Jesus gives a beautiful illustration:
You can’t pour new wine into old, dried up wine skins – they will burst.
Likewise, you can’t focus in two directions at the same time – you can either face forwards or backwards, but not both.
Jesus explained – (his disciples) “haven’t given up fasting, they will have time for that in the future – they are just focusing in one direction.” (Kim’s paraphrase)
Let’s look at the three groups in this story:
The Pharisees: They found their stability and identity in religious ritual. Fasting was how they ‘found God’. They missed God in their midst because they decided what He should look like and how He should act.
John’s Disciples: John’s disciples had just found a ‘new thing’. They had even left normal life to follow a guy out into the desert. John was preaching that The One was coming. John’s disciples, however, had grown up in a religious system. They were trained to follow certain custom and pay attention to the opinions of other religious leaders. Since John was preaching to the Pharisees, and many were being baptized, these two interests weren’t necessarily competing. John’s disciples kept one foot in the old and only hoped for the new. They remind me of a runner who runs while constantly looking back over his shoulder…eventually he’s likely to trip and fall.
Jesus’ Disciples: Jesus’ disciples grew up in the same religious system, but they left the old system and followed Jesus wholeheartedly. They experienced an entire paradigm change. This new system didn’t uproot the old, it put the old in a new framework.
I heard about a painting that was discovered. (This might have actually been in a movie, but it is still a great illustration.) On it’s face was just an ordinary, plain painting. A family owned it, and hadn’t really appreciated it much because it was dull. Then, a restorer got a hold of it. Upon removing the top, dull painting, he discovered one of the great master’s works. Apparently, during Nazi times, someone had sought to hide the painting in plain sight by covering it over.
The old religious system was like the plain painting. When the new paradigm grew into a full picture, it became apparent that within the old paradigm was a beautiful plan of God that was fulfilled in Jesus. The old religious system wasn’t to be abolished like the Pharisees feared, it was to be completed.
God spoke to the people through Isaiah another time. Here are the words He used:
Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the desert
and streams in the wasteland. (Isaiah 43:18-19)
We live in a day of constant change. However, we know that God stays the same. He is dependable, lovely, and on our side. Most of all, He is more interested in having a relationship with us than we can ever muster up the desire to have a relationship with Him. We don’t have to jump up and down to get His attention.
Here our challenge today:
- What are you doing instead of just being with God?
- Are you looking forward for what He is doing now, stuck in what you hope He is going to do, or are you really stuck in what He has already done?
My question is this: What do you think God’s ‘new thing’ is – for you personally, or in general?
I pray that when people spend time with us, they will know that we have been with Jesus.