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New Wine Skins

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
The Truth Network Radio
February 4, 2024 12:01 am

New Wine Skins

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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February 4, 2024 12:01 am

No one can receive Christ without being made new. Today, R.C. Sproul continues his exposition of Mark's gospel, explaining that it is impossible simply to add Jesus to our lives and otherwise remain unchanged.

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You cannot receive Christ into your life without being made new yourself. And if you try to be a Christian and keep your old ways, it won't work. Becoming a Christian is a radical event. We are changed. We move from darkness into the light. We are new creations. We can't simply try to live like a Christian without actually experiencing that new birth. Otherwise, it's like putting new wine in old wine skins.

It'll burst. You're listening to the Sunday edition of Renewing Your Mind, as each week we feature sermons from the Pulpit Ministry of R.C. Sproul. These sermons from Mark's Gospel focus on the public ministry of Jesus, and next week we'll come to the end of this series. So I encourage you to request Dr. Sproul's line-by-line hardcover study through this fast-paced gospel with your donation of any amount at

In today's account, the scribes and the Pharisees ask the disciples of Jesus, how is it that He eats and drinks with tax collectors and sinners? Jesus' response, yet again, stops them in their tracks. This morning, we're going to continue our study of the gospel according to Saint Mark. We're in chapter 2, and I will be reading verses 13 through 22.

I'll ask the congregation to stand for the reading of the gospel. Then He went out again by the sea, and all the multitude came to Him, and He taught them. And as He passed by, He saw Levi, the son of Alphaeus, sitting at the tax office. And He said to him, Follow Me. So he arose and followed him. Now it happened, as he was dining in Levi's house, that many tax collectors and sinners also sat together with Jesus and His disciples. For there were many, and they followed Him. And when the scribes and Pharisees saw Him eating with the tax collectors and sinners, they said to His disciples, How is it that He eats and drinks with tax collectors and sinners? When Jesus heard it, He said to them, Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.

I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. The disciples of John and of the Pharisees were fasting. Then they came and said to Him, Why do the disciples of John and of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast? And Jesus said to them, Can the friends of the bridegroom fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast.

But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast in those days. No one sews a piece of unshrugged cloth on an old garment, or else the new piece pulls away from the old, and the tear is made worse. No one puts new wine into old wineskins, or else the new wine bursts the wineskins, the wine is spilled, and the wineskins are ruined. But new wine must be put into new wineskins. He who has ears to hear the Word of God, let them hear.

Please be seated. As early as the second chapter of Mark, the gospel writer alerts us to the gathering storm that is approaching the ministry of Jesus, and he gives us insights into occasions that provoke conflict between our Lord and the religious leaders of His day. And in verse 13, we hear of the calling now of the fifth disciple that Mark gives reference to. In this case, it is the disciple known as Levi, who is also known in the New Testament as Matthew.

And let's read the contents of that call. Jesus went out again by the sea, we're speaking here of the Sea of Galilee, and all the multitude came to Him, and He taught them. This is good news because, remember, He left their presence briefly because the people were more concerned in His healing power than in listening to Him teach them and preach the coming of the kingdom of God. And we remember that He told those people that His mission was to teach and to preach. And so because He was not able to do that earlier, He left Capernaum, and now is back, and He is resuming that teaching ministry. But we are told that as He passed by the crowd and the sea where He had been preaching, He saw Levi, the son of Alphaeus, sitting at the tax office.

Now let me just comment briefly on that. There wasn't a building there by the Sea of Galilee that was the county tax assessor's headquarters. The tax offices in this part of the world at that time would have been little booths or shanties that would be crudely erected along the busy byways of villages and cities, particularly where commerce was involved near the border. And as I've told you earlier, Capernaum was a place of no mean substance and was very important as a resource for the fishing industry, and it imported fish to various nations round about. And so it would be strategic for the tax collectors to set up a way station there along the Sea of Galilee. Now also keep in mind that the Jewish people were subjected to a very heavy and oppressive tax levied by the Roman Empire. And there were taxes on property, there were taxes on commerce, and the way it was set up was this, that people bid for the opportunity to be a tax collector. And if you won the bid for being a tax collector, you would in that bid set a number that you believed that you could accumulate in terms of monies received from those taxations. And if the government liked your projected bid, you could be selected as a tax collector, and this is the way it worked. You had a quota, and when you filled that quota, everything that you could garner above that quota became yours so that the tax collector worked on a commission basis. Now again, though this was Roman in origin, the Romans sublet this taxation industry to their vassal kings, and so within Israel the tax collectors would report to the Jewish kings as well as to the government of Rome.

And this system of taxation was one that was one of the most greedy and corrupt that the world has ever known, approaching what goes on in our country, I would guess. But in any case, this was a lucrative business for anyone who was able to be a tax collector, and all that person who was Jewish had to give up was his Jewish identity, his social status, and his membership in the synagogue. Because if you were a tax collector in Israel and you were Jewish, you were seen as a quisling, as a traitor. In fact, anybody who dealt with you as a friend would be considered unclean.

You would automatically be expelled from the synagogue, be disgraced in your family, and would be a social pariah, despite that you would also at the same time be exceedingly wealthy. And so it was scandalous that Jesus would walk up to this toll shanty and look at the tax collector in there, a Jewish man by the name of Levi, and say to him, follow me. That Jesus selects a tax collector to be part of the twelve was as unthinkable as one could imagine. It's not by accident that this episode is placed in Mark's gospel so close to Jesus' healing of the leper. As scandalous as Jesus touching the leper was, it was even more scandalous that He would invite into His company a social leper like a tax collector. Well, to make matters worse, we're told that after He called Matthew into His entourage and Matthew arose and followed Him, we're told that He then went to dinner in Levi's house. There were many tax collectors and sinners who sat together with Jesus as His disciples.

