Sad, Shrunken, and Stretched
SAD, SHRUNKEN, AND STRETCHED
Here is the title to today’s lesson: “Sad, Shrunken, and Stretched.”
- This is a pretty strange title but it will in fact relate to some people that Jesus not only encounters here in Matthew chapter 9, but perhaps also to some He encounters today.
- So, let’s look at this…let’s begin with the “sad.”
Now remember when we left last week Jesus has concluded the Sermon on the Mount, large crowds followed him down off the hillside, and as He moves on He is interacting with a lot of these people from the hillside.
- And He is still healing, and helping, and teaching, and touching.
- And then finally He calls this guy named Matthew to become one of his new disciples, to follow him.
- And that is rare because Matthew happens to be a tax collector and in that culture to be a tax collector is not good, it’s not healthy because they are considered to be traitors…and greedy…and as a result they are outcasts…they are considered to be unclean…and they can’t go to temple and they can’t go to synagogue.
- They are pretty much hated especially by the religious leaders.
- But Jesus wants Matthew in his ministry and so He calls him and Matthew is so touched by this that Luke 5:29 says that he put on a big reception or a dinner in his home.
And the guest list, other than Jesus and his disciples, includes other tax collectors and sinners.
- And basically they consist of people who have all been “cast out”, and who are unwanted.
- “We don’t like you, we don’t want you.”
- This is the guest list for dinner.
Now the spiritual leaders of this area, the rabbis and the Pharisees, see Jesus and his disciples eating in Levi’s house with this crowd and they are very unhappy about it and feel critical and judgmental that Jesus would eat with such people.
- That is the context and Jesus responds to that. Look at verse 14.
Vs. 14: Then the disciples of John (John the Baptist) came to Him, saying, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast, but Your disciples do not fast?”
- Now Mark 2:18 and Luke 5:30 tells us that the “scribes and Pharisees” were the ones grumbling about this…so it is very likely that they prompted or coerced John’s disciples to be a part of this question.
Now initially this sounds like a fair question but actually it has veiled criticism.
- First, in the Jewish Law there were only one day in which fasting was required and that was on the Day of Atonement; Lev. 23:27.
- The fasting that we see mentioned here is an additional fast…one that they could participate in but it was not one that was commanded.
- But, you know how the Pharisees are…the want to “bind things” especially their practices on others.
They also fasted to show how “holy” they were.
- Do you remember the parable that Jesus told in Luke 18 about two men who came into the temple to worship?
- One was a Pharisee and he lifted his face up to God and he said, “I thank Thee that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax gatherer. I fast twice a week.”
- In other words, “See how holy I am!”
And remember back in chapter 6:16 how they would fast and “put on a gloomy face and neglect their appearance in order to be seen by men.”
- So what these scribes and Pharisees were doing is they were saying, “Here is what holiness is, and this is what it means to be acceptable to God, here is a test of true fellowship if you want to be with us. You have to fast when we fast, and you have to fast how we do and for the reasons we do and if you don’t fast the way we fast then we don’t like you…and you are out!”
And also notice, they say, “Why do your disciples not fast?”
- What is implied here?
- Did Jesus teach this, did Jesus say “that it is enough for a student to be like his teacher?
- If they are criticizing His disciples who then are they really criticizing?
- “What are you teaching Jesus?” They are actually using this to criticize Jesus!
Well look at vs. 15 at Jesus’ response: “The attendants of the bridegroom cannot mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them can they?” (Is a wedding time for morning?) But the days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them and then they will fast.”
The Pharisees and the scribes and the disciples of John couldn’t stand it.
- “What’s wrong with Jesus’s disciples? They are just too happy. They are too joyful. They are eating with sinners and they are eating with tax collectors and they shouldn’t be. They should be devout and they should be hating every one we hate.”
- “They should be more like us!” “Twice a week and you are in!”
But Jesus says here that His time here on earth…and His spending time with His disciples and teaching them and showing them the kind of heart they should have, and healing people…and showing mercy and grace is no time to mourn!
- Instead it is a time of celebration…a time of joy like that of a wedding celebration!
- For them to “fast” or “mourn” while their Master is performing works of mercy, and teaching…is absurd…it would be rude!
You see, that is what is “sad” here…these scribes and Pharisees preferred “sacrifice…ritual” more than “mercy.”
- Many religious people are the same way today.
Well Jesus follows this up with two parables, very simple, very brief.
- We have covered the sad people and now here are the “shrunken.”
