long as they are with the bridegroom, it is time to celebrate. I had to explain to those people in Kentucky that in the liturgical churches, people who wear these beautiful robes to minister in, it is unusual but they wear white robes for celebration. Anytime the priest or minister comes out in a white robe it is for celebration. The idea is that they wear the white for both weddings and funerals, which is to say they celebrate a marriage and they also celebrate the homegoing of the person who has gone on to be with the Lord. Jesus is putting these things together in a strange way. And he says that as long as you are in the presence of the bridegroom, you celebrate and rejoice. But when the bridegroom is gone for a season, then you do some time of fasting and praying and even mourning and weeping over conditions and situations and then you fight the good fight of faith and then you are faithful in your preparation for His return.
Then without getting any answer or allowing any answer from them or other questions, He went on to illustrate this same truth in a different way twice. He then turned to talk about rags and patches. He said, and you ladies ought to appreciate this if you are like my wife and you have sewn a lot, He said you do not take a new garment and decide well, I’m going to take this new garment – part of it – and I’m going to reinforce and patch up this old ragged garment over here. He said that’s not the way you do it because if you cut a piece out of this new garment, can you imagine, ladies, getting a brand new dress and you say well here’s an old dress I like so well and it’s got this hole in it so I think I’ll just cut a piece out of this new dress and sew it on this one to cover up the hole. No! You don’t do that, do you? That’s not the way it works because if you do, Jesus said, the new cloth will be ruined. It will have a big rip in it, a big hole. And besides, this new piece you cut out, it won’t agree with the old rags. It won’t look right. Now most of you are not old enough to remember what I’m going to talk about right now. When I grew up on the farm in Mississippi, the son of a farmer preacher, well we knew what it was to wear patched clothing. But my mother, whether we needed it or not, I got two new pair of overalls every year. Whether we needed them or not! And I wore one pair to school all week and then pulled that one off and we washed. Wash day then was something else. You remember how they used to fix the old wash pot and you put the soap in it and you got it to boiling and you first boiled the white clothes and then you boiled the colored ones and all that? I wish some of you were old enough to remember that kind of doings! That’s the way we did. The reason I know is because I had to help my mother do that a lot of times. I had to build the fire. I had to carry the water. I had to put in the soap. We didn’t have soap powders then. I’ve taken my pocket knife and chipped up a bar of soap in that pot and it would boil. Well in those days you wore overalls until you had holes in the knees and other places perhaps and so we knew what wearing patched clothes was all about. But, they never did take pieces out of the new overalls to put on the old ones. No, they took an old pair that had seen all of its days and they would save some pieces out of that and patch with that. It looked pretty good. Everybody else had it when they went to school or to work or going to the swimming hole or wherever they went. They had them so you didn’t feel out of style at all.
But Jesus said when you start putting this new cloth with all of its freshness and its beauty and you try to patch up old rags of Jewish religion, it won’t work! It won’t agree. You will destroy one thing and the other will not work. Now there are a lot of people in this world that’s the only kind of religion they would like to have, just patch up a little here and there. Don’t get a new garment. Don’t get a new experience. Don’t have a real revival and new life with Christ. No, don’t go that far, just kind of patch up a little.
I was pastor of coal miners and their families for six years in southern Illinois. The people in that section of Illinois in the coal mine region, they don’t build new houses. They just keep repairing and adding on and adding on and add another room on because they are afraid a strike is going to come and they’ll be out of work with no money, afraid they can’t make big payments on a fine new home. So they just pay as they go and add on a little and so on. There comes a time, though, that you would just like to see somebody buy a nice big lot and build a brand new house and quit adding on and patching up a little bit. You know what I mean? There comes a time in your life of faith where you need to embrace the new faith and the new power and the new spirit that is in Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour and not just try to add on a little and patch up a little here and there. Does this make any sense tonight? Oh, God! Help us to embrace the newness of His glorious, wonderful power. Amen.
And then He told another parable, a brief one that illustrates the same point. I’m making the same point three times tonight. Three times the charm. You ought to get it by time I get through with number three. He said neither do people take new wine and put it into old wineskins. Now we don’t know much about carrying liquid in skin bags like they did in those days. He said because here is what happens. That old wineskin has already stretched to its capacity. It cannot be flexible anymore. It cannot stretch any further and if you fill it full of new wine, when that new wine undergoes fermentation and expansion, the old wineskin will just burst. It will be ruined and the wine will be lost. The pastor preached on this a few weeks back and talked about old wineskins. Jesus is saying there is no such thing as new wine in old wineskins. That doesn’t work. It will destroy both. Amen! And He is saying there is no way that what I am bringing, the new wine of the Holy Spirit, the new wine of the Kingdom of God, the new wine of the gospel, there is no way that Judaism is ever going to accept it in its old form. And that’s the problem with wineskins. It can become empty. It can do alright until its empty and you think about refilling it. If you want to refill it with new wine, you are in trouble. If you refill it with the old that has lost its life, that’s ok. That might work, but not if you put the new wine in it.
