Wednesday, December 7, 2016

A Messiah for Everyone

(This message was preached at Heritage Baptist Church on Wed. eve, 12-7-16: 
THESIS: To explain the parable and what are both the warnings and the blessings to us as Christians.

18 And the disciples of John and of the Pharisees used to fast: and they come and say unto him, Why do the disciples of John and of the Pharisees fast, but thy disciples fast not? 19 And Jesus said unto them, Can the children of the bridechamber fast, while the bridegroom is with them? as long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. 20 But the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken away from them, and then shall they fast in those days.  21 No man also seweth a piece of new cloth on an old garment: else the new piece that filled it up taketh away from the old, and the rent is made worse. 22 And no man putteth new wine into old bottles: else the new wine doth burst the bottles, and the wine is spilled, and the bottles will be marred: but new wine must be put into new bottles.

Luke’s account of this parable concludes, “No man also having drunk old wine straightway desireth new: for he saith, The old is better. (Luke 5:39) We’ll be focusing on verse 21-22.  As a young man I recall reading and re-reading it, in different translations…mulling it over and thinking that I am in deep water – and theologically I wasn’t ready for the deep side of the pool!  As far as that goes, I am not claiming that I have mastered the depths, but let’s together explore the mysteries of our God.

From the outset, consider that this parable is comparing old and new.  How they are different and what that means to us is what we will be exploring.  My goal for you tonight is to explain the parable and what are both the warnings and the blessings to us as Christians.

There are two comparisons made – old and new cloth, and old and new wine.  In both comparisons Christ makes the statement that no one does the thing.  No one sews new cloth to old cloth – no one puts new wine in old bottles. No one does these things.  Why?  It’s self-explanatory – the loss of the garment or the wine. 

I don’t think I need to long get into the particulars of how the loss occurs, except to say torn clothes and broken bottles are pretty useless.  For the sake of the younger among us, the phrase bottles might better be rendered wineskins.  You might even think of a leather water canteen…  After a while the leather gets stiff and loses its pliability.  As wine ferments it needs room for the fermentation process to occur – as gasses build up.   So an old leather pouch – a wineskin, has no pliability to allow for the fermentation to continue, and the pouch bursts.  The same with clothing.  A new shirt, unshrunk may fit nicely, until it’s washed.  But how many of us have lost a perfectly fitted shirt to the first wash in the machine!  You have to plan for that and buy a larger than normal shirt.  Thankfully most material is pre-shrunk, before the sewing process these days.

As I was preparing for this message I read many commentaries.  I looked up many cross-references.  My thought at the first was that the new wine and the new cloth was the Church, and the old Israel.  This troubled me, since it meant even more study.  How Israel and the Church relate is not a small theological matter.  Men with longer and greyer beards than I, have long studied it. Terms such as dispensationalism, and replacement theology are quickly tossed around like theological bombs. And there are distinctions between Israel and the Church. What our job is today is not to settle the disputes – but to grasp Christs’ teaching in this parable.  If we limit ourselves to this goal, we should be able to look for warnings and blessings and leave tonight more blessed than we arrived.

There are 3 main interpretations of the parable in no particular order:

            1. Israel replaced by the Church.

            2. The Legalistic Judaism vs. Grace in Christ. (also a variation, the Mosaic Law vs. Grace.)

            3. The forms and shadows of the Old Testament being fulfilled in the realities in the New Testament.

Providentially I have been working my way through Luke in my personal quiet time and arrived at Luke 20:9-19.  This is another parable which informs us as to the one in Mark we are studying.  Please follow along,

9 Then began he to speak to the people this parable; A certain man planted a vineyard, and let it forth to husbandmen, and went into a far country for a long time.10 And at the season he sent a servant to the husbandmen, that they should give him of the fruit of the vineyard: but the husbandmen beat him, and sent him away empty. 11 And again he sent another servant: and they beat him also, and entreated him shamefully, and sent him away empty. 12 And again he sent a third: and they wounded him also, and cast him out. 13 Then said the lord of the vineyard, What shall I do? I will send my beloved son: it may be they will reverence him when they see him. 14 But when the husbandmen saw him, they reasoned among themselves, saying, This is the heir: come, let us kill him, that the inheritance may be ours. 15 So they cast him out of the vineyard, and killed him. What therefore shall the lord of the vineyard do unto them? 16 He shall come and destroy these husbandmen, and shall give the vineyard to others. And when they heard it, they said, God forbid.

17 And he beheld them, and said, What is this then that is written, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner?18 Whosoever shall fall upon that stone shall be broken; but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder. 19 And the chief priests and the scribes the same hour sought to lay hands on him; and they feared the people: for they perceived that he had spoken this parable against them.

