Mark 2:23–28 NRSV
One sabbath he was going through the grainfields; and as they made their way his disciples began to pluck heads of grain. The Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the sabbath?” And he said to them, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need of food? He entered the house of God, when Abiathar was high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and he gave some to his companions.” Then he said to them, “The sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the sabbath; so the Son of Man is lord even of the sabbath.”
Could Sabbath be another wineskin issue? Yesterday it was about fasting. Today it’s about food. Once again, the so-called faithful are concerned about enforcing faithfulness to the law as it relates to Sabbath-keeping. Jesus’ disciples were hungry and they plucked a few heads of grain to cut their appetite. The Pharisees appeal to the rules. Jesus appealed to the purpose of the rules—real people (i.e., David).
Old wineskins: man was made for the Sabbath.
New wineskins: the Sabbath was made for man.
Old wineskins were about getting it right.
New wineskins are about keeping it real.
Old wineskins were about external appearance.
New wineskins are about internal identity.
Old wineskins were about fulfilling duty.
New wineskins are about training desire.
Old wineskins: fasting is all about faithfulness.
New wineskins: fasting is all about fellowship.
Old wineskins: Sabbath is all about prohibitions.
New wineskins: Sabbath is all about provision.
The issue is not about the practice, but the purpose. The old way: perfecting performance through religious practice. The new way: perfecting purpose through practicing love. The Holy Spirit is not in search of perfect people. The Holy Spirit searches for people whom he can perfect in love.
Old wineskins: keeping it religious.
New wineskins: keeping it authentic.
So what about the new wine? That’s the Holy Spirit. Remember the day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit first descended on the apostles? Remember what the people said? “And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, ‘What does this mean?’ But others sneered and said, ‘They are filled with new wine’” (Acts 2:12–13 NRSV).
Jesus’ agenda for his disciples: stripping away the old wineskins of a religious kind of holy to make way for the new wineskins of a human kind of holy. It’s not an easy transition. The pathway must go through the cross.
Ready for the new wine of the Holy Spirit? Keep it real.
Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me.
Do you tend to be more stuck in the old wineskin mentality or are you guilty of throwing out the baby with the bathwater on things like fasting and Sabbath-keeping?
What might a new wineskin approach look like for you?
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