Oh, I want to tell you God is ever the same we said to begin with. But He is the God of newness. He is the God that brings the new forth so that living with Jesus Christ is a new life every day. There is nothing boring. There is nothing stale. There is nothing old about being a child of God and walking in this world in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ and having the fullness of the Holy Spirit in your heart. Nothing boring about that. It is like the new wine that is the symbol of joy. A new wine that is a symbol of celebration. They new wine that is a symbol of cleansing and purging because anytime you look at the wine theme in the Bible, it has to do with not only the color of red, but of celebration and joy and cleansing and purging because it represents the blood of Jesus.
There are so many people who need a new vessel, who need their whole life transformed and changed so that they can receive the joy of the new wine. A lot of people want it. They want the blessings. They want the joy. They want the peace, but they don’t want to change. They want it like they are. The Bible teaches some things very emphatically and that is the Holy Spirit is for believers, not for people who have rejected the gospel and who have not been changed. Cleansing is for people who come to Jesus in repentance and faith and it is not for people who just want to patch up. There has to be transformation. There has to be change. I believe in these last days that somehow or another we need to get a glimpse again of what it means to be transformed and changed by the power of God, being made into a brand new creature – a brand new vessel.
I remember a preacher, I’ve forgotten his name. He used to preach in Birmingham, Alabama and he had one of these cute sayings that he said…that’s about all I remember of his preaching, but he said that the trouble with us down here in Birmingham is that these new converts, we pull them too green. You could tell he was a country boy, a farmer, and you know what he meant, don’t you? Before they were able ever ripened, before they ever got changed, before they were transformed, somebody told them you are ok now. But I want us to stay with the gospel of Jesus Christ that talks about the new life that comes from above that transforms and changes people’s lives so that they are made ready to receive the power of the Holy Spirit and the new joy. That may be a clue right here as to why some people don’t have joy, why they can’t take in and receive the new wine. Maybe there is some changing and cleansing and purging that needs to be done somewhere. But oh, when you have a clear conscience, you can be happy.
The other day I was preaching Brother German’s funeral and I’ve known him ever since I came to this town because you know I’m a gardener. I had a tiller, it’s worn out now, but I used to take it over to Brother German’s and he would get it running good and so I knew him from way back then. One of the outstanding things about that man was he was happy. He was a happy Christian and his family, that was one thing they reminded me of. How impressed they were and how influenced they were by the fact their father was a happy Christian. I liked that idea. As I preached his funeral, I talked about that. I was talking about how Jesus would welcome him and others, the great words of welcome, “Well done thou good and faithful servant. You’ve been faithful over a few things. Now I’m going to make you ruler over many. Enter thou into the joy of the Lord!” One of the things I said about him, when you have a good conscience, if you are a good person with a good conscience you can have joy. You can be happy. Now you take the opposite application of that anywhere you want to take it. But I believe that there is kind of a famine on these days for people who need the joy of the Lord. Our evangelist preached on it one night and he did a great job of preaching on that subject as well as preaching a lot of other great messages.
But oh, I want to tell you there is one of the greatest things needed in the church in these days is the expression, the manifestation of the fruit of the Spirit which is joy, absolute, glorious, happiness and joy in the Lord Jesus Christ. And when you are transformed and changed into the new wineskin, the new vessel that can hold the power of the Holy Spirit, the new wine, then you are a candidate for the fullness of joy. Because in the Bible there are expressions, several different kinds of expressions about joy. First of all, just plain joy. But then it talks about more joy in other places. And it talks about great joy in other places. And it talks about full joy someplace else. And then after a while it talks about joy unspeakable. Amen! I still like that old song well it’s joy unspeakable and full of glory, oh the half has never yet been told!
I don’t want to ever see us in the Church of God settle for just a stiff, crusted over wineskin kind of experience. Whatever it takes of the transforming power to keep us where the new wine keeps pouring in and the new joy keeps coming, that’s what I want to see. If you agree with me, if that’s your burden or your prayer, will you stand with me right now.
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! I pray that the joy of Pentecost will just abound in our midst and in our hearts more and more. Would you pray that God would help us, that with the newness of what we have received in this revival the new wine that it will just be preserved, none be lost, and people would be able to worship in spirit and in truth and rejoice in the Lord. Let us pray.
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