4

Wineskins
From: By Book by William Henry Koebel (1872-1926) ."Madeira: Old and New" [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Jesus often spoke in parables, and I want to pick around the edge of one this morning.

The day Jesus called Matthew (a.k.a. Levi the tax collector,) to follow Him, they headed back to Matthew’s home where Matthew hosted a “big reception for Him” (Luke 5:29) This was not some intimate gathering, but rather it was crowded with tax collectors and sinners, and apparently paparazzi, because both the Pharisee’s and the disciples of John the Baptist heard about it.

This big shindig is the setting for today’s Red Letters.

And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the new wine will burst the skins and it will be spilled out, and the skins will be ruined. But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins. And no one, after drinking old wine wishes for new; for he says, 'The old is good enough.' - Luke 5:37-39

As you probably already understand, in that day, they would put their unfermented wine into fresh leather bags, where the wine would age, and give off it’s gasses, and the skin would stretch to accommodate this expansion. As the wine aged, it became less volatile and the wine skins became less flexible.

This wine skin still worked as a perfectly acceptable vessel for other old wines that were past the fermentation stage, but could never again be use for new wine.

Ok, so we get it in the natural, but what was Jesus getting at with this teaching?

Message:

The message of the parable is pretty clear and easy to derive. The new wine He speaks of is the gospel of the kingdom, the good news that the kingdom of heaven is at hand. The old wine skins are the religious folks of the day, who are starting to crack and leak and burst at the seams as they try to take in this new wine.

Audience:

At this point in the reception He is responding to two groups of critics. I think when we approach this parable it is easy for us to point at the Pharisees as the Old School Religious folks He was rebuking, but there is a second group sitting in judgment of His carousing, the disciples of John the Baptist.

John the Baptist was, in Jesus own words, the greatest prophet born of woman. Jesus gave great honor to John. John was the man who fulfilled all those prophesies, like “I send my messenger before Him to make His path straight.” He was the prophet in the spirit of Elijah who every Jewish child knew of because there was always an empty chair at the Passover feast set just for him. John the Baptist was a big deal.

But John’s day was over, and John himself pointed his followers to Jesus.

Again the next day John was standing with two of his disciples, and he looked at Jesus as He walked, and said, "Behold, the Lamb of God!" The two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus. - John 1:35-37

But apparently there were some who had been baptized by John, who gathered together to encourage one another in their resolve to live the fasted and repentant life style John lived in the wilderness. It seems there were pockets of these disciples all over the region, because people came from far and wide to be baptized by John in the Jordan. Decades later Paul ran into some of these folks in Ephesus in Acts 19.

I believe that Jesus spoke this parable not to the Pharisees, but to these disciples of John. The parable for the Pharisees was that of the physician, but to these who were zealous for good works, the Lord has a different message.

These men were asking why Jesus’ disciples did not fast, why they were not living in the austere pattern of repentance that John’s had taught them.

I am sure God had blessed them as they walked in repentance. God showed up for them when they fasted. They were attaining some satisfaction in their walk with the Lord as they lived the life John demonstrated for them.

Then they took one look at Jesus hanging out with crowds and joining them in their parties.

The very people who did not repent and follow John were now hosting Jesus, and He was spending time with them. These are the folk that the disciples of John had set themselves against, the drunkards and gluttons.

  • Don’t they know that the way to God is through sacrifice?
  • Doesn’t everything we know about God point to His pleasure in our sacrifice?
  • How can This Man be the Messiah?
  • How can this be a move of God?
  • Isn’t our way of touching God sufficient?
  • This old wine is good enough!
  • And so it has been for the two thousand years since Jesus’ ascension, and so it is today.

God has chosen to reveal Himself to the Church progressively. Every few generations there is a move of God.

The life of the Church is like that river described in Ezekiel 47 that flows from the throne of God. The river is teaming with life, there are trees beside this river that bring healing to the nations, but the banks of the river are dead.

What happens in every generation, or at least in every new move of God is that those in the move, upon the death of its leader, build a Church on the banks of the river.

There was Luther with a break through revelation of the grace of God, and his followers built a church on the banks of the river, and rejected anything that came later. After all, the wine in their wine skin was good enough. What’s wrong with that “old time religion” that was good enough for my grandparents?

The same thing happened with Wesley, and Calvin, and Finney, and Roberts.

Jesus wants to fill your wine skin with new wine, but as you grow stiff and inflexible, you exclude yourself from the ability to grow with what God is doing today, and you  will find yourself on the banks of the river. You will be the ones criticizing ‘those upstarts.’