Verse 16: “No one puts a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; for the patch pulls away from the garment, and the worst terror results.”
- Now there are some pretty basic things here.
- The parallel text in Luke 5: 36 says that, ”No one takes a patch from a new garment or a new cloth and puts it on an old garment.”
- The idea of “unshrunk” is not in the original language…that is a transliteration.
So what you have here is actually the idea that you have an old worn-out garment and it has a tear…and you patch it with a piece of new cloth…
- Then you wear the garment and put a strain on the new piece of cloth…is the new piece of cloth going to tear? No! It will pull away tearing the old garment.
- Putting the new on the old just will not work.
Then in verse 17 you have the next parable; the stretched. “Nor do men put new wine into old wine skins; otherwise the wine skins burst, and the wine pours out, and the wineskins are ruined; but they put new wine into fresh wineskins, and both are preserved.”
- Here’s what happens…the old wine skins have already been stretched as far as they can…they have already gone through the stretching process with the wine that was in them.
- But now, if you fill that wineskin that has already been stretched as far as it can with new wine…when that new wine starts to ferment and swell…that old wineskin is going to burst and the new wine will be lost.
- So, once again, putting the new in the old just will not work.
So, what do these two parables have to do with the Pharisees and scribes being upset with Jesus’ disciples not fasting?
- What is Jesus talking about? What is this teaching really about?
Many scholars think that Jesus is making a comparison between the old and new as in the old covenant and the new covenant, the Old Testament and the New Testament, the Temple and the church, Judaism and Christianity, Law and grace.
But I don’t think that is what Jesus is talking about here.
- Remember what the context is: Criticism from Jewish leaders.
- And we need to remember that when Jesus taught this there is no New Testament, there is no new covenant yet, the church doesn’t exist yet, there is no Lord’s Supper yet, there is no baptism in Jesus name yet, there’s no grace yet.
- So it doesn’t seem that Jesus would have been alluding to these things in these two parables.
- So, what is Jesus saying here?
In both parables Jesus says that putting the “new” on the old just won’t work.
- In the parables the Pharisees and the scribes would be the “old garment” and the “old wineskins” and they are set in their thinking…
- They are legalistic, judgmental, condemning, arrogant, self-righteous, un-merciful and un-loving and their minds are closed to anything that does not fit with their way of thinking.
But here Jesus is bringing a new way of thinking…bringing new teachings…He is humble…He is showing mercy and compassion, and understanding, and He is reaching out to sinners and outcasts…and what Jesus is doing with these two parables is He is making a statement about the Pharisees and the scribes…
- He is saying, “Here I am trying to show you how you really should be…but your sad, shrunken, stretched out hearts” won’t allow Me to “put the new wine” of my teaching into you.
- “What I am doing is “new wine” and neither your mind nor your heart is open to it.”
And that is what He is saying to me…and to us…either my mind is open and my heart is soft or my mind is closed and my heart is hard.
- And if I am one of these old, close minded, hardhearted, pharisaical, legalistic, judgmental and condemning people, His teaching cannot find its way into me.
You see, I have to ask myself…and maybe you do to…just how receptive am I to Jesus’ teachings…and His example for me?
- Am I so set in my ways that I won’t do what He says?
You know I love both of my parents…and they taught me some things…but what I have come to learn over the years is that some of the things my parents taught me…especially spiritual and Biblical principles…aren’t in agreement with what Jesus teaches.
- Both of my parents believed in “eye for an eye, and tooth for a tooth”…and they both had some prejudices…and they both had some questionable ideas about conduct and what was ok and what wasn’t ok…
- But then Jesus came along and He taught me some things that were counter to what I had always believed…
- And even today as I learn more and more from the scriptures I encounter some things and I have to ask myself…am I going to listen to what Jesus says…am I going to follow His example…or am I going to be close minded and hard hearted…and stay the way I am?
Several times I have studied with people and they have told me that what Jesus says is right and true…but if they did what He said their parents would disown them…and they walked away.
- Sometimes family traditions…family relationships can keep Jesus from being allowed into your heart.
So how is your heart? And how is mine?” How receptive are we to the teachings of Christ…especially when they contradict what we have always believed?
- I need to be open to whatever Jesus teaches.
- I should never be content with the status quo…there is so much that I still need to learn.
- I do not need to think that I have been a Christian for so long and been preaching for so many years that there is nothing more that I can get.
© Sunset Ridge Church of Christ 2023