Responding Properly to the Truth
Topic: Joy Verse: Luke 5:33–5:39
“Responding Properly to Truth”
Theme: Presuppositions of self-sufficiency must yield to the truth of the Gospel.
I. The Perspective of the Externalist Focuses on Conduct – 5:33
A. The Confused People
- The flow of Matthew’s account provides us an understanding of why this section is necessary; the biblical account is not a random arrangement of independent stories – they build on the theme of the author.
- Here we find a clarification provided that biblical Christianity – the current representation of the Kingdom of God – cannot be co-opted or synergized with differing worldviews of perspectives.
- Jesus had just challenged the religious leadership of Israel to go back and reconsider their perspectives based on an experiential awareness of God’s compassion toward them as sinners – something that they missed given their self-righteousness.
- Their perspectives were focused on form over substance – doing the right thing to them was the same as being the right thing – something that Jesus totally denounced.
- However, it seems to be the common perspective of most who are caught up in religion – as long as I’m looking good, I am good.
- This was evidenced by the three pillars of Judaism in Jesus’ day – the activities of alms giving, prayer, and fasting.
- Although these three activities are tremendous opportunities for a pure heart to demonstrate itself, you can also engage in activities such as these without true righteousness being involved at all – cp. Matthew 9:13.
- Thus, we are introduced to some people who can’t make sense of Jesus dissatisfaction with the rituals and the emphasis on the heart alone – “And they said to Him …”
- We are informed that these are actually the disciples of John – cp. Matthew 9:14
- John was not available for them to query for clarification – cp. Matthew 4:12
- Clearly not all of John’s disciples had followed John’s instructions to follow Christ – cp. John 3:28-30
- John’s personal approach was very ascetic – cp. Matthew 3:4
- Disciples commonly take the teachings of their masters farther than the master intends – perhaps this is what had happened to these “disciples of John.”
- We do know that a sect of followers followed John and his teachings long after John had died – cp. Acts 19:1-3
- These men were confused by Jesus’ and His disciples’ lack of conformity to the established religious conventional wisdom and were troubled by it.
B. The Confused Perspective
- Thus, they “… said to Him, ‘the disciples of John often fast and offer prayers, the disciples of the Pharisees also do the same, but Yours eat and drink.’”
- Although the Jewish traditions demanded that truly righteous people fast twice a week – cp. Luke 18:12; only one fast a year was prescribed by the Law – the Day of Atonement – Leviticus 16:29, 31
- The standard practices of doing of a “fast” was to allow as many people to know that you were doing it as possible so that one’s testimony would be well-established – cp. Matthew 6:16-18
- This is totally inconsistent with the practice of “fasting” [νηστεύω] – from the Hebrew word that conveys humility and self-denial
- In that they come to ask why they aren’t fasting indicates that they expected truly righteous people to participate and also allow everyone else to know that they were participating.
- Religious rituals, routines and habits have always presented a potential pothole in the pursuit of godliness – doing is so much more quickly accomplished than being
- These disciples “… of the Pharisees” were so externally focused that they couldn’t accept that Jesus and His disciples could be godly without being like them – they were confused.
- How does your Christian walk display a focus on externals?
- What standards do you possess that are not biblical, but only personal?
- Ponder: Is it wrong to set standards that are not specified in the Scriptures? If not, what makes something wrong?
II. The Priority of the Righteous Focuses on the Heart – 5:34-35
A. The Priority of Feasting – v. 34
- Jesus immediately answers by going back to the heart – indicating that religious activity must be an expression of the sentiment of one’s heart.
- Dry, empty, feeling-less religious activity cannot and will not ever be acceptable to God – whether its fasting, praying, singing, serving, giving, etc … - cp. 1 Corinthians 13:3
- Matthew reports that “Jesus said to them, ‘You cannot make the attendants of the bridegroom fast while the bridegroom is with them, can you?’”