Lord, will you make me a new wine skin today, so I can be a carrier of new wine to my generation. [Tweet This]

Ben NelsonThanks for coming by today.

Shine where you're screwed in!

Ben

This is a repost from last November, but it spoke to me this morning, so I share it once again with you.

11

Jesus Heals a Leper

The stories and news reports were reaching my little village and a spark of hope began to spring up, perhaps for the first time since the day I pulled my shirt over my head to get into bed that night nearly four years ago. My wife asked me about the white splotch under my left arm.

I had to pack my things, leave my home, my wife of nine years, and my three beautiful children, and go live with the lepers.

Some say there is no way out of this village, but I have seen many leave. Their destination? The grave. Welcome to No Hope Flats, my home.

Jesus meets a leper in Matthew 8.

This leper put into words the thought a great number of good God honoring Christ followers have every day:

Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean. ~ Matthew 8:2

A number of things intrigue me about this statement.

He acknowledges Jesus as Lord.
He doesn’t question the ability of Jesus to heal.
He doesn’t actually ask Jesus a question.

He begins on a very good footing. He calls Jesus “Lord.” This is as much a fact today as when He walked the shores of Galilee. Jesus is Lord. As He sat on the hillside teaching, the people could tell – they knew this was not some gifted teacher. The authority which He carried declared it.

He had demonstrated right from the start of His ministry that sickness and disease were under His authority, and the leper had, no doubt, heard these stories. He, our leprous friend, does not wonder about Jesus’ ability. He is confident that he has come to the one man who could set him free from this living death of leprosy.

He does however have ONE HUGE QUESTION that is stuck right in the center of his being.

Will He or won’t He?

He does not frame it as a question though. It is almost as though if he asked the Lord the question, it would force an answer, and the thing he dreads even more than living with his disease is going back to the land of no hope.

When Jesus comes on the scene suddenly hope springs up. It stands boldly on our friends splotchy right shoulder saying – ask Him, ask Him, ask Him. But in his left ear he hears some familiar words. I bet you have heard some of these in your left ear.

  • You deserve this disease
  • You certainly don't deserve healing
  • He won’t help the likes of you
  • Maybe if you were a better father (mother, son, daughter)
  • Maybe if you were a better Christian (prayed more, served harder, slept less, ate less)

You no doubt have heard others. That left shoulder liar has a HUGE repertoire to shut down hope.

Today there are a few words I want you to hear. I want you to hear Jesus speak them to you. If you can identify with our leprous friend, I want you to read these next few lines out loud – YES out loud – do it – really – it’s important that you hear Jesus' answer to this unspoken question.

I am willing; be cleansed. ~ Matthew 8:3
I am willing; be cleansed. ~ Luke 5:13
I am willing; be cleansed. ~ Mark 1:41

Just in case you are not sure you understand what Jesus said, here is Matthew's account in a few different translations (keep reading out loud – it will help)

I am willing; be cleansed by being cured. AMP
I do want to. Become clean. CEB
I want to! Now you are well. CEV
I want to heal you. Be healed! ERV
I will; be clean. ESV
Of course I want to. Be clean! JBP (I love this one!)
I will; be thou clean. KJV
I do choose. Be made clean! NRSV
Of course I wish to. Be clean. VOICE

Are you getting the point. There is no equivocation here. Jesus takes this non-question, these waves of doubt and hope that are tossing our new friend to and fro, and calms them with this one phrase.

I want you to hear Him speak these words today, and not just in your right ear, but in your inner most being. “I Will, be clean.

BenThanks for coming by today.

See you again soon.

Ben

====

This was originally posted in June of 2013. It encouraged me this morning, and I hope it encourages you too!

====

Amplified Bible (AMP) Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation; Common English Bible (CEB) Copyright © 2011 by Common English Bible; Contemporary English Version (CEV) Copyright © 1995 by American Bible Society; Easy-to-Read Version (ERV) Copyright © 2006 by World Bible Translation Center; English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.; J.B. Phillips New Testament (PHILLIPS) J. B. Phillips, "The New Testament in Modern English", 1962 edition by HarperCollins; King James Version (KJV) by Public Domain; New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.; The Voice (VOICE) The Voice Bible Copyright © 2012 Thomas Nelson, Inc. The Voice™ translation © 2012 Ecclesia Bible Society All rights reserved.

