- Lesson 8 in the BaptistWay Press Connect 360 unit “The reMARKable Journey Begins” focuses on Mark 2:18-22.
Jesus’ coming was the beginning of something new. He had not come merely to repair and refurbish the rituals of Judaism. Jesus had come to create an entirely new way of relating to God—a covenant that was not written on tablets of stone but on the hearts of his followers. Jesus used two everyday objects to illustrate his point—patches and wineskins.
Old and new
When I made my first quilt, I made the mistake of not prewashing my fabric. The squares I carefully pieced together looked beautiful until I washed the quilt for the first time. The fabrics shrank unevenly, and some of the seams pulled apart where the fabric had shrunk. Jesus pointed out something similar with his first comparison. “No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. Otherwise, the new will pull away from the old, making the tear worse” (Mark 2:21). A patch made from unshrunk cloth would shrink when washed, pulling apart from the garment the same way my quilt squares pulled apart in the washing machine. New fabric cannot be used to patch up old cloth.
Jesus’ second illustration made a similar point, “No one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined (Mark 2:21). In Jesus’ time, wineskins were made from leather. This allowed the wineskin to gradually stretch as the wine expanded and fermented. However, a winemaker could not put new wine into an old wineskin. If an old wineskin was filled with new wine, the wineskin could not stretch any further. The wine would eventually burst it as it expanded, much like a full can of soda will burst if you put it in the freezer. New wine had to go into a new wineskin.
Jesus was making a point about his ministry. Just as new cloth could not be used to patch up an old garment and new wine could not be stored in an old wineskin; the new kingdom of God could not be poured into the old routines and rituals of Judaism. Jesus’ coming fulfilled the law and the law’s demands. From now on, the people of God would not be defined by their heritage or by the rituals they kept. God’s people would be defined by and recognized by their relationship with Jesus.
Ritual no substitute for relationship
It is still our relationship with Christ that defines God’s people. And yet, we still sometimes want to let religious rituals determine whether a person is faithful in our eyes. I will admit it feels strange to me not to bring my Bible to church. I like having a physical copy of the Bible in my hand, but I should not judge the faith of those who prefer to use a Bible app on their smartphone or tablet. Nor is wearing a suit and tie to church a greater measure of faithfulness than wearing jeans. A person could be in church every Sunday dressed in their finest and carrying a Bible the size of a small child but still be ignorant of Christ’s saving grace. The rituals and habits of our worship are important, but they stand in service to our relationship with Christ—not a replacement for it.
Compiled by Stan Granberry, marketing coordinator for BaptistWay Press.
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