Out With the Old and In With the New?

Written by Sharon Gresham

LUKE 5:36-6:11

COVID-19 has forced us to do things differently. And we may even still be confronted with new ways of doing old business. As a result, we will likely be faced with three challenges which could hinder what the Lord wants for all of us. 

In Luke 5:36-6:11, we find these same problems existed within the Pharisees’ attitudes and actions toward what Jesus came to do. Since the Greek originally had no chapter divisions, the context of Luke 5:36 fits with 6:1-11 in exposing these three challenges—three mindsets we might have to confront. 

An Old Wineskin Mentality (5:36-39)

“He also told them a parable: ‘No one tears a piece from a new garment and puts it on an old garment. If he does, he will tear the new, and the piece from the new will not match the old. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the new wine will burst the skins and it will be spilled, and the skins will be destroyed. But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins. And no one after drinking old wine desires new, for he says, ‘The old is good.’” (ESV)

Jesus was, in this passage, at the beginning of His ministry. His message and methods challenged the status quo—the way the Jews had done things for centuries. The people, especially the leaders, clung to their ways of doing religion—to protect themselves from exile and to protect their ethinic, national and religious identities. Jesus had a fresh message and a different interpretation of the Law. The parable of combining new cloth on old garments and new wine in old wineskins illustrates how people were satisfied with the old. The old was “good enough.” Jesus wanted to refresh peoples’ worship and service. We are to put off the old and put on the new so we can enjoy and share the new way of living He has brought. 

A Shucking Problem (6:1-5)

On a Sabbath, while he was going through the grainfields, his disciples plucked and ate some heads of grain, rubbing them in their hands. But some of the Pharisees said, ‘Why are you doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath?’ And Jesus answered them, ‘Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, he and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God and took and ate the bread of the Presence, which is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and also gave it to those with him?’ And he said to them, ‘The Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.’” (ESV) 

As Jesus ministered, He did not break the written Law of Moses. However, He did challenge oral laws. Oral laws were “fences” or protections the Pharisees and Jewish rulers had placed around written laws. The fences were to keep people from breaking the written ones and causing the punishment of another national exile. Jesus challenged the traditions of men which put people in bondage. One such tradition was “shucking,” or “harvesting,” wheat on the sabbath. The Pharisees’ real problem was Jesus’ shucking “the fences.” The Pharisees did not realize—or want to realize—Jesus had the right to change traditions. 

A Withered Hand or Withered Hearts? (6:6-11)

On another Sabbath, he entered the synagogue and was teaching, and a man was there whose right hand was withered. And the scribes and the Pharisees watched him, to see whether he would heal on the Sabbath, so that they might find a reason to accuse him. But he knew their thoughts, and he said to the man with the withered hand, ‘Come and stand here.’ And he rose and stood there. And Jesus said to them, ‘I ask you, is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to destroy it?’ And after looking around at them all he said to him, ‘Stretch out your hand.’ And he did so, and his hand was restored. But they were filled with fury and discussed with one another what they might do to Jesus.” (ESV)

We should notice in Luke 6:6-11, to the Pharisees’ credit, they were watching to see if the Lord Jesus would do a miracle. They were expecting God to work! While they did so to catch Jesus working on the Sabbath in order to find fault, they anticipated He would help someone. The Pharisees did not care about the man. They wanted things to stay the same so much so they were enraged when Jesus broke their Sabbath law. Their anger came from fear of losing control, even if it meant leaving someone suffering.

What About Us?

Are the old messages we share and modalities we have used in life and ministry good enough (Luke 5:38)?

Do we want to be fresh wineskins?

What shucking problem keeps us and others from being fed spiritually or meeting needs?

Are we like the Pharisees with theological-isms, territorial-isms and traditional-isms? Are we filled with “RAGE” when things are not done the way they have always been done before?

Or, do we expect Him to do wonders among us? What needs to go out with the old and what needs to come in with the “new normal”?

Written by Sharon Gresham, sharon.gresham@bhcarroll.edu

Published: Feb 25, 2021


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