9

photo credit: gharness via photopin cc
photo credit: gharness via photopin cc

In Matthew 12 Jesus is in the synagogue and there is a man there with a withered hand. After He heals this man the Pharisees are furious with Him and “…conspired against Him, as to how they might destroy Him.” (vs.14)

I was struck by the next verse this morning.

But Jesus, aware of this, withdrew from there. Many followed Him, and He healed them all, and warned them not to tell who He was. - Matthew 12:15-16

This is only one of many times when Jesus healed all who came to Him.

We could look at this story from many different angles. We could look at how Jesus handled stress, or how the Pharisees hated Him, but today I have a single simple thought.

Following Jesus is a good idea.

It’s a good idea to follow Jesus, even when those around you speak with authority try to warn you off His trail.

Some may tell you that you’re too religious.

Some may say you are a fool to follow Him.

Some may say any religion leads to the same place.

Some may plot to kill is influence in your life.

But I believe that today, if you follow Jesus, you will find that He is still healing those who follow Him.

I have decided to follow Jesus.

He says

My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; - John 10:27

My only response to that this morning is

Bbbbaaaaaaa

Come – let’s follow Jesus today!

Ben NelsonThanks for stopping in.

See you again soon.

Ben

 

4

John the Baptist is in prison.

Jesus just sent the boys on a missions trip.

Jesus is out and about preaching through the cities.

Prison is not so great; No library, no HBO, no nutritional guidelines or hours in the exercise yard.

John is temped to wonder about Jesus, so he sends some of the men who were still following his teachings to make sure that the assumption he made that day, only a couple months ago, in the Jordan River, was the right one.

Are You the Expected One, or shall we look for someone else? - Matthew 11:3

Are you tempted to wonder this now and then?

John is hearing reports of Jesus’ message of freedom.

John is remembering the promise of a messiah on whom the government would rest.

John is in prison.

You read of Jesus’ message of freedom.

You remember the stories of Jesus healing the sick, raising the dead, healing the brokenhearted.

But you’re still sick.

Your loved one is dead.

You’re alone, brokenhearted, hopeless.

If you could  would ask Jesus today:

Are You the Expected One, or shall I look for someone else?

Jesus’ answer is a mystery. He does not send and angel, or earthquake and set him free. He does not send him words of hope and patience.

He tells John’s followers to go back and tell him of how Jesus is fulfilling all the prophecies and promises of the Messiah, just not in his life.

Go and report to John what you hear and see: the BLIND RECEIVE SIGHT and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the POOR HAVE THE GOSPEL PREACHED TO THEM.

And blessed is he who does not take offense at Me. - Matthew 11:3-6

This is such an enigma.

John, you're in prison, and I am setting captives free, just not you. Don’t be offended.

What about you? Do you hear the stories of healing in the land, of renewal and revival and feel left out?

Will you take offense at Him, or will you wait on the Lord and be of good courage? [Tweet this]

Offence will build a wall between you and your hope.

Jesus taught us how to deal with just this type of situation.

Ask, and keep on asking, seek and keep on seeking, knock and keep on knocking, and you will receive, find and the door will be open.

Don’t despair!

Ben NelsonThanks for coming by today.

See you again soon.

Ben

2

Super simple point today.

As Jesus went on from there, He saw a man called Matthew, sitting in the tax collector's booth; and He said to him, "Follow Me!" And he got up and followed Him. Matthew 9:9

In Matthew’s account it seems as though Jesus is, at this stage of the gospel, hanging around His own home town, Nazareth. (see Matthew 9:1) and He runs into the tax collector, and they connect.

Was He there paying His taxes?

I can see this going down like this.

Jesus walks up to the table or booth, or how ever it was set up. Maybe it was like the DMV and they had to stand in line with a security detail lurking about to keep the troublemakers at bay. I don’t know.

But Jesus walks up to Matthew puts His money down, looks Him in the eye, and hears the voice of the of the Spirit with a message from the Father.

“Son, this one is one of mine. I have put an Apostolic call on his life. Draw him to Me.”

Was there more to their exchange than the “Follow me” that we get in scripture? We actually see this account in three of the gospels, and in each, that is all that we hear.

Next thing we know though, Matthew is at Jesus’ house with a number of his old friends, hanging out with Jesus.

Then it happened that as Jesus was reclining at the table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were dining with Jesus and His disciples. - Matthew 9:10

I like the way Jesus does evangelism. [Tweet This]

Lord, help me see the calling in Your folks today, and help me to draw them to the Father too.

