We are in the middle of a lengthy study called “The Parables of Jesus”. Thus far we have examined 14 different parables. Some of these were fully developed and detailed stories told in several verses while others were expressed with a single statement. Regardless of their length or complexity, in each case the Jesus’ parables presented earthly characters, items, and/or events to illustrate spiritual truths.
We began the series with 6 parables about God’s Kingdom. These included the parables of the Sower, the Growing Seed, the Hidden Treasure, the Costly Pearl, the Mustard Seed, and the Leaven. With these examples, Jesus taught us how the Kingdom of God grows. He originally spread the seed of the gospel and now we are to do likewise. As we faithfully do so, God alone will take responsibility for His Kingdom’s expansive growth. There is nothing greater, more beautiful, or as valuable as discovering the Kingdom of God personally.
Next, we covered 8 parables that dealt with various aspects of God’s Character. These included the parables of the Good Shepherd, the Lost Coin, the Prodigal Son, the Two Debtors, the Unforgiving Servant, the Good Samaritan, the Workers in the Vineyard, and the Strong Man. Jesus told these parables to illustrate certain virtues of God. He delights in the redemption of the lost and the restoration of the rebellious. He forgives the sinner’s debt completely, and forgives the Christian as they forgive others. He shows neighborly love and compassion to the hurting soul and commands us to do the same. His gives salvation graciously to all who will receive Him and has overpowered Satan and His demons.
This morning we begin a third category of parables. The topic of these will be God’s Covenant. A covenant is a binding agreement or contract made between 2 or more parties. In the Old Testament we discover that God actually initiated several covenants with differing individuals including Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, and David. In short, God promised to bless those who obeyed Him and curse those who disobeyed Him.
Over the centuries, the Jews misinterpreted these covenants by promoting a works-based religion. Strict obedience to the Law and adherence to God’s commandments were viewed as the only means of salvation. This false idea was taught and reinforced for generations. By the time Jesus arrived on the scene most people believed that the only way to please God was through good works, and many were burdened by these rigorous requirements. But Jesus established a new and better covenant...
I. A QUESTION ABOUT FASTING - Matthew 9:14-15, Mark 2:18-20, Luke 5:33-35
This episode in the life of Jesus is described in all 3 synoptic Gospels. Early in His ministry, just after calling Matthew to be an apostle, the Lord was questioned on the issue of fasting. The Gospels suggest that this questioning may have taken place during a reception that Matthew held at his house for Jesus. There were numerous people at this banquet including many tax collectors, some Pharisees, possibly some followers of John the Baptist, and several others. Someone present at the dinner asked Jesus why His disciples did not fast like those of the Pharisees or John the Baptist.
Jesus answered with an analogy about a wedding. He stated that the attendants of bridegroom did not fast or mourn as long as the bridegroom was with them. Fasting was generally considered to be a somber practice, and was therefore was inappropriate in this setting. The attendants would fast only after the groom was taken away. Jesus identified Himself as the bridegroom and His disciples as the attendants. While He was with them physically on the earth, they were to celebrate His presence. It was a cause for great joy!
Beyond just the issue of fasting, there was a broader issue inherent within the question. Jesus was allowing His disciples to disregard certain Jewish customs and/or laws. Their blatant violation of these religious requirements made some angry, while sparking a curiosity in others. What was this new teaching that Jesus proclaimed? `
II. A NEW PATCH ON AN OLD GARMENT - Matthew 9:16, Mark 2:21, Luke 5:36
After answering the initial question on fasting, Jesus told 2 brief parables that both addressed the larger concern. Some Bible students combine this pair of illustrations and consider them together as a single parable. For the purposes of this study, we will separate them. The first of these is commonly known as “The Parable of a New Patch on an Old Garment”.
Jesus stated that no one would use a new, unwashed piece of cloth to patch or repair an old garment. Because most clothes in Jesus’ day were made of wool, this approach would be very unwise. The new patch would shrink when washed for the first time while the older garment would not, as it had already done so. This would cause the garment to tear.
With this parable, Jesus taught that His new teaching was not intended to fix or repair older Jewish rules and traditions. In other words, the message of Jesus was not merely a patch on the Law of Moses. The two were incompatible with each other. Any efforts to combine to the freedom found in the gospel with the obligations demanded by the Law would result in the ruin of both.
III. NEW WINE IN OLD WINESKINS - Matthew 9:17, Mark 2:22, Luke 5:37-39
Jesus followed up with a second parable to further illustrate His point. He said that no one would put new wine in an old wineskin. If they did, the old wineskin would swell and burst. Wineskins were airtight bags or sacks made of animal skins that were used to hold wine.
New wine was still in the fermenting process and would emit gases. These gases would cause the sealed wineskin container to expand or stretch. While new wineskins still had the necessary elasticity to do this, older wineskins would have already expanded to capacity. Any additional pressure would cause them to break, which would result in the contents spilling out and both wine and wineskin being ruined.
This parable reinforced the incompatibility of Jesus’ new teachings with the older religious practices of the Jews. The gospel could not be contained by the Jewish rules and regulations, and the message of salvation could not be constricted within the Law of Moses. Jesus declared that salvation came wholly by the grace of God through faith in Him, and was not the result of human works. These 2 theological systems did not go together.
In Luke’s gospel only, an additional statement is recorded and is worth mentioning. Jesus noted that those who were used to drinking old wine tended to be satisfied with it and had no desire for something new. They said that the old was ‘good enough’. Jesus was explaining that His new message of salvation would be rejected by those who rigidly clung to the old religious teachings.
The New Covenant is based on grace, while the Old Covenant is based on works. Jesus explained elsewhere in the Gospels that He did not come to abolish the Law but to fulfill it. In other words, He did not come to dismantle the requirements of God’s law but instead He perfectly kept them. In so doing, Jesus rendered the Law obsolete in that His perfect righteousness is applied to us whenever we accept Him as our Savior. We do not have to keep the Law because Jesus did so for us, and His obedience is credited to our account!
God knew from the very beginning that man could never fully obey the Law. Sin was unavoidable. Thus, a proper understanding of Scripture reveals that salvation has always come by grace through faith. Since the Fall of Adam, this was and is the only means by which salvation is affected. The Old Covenant was intended to show the futility and impossibility of attaining salvation through works, thereby pointing people to faith in God. The New Covenant shed even greater light on this truth, allowing many to see it for the first time.
God graciously offers salvation freely through the sacrificial atonement of Jesus Christ. You do not have to earn it through good works, nor could you ever do so. Have you accepted Jesus yet? If not, would you do so right now?