#11: Saturday, 16 March, 2019.
Saturday, 16 March Luke 5:27 – 6:11
Written by Dr Graham Leo. ©2019.
In today’s reading, Luke shows Jesus to us being faced with three questions put directly to him by people who were inclined to be his antilogia – those who spoke words against him. Then Luke gives us a fourth question; no-one actually asked this, but Jesus pulled it out of the air in which it was hanging anyway.
Here are the four questions, summarised a little, for reasons of space:
1. Why do you eat with tax collectors and sinners? (5:30)
2. Why do your disciples not fast and pray, like proper disciples do? (5:33)
3. Why are you doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath? (6:2)
4. What is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to destroy it? (6:7-9)
To the first, Jesus gives a delightfully simple answer. Nobody could possibly argue against it: Because it’s sick people who need a doctor, not the healthy ones.
Jesus clarifies that he doesn't have much time for the ones who think that they are A-OK. He’s only interested in those who know they need help. That’s worth thinking about, from both levels. I’ve been in both camps, and sometimes still find myself imagining that I might have again really made it into the A-OK camp. Pride is a most foolish vice.
To the second question, Jesus tells a parable as an answer. I think his parable is often misunderstood, because people sometimes stop before they get to the end, thinking they’ve got the point. It’s the parable about old and new cloth, and old and new wineskins.
Too often, I've heard sermons about how we as New Testament people need to be drinking new wine out of new wineskins. Throw the old ones away! Jesus has come to pour new wine into new wineskins! Hurrah! The parable is taken to mean that the Old Testament rituals and scriptures are obsolete now that the New Testament is here. There are New Wine Churches, New Wine Ministries, New Wine conferences…
But read Jesus’ last sentence again: And no-one after drinking the old wine wants the new, for he says, ‘The old is better’.
Whoopsie! Maybe we’ve got this New Wine thing all wrong?
To the third question, Jesus quotes an Old Testament scripture and draws a conclusion from it about his role as the Lord of the Sabbath (Laws).
And to the fourth question, Jesus does what he did yesterday. He heals a man’s physical body. Sabbath day or not.
Again, the physical healing was not the Main Thing. Luke is surely wanting us to keep the Main Thing in our minds. What is the Main Thing?
The Main Thing is that New Testament people suffer from exactly the same problem as Old Testament people, and that the solution for both is exactly the same.
The problem was not that the Old Testament legal system was obsolete or faulty or inadequate for purpose. God designed it, after all. You’d be a game person to say that it was not a good idea.
Paul tells us that the purpose of the law was to bring us to Christ. (Gal. 3:24-6)
No wonder that Jesus said that you should not despise the old wine. It is that wine which brings us to Christ! We need to come to Christ, because we are disobedient and rebellious. The law shows us the way, as the leper in yesterday’s reading showed us.
The bread that David ate (vv3-4) was the Bread of the Presence – twelve loaves that were placed weekly on a table in the Holy Place. Jesus claimed to be the very Presence of God himself. Where the Christ is, the law has completed its purpose.
It’s not that the law is irrelevant once you come to Christ – you just don't need to look it up any more to see what to do. When you get married, all the laws about not seeing someone naked or having sexual relations, go out the window. When the bridegroom and the bride are in the one place, there is sweetness and harmony. Obedience is no longer commanded; it is enjoyed.
Remember Spenser in The Faerie Queene? (Well, even if you don't remember, I can't help but think of it!):
A groom … him laid at rest in easie bedde,
His name was meek Obedience, rightly a-redde.
The easiest bed in which to lie is always the bed of obedience. When we attempt to settle ourselves down in any other, we find the bed quickly develops lumps and nasty things that bite and bring us pain.
Antilogia have no place in Christ's kingdom. The Kingdom of Heaven, or to say it another way, the Christian life, is a place of faithfulness to all of his logia, all his words.
Luke’s lesson for us today is simply this: Obedience to the words of God is the path to peace with God. When we fail to obey, we can rely on the obedience of Christ for forgiveness and restoration. But that Divine Obedience will never overtake the need for us to be consistently obedient in our own daily living.
It’s not that obedience to God’s Word is a Requirement For Membership in Christ’s kingdom. It’s just that it’s the Culture of Christ’s kingdom. The shortest definition of organisational culture that I learnt in management studies was: ‘Culture is the way we do things around here’.
You don't get into God’s kingdom by obeying; but once you're there, you just go on obeying, because that’s the way we do things around here.
Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, thank you for your Word, and for the instructions in your Law. Please help me to live in obedience to your Word, to your divine law, to your character and to your person. Help me to be diligent in finding your pathways by reading your Word – all of it, from Genesis to Revelation. Amen.