Ben NelsonHey – thanks for stopping by.

Walk with Jesus today.

Ben

I have to tell you, it’s another Red Letter Day today and I want to talk with you about some pretty serious Red letters. Jesus said:

But go and learn what this means: ‘I DESIRE COMPASSION, AND NOT SACRIFICE,’

He was at a reception at the house of His new friend and follower Matthew. The place was crawling with the lowest of the low in the day’s Jewish economy.

When the Pharisees begin complaining about this He gives them this quote from the prophet Hosea to think about. Here is His full comment:

It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick. But go and learn what this means: 'I DESIRE COMPASSION, AND NOT SACRIFICE,' for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners." ~ Matthew 9:12-13

To tell a Pharisee “go and learn” is quite a slap in the face. These are the men who have spent their life learning. These are the scholars of the day. As I understand it they were required to memorize most, if not all of what we call the Old Testament, certainly all of the books of Moses.

These men knew the law, and kept it. When God demanded 1 tenth of their increase, they would apply it right down to mint leaves, and cumin seeds, one for God and nine for me.

But they did not have compassion.

You see righteousness man’s way leads to a rigid and judgmental heart. When we define a relationship with God in terms of the keeping of the Law, we end up with a system that is always comparing.

A system based on who makes the biggest sacrifice leave everyone a loser. The one who has the least to give feels worthless, the one in the middle falls short, and the one on the top gets puffed up with pride.

A system based on compassion on the other hand makes everyone a winner. If you dare to open your heart to those around you, you will find that your offering of love may take empower the recipient and the giver.

When I say offering, I am not necessarily talking about a money offering.

What does compassion give?

Friendship
Shelter
Protection
Equipping
Resources

What would you add to the list?

Let’s get free of this stinking sacrificial system. The sacrifice has been made – Jesus – once and for all. Our job is to LOVE, to have Compassion and Mercy, to offer Grace.

Ben NelsonLearn what that means!

See you again soon

Ben

9

Christ Heals a Man Paralyzed by the Gout. Mark 2:4. Engraving by Bernhard Rode, 1780. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Rode_1.jpg

Jesus is teaching a bunch of folks, seems like it might take place in His own house, as I look at the various tellings between Matthew, Mark and Luke.

Four men have a friend who is paralyzed, and they bring him to Jesus to be healed. They can’t get into the house, so the climb up on the room, and using some ropes, lower their friend down in front of Jesus.

So – What are you going to do now Jesus? You have the home field advantage, and this guy everyone knows has been crippled for ages. You could show them once and for all that you are in fact moving with the finger of God here on earth. You could stop all the naysayers, and get your own hometown behind you. You might even get some of the Pharisee’s to believe.

But Jesus jumps the rails. He gets tossed this easy pitch, and what does He do? He  changes the game.

Son, be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven you. ~ Matthew 9:2

Sins? Who said anything about sins?

You may say that Jesus talked about his sin because that was his deeper need, and that is true, but I believe we can get at least one more lesson here.

Forgiveness and healing are never far parted in the Bible.

Bless the LORD, O my soul,
And forget none of His benefits;
Who pardons all your iniquities;
Who heals all your diseases ~ Psalm 103:1-2

But he was wounded and crushed for our sins. He was beaten that we might have peace. He was whipped, and we were healed! ~ Isaiah 53:5 (NLT)

Why the link? Why does Jesus stop the show and show us both healing and forgiveness?

Perhaps He is demonstrating to the people in the room, that He was not just an amazing healer, but that He was here to bring deliverance to the whole man.

Perhaps He was bringing attention to this permanent link between forgiveness and healing.

"But in order that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins--then He said to the paralytic--“Rise, take up your bed, and go home." ~ Matthew 9:6

One piece of this that is of interest to me, is that forgiveness is not immediately visible from the outside, whereas healing is. When Jesus forgives the sins of this man, there is no visible change.

This may lead us to believe it takes more faith to be healed then to be forgiven, but this is not so.

The problem is the good news about forgiveness has been preached for hundreds of years, and the good news about the fact that Jesus heals has been much less prevalent. As we meditate more and more on the total salvation offered by Jesus, we see more and more men and women saved, healed and delivered.

I am so glad Jesus took the time to give us this lesson in His wonderful salvation.

Ben NelsonAren’t you?

See you again soon.