This parable – One can hardly call a parable, in the sense that it is also a prophecy of sorts is simply fascinating!  We read here in verse 16 that the vineyard owner will, as a result of the death of his son, give the vineyard to others!  We know plainly that the chief priests and the scribes recognized that it was they who would lose the vineyard, since they replied, “God forbid!”. Amazingly, their hearts that were so dead, that though they realized it was them to whom the parabolic prophecy was directed, they still the same hour sought to lay hands on Him!  Talk about blind leading the blind!

But is this parable speaking to the truth we are trying to get at in Mark 2?  I want to say no, it is not simply the fact that at some level Christ is taking the vineyard away.  Yes, there is a truth in the parable, which applies to our text – but not simply.  Yes, clearly the Jews have lost something.  And clearly the Church is a new body.  But is it really that simple?  I say no it is not. 

A great many of the commentaries I reviewed seemed to make the old out to be the Mosaic Law.  This I reject outright.  Christ himself stated categorically in Matthew 5:18, “til heaven and earth pass one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, until all is fulfilled.”  Some writers went so far as suggesting Christ was bringing in a new salvation!  This is plain bald faced heresy. 

I believe the answer is primarily found in the 3rd of the 3 main interpretations. The forms and shadows of the Old Testament are being fulfilled in the realities in the New.  To illustrate this, let’s travel back to the garden and consider God’s response to Adam’s sin.  In Genesis 3:15 we read of a seed who would crush the serpent’s head.  As early as Cain – some theologians have thought that Eve’s comment in Gen 4:1, “I have gotten a man from the Lord” was a confession of her belief that perhaps even Cain was the seed?! 

We know how wrong that was in Cain’s murder of Abel.  Yet God’s plan cannot be thwarted by Cain.  He simply blesses Eve with Seth. This promise can be traced right through the Scriptures and it’s a most beautiful exercise to do so.  Even when the sons of God chose daughters of men as wives, and it looked as if all hope was to be lost, Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.  All through the redemptive history we see a golden thread of hope found. 

In Gen. 12:3b we read God’s promise to Abraham, “And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”  Later in Gen. 25:23 we read of how two nations were in Rebecca’s womb.  The war between darkness and light was even being waged in her body! 

And here we are, in the Christmas season, to remember the birth of our Saviour, the Seed who crushed the head of the serpent.  We read in Galatians 4:4 that “when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law.”  The birth of our Saviour was not to be thwarted by Herod – though he slay thousands of innocent baby boys.  An act which was prefigured historically by Pharaoh in respect of Moses.  God will deliver his people!

And who are these people?  Is Enoch, who walked with God to be discounted? What about Shem – He wasn’t Jewish – but his line was the blessed line.  And though Job was probably contemporary with Abraham, he looked for a Saviour, “For I know that my Redeemer lives, And He shall stand at last on the earth; 26 And after my skin is destroyed, this I know, That in my flesh I shall see God, 27 Whom I shall see for myself, And my eyes shall behold, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!” (Job 19:25-27) Job wasn’t Jewish – but he had his hope in a Saviour – a seed to come.

Surely God’s promise to Abraham is not to be lost.  Yet even in that promise, we see there were those who were called Israel who were not counted among the physical seed.  Think of Rahab the Harlot and Ruth the Moabite through whom David derived.  Are they not Israel because they were not of the flesh of Abraham? And if we think of them, how about those who are truly of the flesh of Abraham, such as Ishmael – Is he among the blessed? Why not?  Because in Isaac your seed shall be called. (Gen 21:12) And Esau, who despised his birthright was nevertheless a physical descendant.  Yet God does have a people.  His chosen ones.  Think about how God contended with Moses after the sin of the people with the Golden calf.  We read in Exo. 32, “And the Lord said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and indeed it is a stiff-necked people!  10 Now therefore, let Me alone, that My wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them. And I will make of you a great nation.” (Ex. 32:9-10) Both Jesus and John the Baptist reference this.  John says, “And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.”  In the triumphal entry Christ tells them, “I tell you that, if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out.” (Luke 19:40b)

Let’s look again at the passage in Galatians 4, “But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.”  You see here I added verse 5.  There is a redemption and an adoption.  Adoption indicates a familial identification.  Adopted children take on the surname of their father.  They get to take part in the inheritance.  And inheritances are never earned.  They are granted for no other reason than the pleasure of the testator. 

Think about how Christ spoke to Nicodemas, a ruler of the Jews, a teacher of Israel.  This man should have been looking for the consolation of Israel – the Messiah, like old Simeon.  This man was a righteous man if ever there was one, yet he did not understand that you must be born again! Turn to the next chapter and we see Christ speaking to an utterly sinful woman of a despised cross-bread people in Samaria!  And what did this woman say? “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When He comes, He will tell us all things.” She was looking, just as was Nicodemas for the Messiah, the seed to come.  He spoke of himself, the Messiah, to them both.  And who else was looking for Messiah?  Nearly 2 years after his birth, the wise men of the east came saying, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.”  These men, Gentiles by definition, were looking for the salvation come from Israel!

