Wednesday, March 4, 2015


The last comparison Jesus makes in Mark 2 regarding the Old Covenant and the New Testament is that of pouring new wine into old wineskins. The skins burst, the wine runs out.

And indeed, if we're paying attention at all to the Gospels, this is what we see. In fact, this may be what we see most clearly.

Jesus doesn't fit into the Old Law. He doesn't even really try to. At every turn, He's frustrating the Pharisees by breaking yet another one of Moses' laws. He's "working" on the Sabbath - healing, preaching, picking the heads off the grain in the fields with His disciples. He's failing to fast when everyone else fasts. He's neglecting to wash His hands before He eats each meal, and at other appointed times. He refuses to stone a sinful woman to death. He speaks out of turn. He offers forgiveness just as much as healing, and there's no room in the Law for either. 

Because the Law was never meant to hold Love. 

It can't. Not even God can legislate love. He can tell you how to live justly. An emphasis on justice can lead you to love mercy. But it's only walking humbly with your God that shows you anything about love. Then He sends Jesus and teaches people how to walk with Him. Humbly. Because when you walk with Jesus, you give up everything to do it. (And that, too, is well-documented in the Gospels.) The Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.

So it's clear to see from Jesus' example how the skins burst, how the Law was broken open and laid bare for all it could not do for a man. For all it could not hold of God. 

But that's only half of this analogy. The other half, of course, is equally true in the Gospels: the wine runs out. Or rather, it pours out. It is spilled out. 

That's where the Pharisees come back into the story.

The Pharisees, and other religious authorities, tried so hard to fit Jesus into the Law. They were always hounding Him about things He was doing wrong, about commands He was breaking, about how He was making a mockery of everything they had adhered themselves to. They wanted Him to affirm them, even more than they ever looked for a Messiah to save them. They wanted Him to be all the things that they were, all the good, law-abiding things that they were. And He wouldn't do it.

And when He wouldn't do it, they killed Him. They crucified Him. They poured Him out, spilled His blood all over Calvary, all over the world. When the Law couldn't hold Him, they ran Him out. They let His life pour out.

To all those watching, it seemed as though this common understanding must be true: the skins burst, the wine ran out, and both were wasted. There was a people in the middle of all this, a people who had watched the Law be stripped of its authority, changed at every turn by this Jesus. Do not murder? No. Do not even hate. Do not commit adultery? No. Do not even lust. Seek justice? No. Offer grace. There is no Law any more; it's been supplanted by Love.

Yet, this Love, too, is gone. It has been poured out. There is no more Jesus. Not now. Not on this Friday night. Not on this Saturday. There's no more example on how truly to live. This people got three years - three years to figure out this life, and now, they're on their own. What used to work isn't working, and what seems to have been a promising new idea is gone.

Because you can't put new wine in old wineskins. 

Thankfully, of course, we know how this story ends. We know that Sunday comes. We know that even as Love is spilled out on this earth, it is already looking for a way back. It is already planning a glorious return. Maybe that's what Cana was all about. Jesus' first miracle? Maybe that was God's way of saying, "But look, I can salvage the wine situation. I can make it okay. Because I make wine out of water, and I walk wine out of the grave." And then Jesus comes back, and there's Love again.

There's still Law, too, but it's in its proper place. No longer is the Law trying to hold Love. What hope does the Law have if the grave couldn't hold Him? No. Now, Love holds the Law. Love holds justice. And mercy. 

And grace. 

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