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A New Patch on an Old Garment

Luke 5:36

16th August 2019

Jesus was being criticised again:

Luke 5:33
They said to him, "John's disciples often fast and pray, and so do the disciples of the Pharisees, but yours go on eating and drinking."

Why didn't Jesus and his disciples fast? Other Jews, Jews who observed the Old Testament, including the Pharisees and John the Baptist's disciples, fasted. But Jesus and His disciples didn't fast. Jesus gave them two explanations why this was. Firstly, he said:

Luke 5:34-35
Jesus answered, "Can you make the friends of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; in those days they will fast."

Jesus was saying that He's the Messiah, God's Anointed One, come to earth. God Himself, in human flesh, was walking the streets of Galilee and Judea. The disciples were walking, talking, sleeping and eating with God the Son, the second Person of the Holy Trinity. It was the most amazing, exciting period in the history of the world. It was time to rejoice, not time to fast – whatever the Old Testament said. A new thing was happening. The Kingdom of God was coming. God was here.

Of course the Pharisees, with their strict observance of the Law of Moses, and their own misinterpretation of it, and with their refusal to accept Jesus as the Messiah, wouldn't see this.

Jesus's second explanation of why He and His disciples didn't observe the religious fasts was:

Luke 5:36
He told them this parable: "No one tears a patch from a new garment and sews it on an old one. If he does, he will have torn the new garment, and the patch from the new will not match the old."

Imagine you have old suit. It was rather nice twenty years ago but it's a bit tatty now, worn at the cuffs and rather threadbare. So you buy a nice new suit to replace it. And suppose, a few weeks later, you find a hole in the old suit. You wouldn't cut a piece out of the new suit to patch the old suit. To do so would ruin the new suit, and the old suit still wouldn't look right.

The first application of Jesus's words is this: You don't use the New Covenant to patch the Old Covenant. You don't use Christianity to patch Judaism. The writer to the Hebrews compared Christianity with the old priestly religion of Moses and Aaron in this way:

Hebrews 8:6-13
But in fact the ministry Jesus has received is as superior to theirs as the covenant of which he is mediator is superior to the old one, and it is founded on better promises. For if there had been nothing wrong with that first covenant, no place would have been sought for another. But God found fault with the people and said: 'The time is coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they did not remain faithful to my covenant, and I turned away from them, declares the Lord.
This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will a man teach his neighbour, or a man his brother, saying, "Know the Lord," because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.' By calling this covenant 'new', he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and ageing will soon disappear.

God has given us the New Covenant – Christianity – to replace the Old Covenant – Judaism – because he found fault with the old one. The New Covenant is greatly superior to the Old Covenant. The Old Covenant is obsolete. The New Covenant isn't about animal sacrifice and mandatory fasting. It's about a change of heart, given by the Holy Spirit to those who accept Jesus's sacrifice for our sins.

The New Covenant – Christianity – is like the new suit. The Old Covenant – based on the Law of Moses and animal sacrifice – is like the old suit. You can't use Christianity to patch up Judaism.

The idea that Christianity was a sort of patch to improve Judaism, not to replace it, continued until Acts 15, when the church finally accepted that the New Testament people of God don't need to observe the regulations required by the Law of Moses.

But how do we apply this teaching to ourselves? Consider:

2 Corinthians 5:17
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation: The old has gone, the new has come!

Just as Jesus brought in the New Covenant, so faith in Jesus brings in the new creation. Just as Old Testament religion is obsolete, so the person you were before you believed in Jesus is dead. The old person has gone. The new person has come. You are a new creation.

Romans 6:3-4
Or don't you know that all of us who were baptised into Christ Jesus were baptised into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

So there's an old you, who's dead, and there's a new you, who will live for ever. And you can't use a patch from your new life to mend your old life.

Unfortunately, a lot of Christians try to do exactly that. They try to retain their old way of life, their old way of thinking, their old habits, their old friendships and hobbies and priorities. They try to patch Jesus onto their pre-existing lifestyles. It doesn't work. A Christian who tries to live much the same way as he did before he was saved is a miserable individual. He's as ridiculous as a man wearing an old suit with a patch from a new suit, while the ruined remains of his new suit are hanging in the wardrobe.

Your old life is dead, and the new life has come. You can't treat Jesus as just another component of your old life. Jesus is not a lifestyle choice, to be included with all our other lifestyle choices. Jesus is your new life. You don't use the New Covenant to patch up your old life; you throw your old life away. It's obsolete.

Can I ask: is there anything that you used to believe before you met Jesus Christ, that you still believe now, and have never seriously questioned? We're called to repent – to think differently. Are there any thoughts that you've never submitted to Christ? Or perhaps you think they're obviously true and don't need to be tested against Scripture. Or perhaps you love them too much to let them be challenged. Or perhaps you've never really noticed that you think them at all. But we should submit all things to Christ.

If your politics have never changed since before you met Jesus, or your ideas about family, or money, or career, or justice, or comfort, or security, or leisure, have never changed, then you've probably never allowed the Bible to speak into those areas of your thought life. It's time you did.