So when you think of Messiah in the Scriptures, I want you to think of him as the Messiah for all mankind.  The Jewish nation was the chosen vessel to deliver Him to the world. Old Simeon said He was the light to lighten the Gentiles and the glory of his people Israel.  Listen to how Peter describes it, “Of this salvation the prophets have inquired and searched carefully, who prophesied of the grace that would come to you,  11 searching what, or what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ who was in them was indicating when He testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow.  12 To them it was revealed that, not to themselves, but to us they were ministering the things which now have been reported to you through those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaventhings which angels desire to look into.” (1 Pet. 1:10-12)

The question of how the Church and Israel are related is tied directly to his office as Messiah.  Since the Messiah is not for the Jews alone, but for all people we ought to see evidence of it in Christ’s ministry.  We do as I have been showing, and here is another reference, we read in John 10, “And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd.”  (John 10:16)

Peter tells us this, “9 But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; 10 who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.” (1 Pet. 2:9)

This is not to say that the old wineskin is of no further use to the Lord.  But the purpose for which she existed has by and large been fulfilled in the delivery of Messiah.  However, we cannot overlook what Paul tells us in Romans 11 that God is not yet through with Israel.  Listen to Rom. 11:25-28 , “For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. 26 And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob:27 For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins. 28 As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the father’s sakes.”

And while we can perhaps debate how he will again use them, or if there is another interpretation to consider, it is clear in that passage that we Gentiles have to realize that branches grafted in can be removed just as easily.  This is the warning to us. If we were grafted in due to branches broken off – certainly we ought to hold our stewardship in a reverent manner.  Peter also reminds us to be Holy as I am Holy.   Some of you may be familiar with the Lord of the Rings trilogy.  There is a theme in the book where the city of Gondor has a steward.  This steward received his stewardship from his father who had received it from his on down the line.  Once the King returned, he was to relinquish his stewardship.  In the book the steward goes mad rather than return the city to the King.  Tolkien was really just borrowing from the Scriptures when he wrote.  The Jewish nation was a chosen race – they were to deliver the Messiah.  To the Jews were committed the oracles of God.  They were to bring in a light to lighten the gentiles.  Peter states that we are also a chosen nation.  The message of the Old Testament was. “He’s coming!”

We live in New Testament times. So what is our stewardship?  Among our many responsibilities is to honor and obey the Word – living as a holy people should.  But we are also to spread the word of this Messiah!  We are to make disciples, teaching them to obey all our Lord has commanded.  Paul tells us that, “Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober” in 2 Thessalonians.

Brothers & sisters – let’s not fall into the same trap as the Pharisees – protecting our stewardship from impurity by adding to it our own wood, hay, and stubble!  Our works will never be a substitute for the pure unadulterated word of God. 

Why did the Pharisees ask the Lord about fasting?  They did so because they had added to the commandment of the Lord.  The only prescribed fast in the Scripture was found in Lev. 23:26, the Day of Atonement, an annual fast.  But the Pharisees would fast on Monday and Thursday as a matter of course.  Adding to the command – they put heavy burdens upon men. 

Listen to what the writer of Hebrews says in chapter 8, “Because finding fault with them, He says: “Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah9 not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they did not continue in My covenant, and I disregarded them, says the Lord. 10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. 11 None of them shall teach his neighbor, and none his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them.  12 For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.”

13 In that He says, “A new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.” Heb. 8:7-13

Quoting Jeremiah the writer of Hebrews tells us that the reason the new covenant was brought in, was “because they did not continue in My covenant, and I disregarded them” according to the Lord.  Who know brothers and sisters?  Perhaps because we are not working to obey the great commission – our stewardship – our place will be broken off and Rom 11 will be fulfilled. 

We can debate all the day about the eschatological, but the fact of the matter is at least this – we’ve been given a great blessing in the stewardship of evangelism, teaching them to observe all that He has commanded us.  We’ve been given the promise that He’ll be with us always – to the end of the age – at which time we should be looking for Him, our redemption!

Until then – we must not sleep!  Wake up! Do the work of an evangelist!  Spread the Word!  The message of the New Testament is twofold – He came, and he is coming again to judge the living and the dead.  Let’s prepare those living so that if He comes while we are at work, we are all prepared.  If He tarry, we prepare those to meet him after death.  Let’s be sure that for our part – we faithfully work, acting on the stewardship given so that we may be told, “Well done you good faithful servant!”

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