Perhaps one of the reasons that Jesus is so offensive to the world is that He is so counter-intuitive. He is exactly like we don’t expect Him to be. But we fail to realize that HE is exactly what we need Him to be.
As we wrap up this week of reviewing Michael Card’s book, Luke, The Gospel of Amazement, we are at a perfect chapter. Luke chapter 5, is a microcosm of what Card has been highlighting all along – amazement. There are a series of events in this chapter that will either send us running from Jesus screaming, “Mad-man! He has a demon!” or, “Jesus, my Lord and my God.” C.S. Lewis said it well in Mere Christianity,
“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronising nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to. … Now it seems to me obvious that He was neither a lunatic nor a fiend: and consequently, however strange or terrifying or unlikely it may seem, I have to accept the view that He was and is God.”
In this chapter Jesus calls his disciples. Matthew, Card teaches us, was not simply a tax collector. That was his profession, but in his world that made him equal to robbers and murderers. The “tax farmer” was a Jew who collaborated with the Romans to collect taxes. But, in this capacity they often swindled their fellow Jews by collecting beyond what was due and pocketing the surplus.
I have always read this chapter quickly, and acknowledged that it was an unusual thing for Jesus to choose a tax collector as His disciple. But, Card asks us to imagine the dynamics of this band of 12 Christ-followers. Matthew had been collecting taxes and lining his pockets at the expense of men just like Peter and John. Perhaps he had even cheated Peter himself! Jesus not only won 12 men to Himself, but He worked forgiveness, acceptance, mercy and repentance in their hearts.
There is a parable in Luke 5 that has seemed so strange to me that I always read over it quickly. I’ve been embarrassed to say that I have no idea what Jesus was getting at.
“And they said to Him, ‘The disciples of John often fast and offer prayers, the disciples of the Pharisees also do the same, but Yours eat and drink.’ And Jesus said to them, ‘You cannot make the attendants of the bridegroom fast while the bridegroom is with them, can you? But the days will come; and when the bridegroom is taken away from them, then they will fast in those days.’ And He was also telling them a parable: ‘No one tears a piece of cloth from a new garment and puts it on an old garment; otherwise he will both tear the new, and the piece from the new will not match the old. 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.'”
Ummm…so? We use glass for wine now, so is this important?
Jesus is explaining the insufficiency of the Law for salvation. He, Himself is the new wine, the new garment. We cannot apply Jesus to, or fit Him in with, juxtapose along side or in any way entertain both Jesus and our personal efforts to earn salvation. The truth of salvation by faith in Jesus rends the old and burst the former.
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” Matthew 5:17
“For by works of the law no human being will be justified in His sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it – the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.” Romans 3:20-22a
The Pharisees were upset that Jesus and his disciples were not adhering to the Law. This is the the bridge that Card mentioned before: Luke as a bridge between the old (looking in faith toward Jesus) and the new (following Jesus as Savior). The Pharisees clung desperately the “old ways.” The only way they knew to relate to Yahweh was through sacrifice, ritual washing, fasting and scheduled prayers.
Here Jesus tells them that HE is counter to what they have believed and superior to their most earnest efforts – they cannot combine the old way and the new way. There is no hope for good deeds, the Law cannot save. But Jesus has made all things new.
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