- This analogy was so perfect – having been set up by John himself as he compared Jesus to such a “bridegroom” – cp. John 3:29
- At a wedding reception, people don’t sit around mourning and yearning for an opportunity to commune and fellowship – it’s a time for celebration
- Matthew had just been saved, so had the paralytic, as had been the two men of Gadara … God’s blessings were flowing through the Messiah to the people of God as they were being reconciled to God by faith.
- This was a time for feasting – fasting would have been out of harmony with what God was doing in their midst – cp. Nehemiah 8:9-12
- To do otherwise would be blasphemous depreciation of the true work of God in their midst.
B. The Priority of Fasting – v. 35
- Thus, Jesus provides a mild rebuke of the “disciples of John and the Pharisees” who were refusing to accept the work of God in their midst and rejoicing.
- However, Jesus indicated that there was going to be a time when fasting would be appropriate – “But the days will come; and when the bridegroom is taken away from them, then they will fast in those days.”
- “taken away from them …” – [ἀπαίρω] is a word to conveys the sudden and unexpected violent snatching away – a reference to the crucifixion.
- When the Lord is killed on account of sin, the impact will produce a “mourning” that will involve a deep yearning for communion with Christ.
- We discussed back in Matthew 6:16 that there are times when the soul of a person is so greatly yearning for fellowship with Christ that they prefer the pursuit of this fellowship over other activities, including eating.
- Both in Matthew 6 and here, Jesus implies that Christians will participate in fasting as a discipline in their pursuit of fellowship with Him – as a natural and private practice because of the great and intense desire to know Him – not a regulated ritual.
- What is the proper purpose of fasting?
- Have you ever fasted? When do you think you should?
- What makes fasting an activity that hinders true spirituality?
III. The Point of the Gospel Forbids Self-Sufficiency - 5:36-39
A. The Incongruity with the Kingdom – v. 36
- The attempt to have the joy associated with the Kingdom of Christ fit with the external formalities and legalism associated with “religion” is incongruous – “And He was also telling them a parable: ‘no one tears a piece of cloth from a new garment and puts it on an old garment; otherwise he will both tear the new, and the piece from the new will not match the old.’”
- Jesus is here expressing clearly that what He is preaching is not some type of new and improved legalism; a system of doing for people to be able to conclude that they are righteous.
- What Jesus is preaching and offering is something totally incompatible with the mindset of the legalist – the one who believes that they can work hard enough to get themselves to Heaven.
- To add Christ on top of Judaism (or any other religious set of practices) completely changes that Gospel so that it is no longer powerful to save – cp.Galatians 1:6-7.
- Those who attempt to patch-up their own lives using Christ will come away with greater discouragement and hopelessness than they even they previously possessed – Christianity is not a reformation of what was, it is the creation of something brand new –2 Corinthians 5:17
B. The Innovation of the Kingdom – vv. 37-39
- This brings us to the next analogy or parable – “And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the new wine will burst the skins and it will be spilled out, and the skins will be ruined.”
- The old forms of Judaism and do not provide adequate containers for the powerful Gospel transformations that are occurring in the lives of the elect.
- This is not a disparagement on the Old Testament or on the Law of God – it is perfect and serves a necessary role in crystallizing the “knowledge of sin” in the heart and mind of a sinner.
- However, what is needed for the power of the Gospel and the work of God in redemption is something totally new –“… but new wine must be put into fresh wineskins.”
- What the disciples of John and the Pharisees through captured true godliness and righteousness was nothing better than an old garment with holes or stiff wineskins that could not contain the power of the Gospel.
- Jesus then concludes this exchange with a broad statement of the difficulty of accepting new truth - that“no one, after drinking old wine wishes for new; for he says, ‘the old is good enough.’”
- Can you think of any examples where you have merely added Christ on top of your personal priorities and standards?
- How ought your life change in demonstration of complete surrender to the work of Christ and not sharing in the effort to “get saved?”
- How does the resistance to change show the quenching of God’s Spirit?