Ben

By the way, if you missed the first hand account of this day in Jesus life, you should check out "Arise, Take up your bed and walk"

This week we have been talking a bit about Jesus getting out of the boat on the far shore of the Sea of Galilee.

One reader pointed out to me that Matthew has two demon possessed guys, and Mark and Luke only talk about one.

The question is clear – is it one or two and why the difference?

And when He had come to the other side into the country of the Gadarenes, two men who were demon-possessed met Him as they were coming out of the tombs; they were so exceedingly violent that no one could pass by that road. And behold, they cried out, saying, “What do we have to do with You, Son of God? Have You come here to torment us before the time?” ~ Matthew 8:28-29

And when He had come out of the boat, immediately a man from the tombs with an unclean spirit met Him, ~ Mark 5:2

And when He had come out onto the land, He was met by a certain man from the city who was possessed with demons; and who had not put on any clothing for a long time, and was not living in a house, but in the tombs. ~ Luke 8:27

That’s an easy one –  Matthew was after all a tax collector and those guys knew how to count! – Just kidding

But seriously folks, I sit in meetings and take notes every day at work. I will sit there with a couple of my colleagues and take detailed notes. One of the reasons I take careful notes when I am interested, or the content is important, is that I know we all observe things from completely different perspectives. Sometimes I am amazed that we can both listen to the exact same people saying the exact same thing, and we all hear completely different details. To the point where I will argue my side, then go back to the source and find out I was completely wrong.

It is amazing how differently we see things.

In this case my assumption is that Jesus interacted with one of the men in detail and the interview with the demonic hoard revolved around only one of the men, though this army of demons may have inhabited both.

It may be that only one wanted to join Jesus’ band, or one was more notably frightening.

Do you have a better explanation?

Share it with us, will you?

Ben NelsonSee you again soon. Don’t miss our study of the Song of Songs tomorrow.

See you then.

Ben

4

This week we have been talking a bit about Jesus getting out of the boat on the far shore of the Sea of Galilee.

One reader pointed out to me that Matthew has two demon possessed guys, and Mark and Luke only talk about one.

The question is clear – is it one or two and why the difference?

And when He had come to the other side into the country of the Gadarenes, two men who were demon-possessed met Him as they were coming out of the tombs; they were so exceedingly violent that no one could pass by that road. And behold, they cried out, saying, “What do we have to do with You, Son of God? Have You come here to torment us before the time?” ~ Matthew 8:28-29

And when He had come out of the boat, immediately a man from the tombs with an unclean spirit met Him, ~ Mark 5:2

And when He had come out onto the land, He was met by a certain man from the city who was possessed with demons; and who had not put on any clothing for a long time, and was not living in a house, but in the tombs. ~ Luke 8:27

That’s an easy one –  Matthew was after all a tax collector and those guys knew how to count! – Just kidding

But seriously folks, I sit in meetings and take notes every day at work. I will sit there with a couple of my colleagues and take detailed notes. One of the reasons I take careful notes when I am interested, or the content is important, is that I know we all observe things from completely different perspectives. Sometimes I am amazed that we can both listen to the exact same people saying the exact same thing, and we all hear completely different details. To the point where I will argue my side, then go back to the source and find out I was completely wrong.

It is amazing how differently we see things.

In this case my assumption is that Jesus interacted with one of the men in detail and the interview with the demonic hoard revolved around only one of the men, though this army of demons may have inhabited both.

It may be that only one wanted to join Jesus’ band, or one was more notably frightening.

Do you have a better explanation?

Share it with us, will you?

Ben NelsonSee you again soon. Don’t miss our study of the Song of Songs tomorrow.

See you then.

Ben

Caution sign

And when He had come to the other side into the country of the Gadarenes, two men who were demon-possessed met Him as they were coming out of the tombs; they were so exceedingly violent that no one could pass by that road. ~ Matthew 8:28

We left off a couple weeks ago with an account of Jesus calming the seas. Now when He and the boys reach the shores on the other side, they are faced with an impassable road.

Seems as though somebody did not want Jesus coming to this side of the lake.

How do you deal with resistance?

Have you ever sensed that God has given you direction and at every step the path itself is against you?

The trick is discerning whether it was my idea, and God is preserving me by closing the door, or is it God’s idea, and the hater of my soul would rather have me dead than walk in the will of my Father.

Jesus knew.

Have you ever tried to walk the path and seen the road signs that say, “Demon ahead, find another path?”

What would you do?

Ben NelsonThanks for coming by.

See you tomorrow.

Ben