Good morning and welcome a new week of our Foundations Daily Podcast. My name is Liam, I’m part of the team here at STC and I have the absolute privilege of picking up the baton from James as we look at the scriptures together and ask, ‘What are you saying to us God in this season?’.
Today’s passage is Matthew Chapter 9:1-17. You can hear the passage read in full at the end but here’s verse 14 – 17:
Then John’s disciples came and asked him, “How is it that we and the Pharisees fast often, but your disciples do not fast?”
Jesus answered, “How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them? The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast.
“No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch will pull away from the garment, making the tear worse. Neither do people pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.”
How’s your new normal?
This phrase, we hear it everywhere don’t we – it’s the label for the season. And if I’m honest, I still slightly wince when I hear it. It’s a phrase that perhaps can be viewed with a degree of negativity. Let’s be honest, no one really likes change. For many right now ‘new normal’ comes with a sense of loss – what has been before has now gone. And what is now…it’s in some way less. Each of us, in our own way, are having to navigate life in this season where restrictions have been placed upon us. And who knows…there may be more to come.
In today’s reading we see John’s disciples ask Jesus a question. A question about fasting. Fasting was something that was specifically required in Jewish law. It was a key religious practice. One which we note from their question that the Pharisees – the religious and the political leaders would have strictly adopted.
And Jesus’ answer back – it’s quite a surprising one. Now it’s not that Jesus had beef with people fasting – just look at his time in the wilderness in preparation for ministry – he fasted for 40 days. No, his argument is not that people shouldn’t fast but it’s the heart motive behind it. In essence Jesus’ challenge to this group of disciples and the Pharisees is that they continued to cling to the old way of doing things – the observance of religious rituals…. but were failing to embrace the new reality. Failing to see that God’s kingdom was here, among them. That the bridegroom – code word for the Messiah that they would have known from the Old Testament – would have come. Wrapped in the old way of doing things, they couldn’t face the reality of the new.
The two analogies Jesus uses reflect this further. You’re patching up a new garment with old material, he tells them. You’re pouring new wine into old wineskins. Essentially you’re doing the same old stuff, the same old way – failing to recognise that everything around you has now fundamentally changed.
This might be perhaps me going slightly off beat here but bear with me. I think there’s something for us to reflect on here in this season.
Can we find ourselves in some way becoming a little bit like this group that ask Jesus the question about fasting? Can we find ourselves thinking the same way, doing the same things, going through the same motions – when everything around has changed?
Today’s passage reveals to us something more of the kingdom in that it involves letting go of the old and embracing the ‘new’….
I don’t know about you but that sounds a bit uncomfortable, painful, difficult to process. As I prayed over this passage today I was mindful of the song ‘New Wine’ by Hillsong which speaks of the crushing and pressing, of being stripped back.
Not to labour the point but we are all experiencing some of that. We still can’t gather in the same way. When we do we can’t sing collectively. For some, the rule of 6 means that, we can’t meet physically with many others in our homes, and we’re still on screens. It’s hard – let’s be honest about that. It doesn’t feel comfortable….certainly not for me anyway.
And then we have these words from Jesus today and I wonder… are we finding ourselves feeling like we are trying to put the new wine into the old skin? Are we focusing so much on the old that we’re struggling to embrace the new reality?
This is a challenging season and one which seems to have its own negative narrative and yet, in Christ, we can have HOPE… real and eternal hope. Jesus is the new wine. He is here. He is, as Matthew illustrates throughout his Gospel account, the one who will make all things new… broken bodies and minds healed, sinners restored, storms tamed… His kingdom has come.
And so to finish… What does it look like for us embrace His kingdom in this season? What does it look like to embrace a new normal?
I don’t fully know but perhaps it looks like offering ourselves afresh to God each day – surrendering to Him the old ways…and asking Him to help us pick the new.
What is the new thing God has for us to pick up today?
Maybe it’s discovering a new way to encounter God in worship? Maybe it means investing deeper in that one relationship, that one person I can have round at my house at the minute? On a personal level, I’m learning to embrace the fact that I can’t be in schools as easily at the moment, so how can I use more of my time and energy to invest in praying and supporting those that do?
Where today can we ask God to help us let go of the old, so that we can pick up the new?
Jesus, thank you that you are making all things new. That we can have hope in what will come to be. But Lord may we perceive that you’re also doing a new thing now. That you have something new for each of us in this season. Help us to have open hearts and minds to you this day – pour in your new wine!
BIBLE READING: Matthew 9:1-17
Jesus stepped into a boat, crossed over and came to his own town. Some men brought to him a paralysed man, lying on a mat. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the man, ‘Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.’
At this, some of the teachers of the law said to themselves, ‘This fellow is blaspheming!’
Knowing their thoughts, Jesus said, ‘Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts? Which is easier: to say, “Your sins are forgiven,” or to say, “Get up and walk”? But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.’ So he said to the paralysed man, ‘Get up, take your mat and go home.’ Then the man got up and went home. When the crowd saw this, they were filled with awe; and they praised God, who had given such authority to man.
As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. ‘Follow me,’ he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him.
While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, ‘Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?’
On hearing this, Jesus said, ‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but those who are ill. But go and learn what this means: “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.’
Then John’s disciples came and asked him, ‘How is it that we and the Pharisees fast often, but your disciples do not fast?’
Jesus answered, ‘How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them? The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast.
‘No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch will pull away from the garment, making the tear worse. Neither do people pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst; the wine will run out, and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.’