Now, we read this closely in the original. They're not just sitting, they're reclining because this is not your average dinner. This is a feast. And it's a feast perhaps of celebration, but not only Levi, but the whole company of tax collectors that are associated with Him, the whole group of hated people, and the Amherets, the people of the land, are invited to this sumptuous feast where obviously Jesus is the guest of honor.

And again, that's like throwing gasoline on the fire after inviting one tax collector to join Him. Now Jesus goes to this feast with a multitude of tax collectors and sinners. Now when the scribes and Pharisees saw this, they were fit to be tied, they said to His disciples, how is it that He eats and drinks with tax collectors and sinners? Now when the Pharisees called people sinners, what they were thinking of are the rank-and-foul Jews who were not committed to the in-depth study of the things of God, that were not deeply committed to understanding the law of God.

And so they just sort of went the way of the culture, and they followed the customs of the day rather than the details of the law. The Pharisees were named the Pharisees because they were the separated ones. They were the ones most committed to keeping the law of God, and they grew to the position that they believed that salvation came from segregation. That is, they segregated themselves, distanced themselves from anybody who was loose in their moral life. And so it was important for them to maintain their holiness and their sanctity to have no dealings with people who were sinners.

There are Christians like that who actually believe that there's some point of sanctity of avoiding any contact with unbelievers or with pagans. I've got to tell you a story. That will get your attention. Several years ago, somebody called me up, and they said their husband loves to play golf. And he would love to play golf with me, and this person said, I'll pay for it if you'll take my husband out for a round of golf at Heathrow Country Club for his birthday.

I said, I'd be happy to do it. So I took him out for 18 holes of golf, and then after the round, we came into the men's grill, and it was time for him to leave. And he saw me then sitting with my friends at the club, many of whom are in this room this morning and are now members of this congregation, but who at the time were not believers. And this man was so upset that I was friendly with these people that he took it upon himself to call the board of directors of Ligonier Ministry and lodge a complaint that I was mixing with these people.

And the occasion where he saw me do it, and that was the occasion when I took him out to play golf. I mean, that's the way it goes, folks. But I just couldn't understand that. I said, I don't understand that because this was how Jesus did His ministry. He didn't just keep Himself in a convent or in a monastery somewhere. He was where people are, where pain exists because He cared about the people. Now we're not supposed to love the world.

We're not supposed to imitate the world. But we have to minister to people who are in the world, and that's how Jesus did His ministry. But the religious establishment of His day just couldn't stomach that Jesus, who was supposed to be a rabbi, would actually have dinner with tax collectors and sinners. And so they came to the disciples of Jesus and said, why is He doing it?

And when Jesus heard of that, He gave the answer. He said, those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. What good is a doctor who only associates with well people?

And it's one thing to be involved simply in preventative medicine, but also when we are sick, then we call the doctor. And Jesus said, what could be more silly than for a Messiah, the Son of God, to spend all of His time with the righteous? Now there's some irony here that's obviously dripping from the words of Jesus when He says to the Pharisees, those that are well don't need a physician, just those who are sick. And I come not to call the righteous, but the sinners to repentance. And He could have tacked on the end of that parenthetically, like you, but He didn't.

But that implication was there in His answer. You know, if you really want Me to spend time with the sick, I'm going to come to your house next, Mr. Pharisee, because they were the sickest of the sick in that time. Well, that didn't really satisfy the enemies of Jesus. We read then from Mark's account that John's disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees were fasting. Remember two things about John, that John was an ascetic.

He came out of the wilderness. He was given to a practice of self-denial, and he also had disciples who followed him. We've encountered them in the book of Acts, people who had earlier become disciples of John the Baptist and then later became the disciples of Jesus. But they, along with the Pharisees, were involved in fasting. Now in the Jewish law, the law of Moses, the only time fasting was required of people was during the days of atonement, during Yom Kippur. However, there were customs that developed over the centuries among the Jews that were favored by the rabbis to fast on other occasions, particularly on occasions of national import, occasions of mourning and so on. But also fasting became associated with repentance. If somebody was guilty of a severe sin and they came to repentance, they would manifest their repentance by going through periods of fasting. Now in the case of the Pharisees, they made fasting a duty twice a week, only from sunup to sundown, not for 24-hour periods, but they fasted two days a week, and they saw that as a badge of their personal piety. And so now these Pharisees see Jesus associating with sinners, and not only that, but that His disciples are not fasting.

What's with that? Well, Jesus doesn't criticize fasting. He gives a place for fasting in the kingdom of God. But there is a time and a place for everything, and what Jesus is saying, this is not the time to fast.

Why? He makes this metaphor of the bridegroom, and He reminds them of what happens in their own culture at the time of a wedding. Weddings in Israel did not last 20 minutes or a half an hour, and then followed by a reception that went on for a couple of hours, and then everybody went home. A wedding feast, as we see in Cana, lasted for a week, and it was a time of eating and drinking. The last time anybody would ever want to be involved in a fast was when they went to a wedding feast. It's not the time to fast. It's the time to party. It's the time to eat. It's the time to drink. That was what the culture was about, and Jesus said, nobody fasts at a wedding as long as the bridegroom is there.

There's no fasting. Everybody rather is rejoicing. Everybody is celebrating. Nowhere in the Old Testament, beloved, does the Bible refer to the Messiah as bridegroom.

That image just isn't there. The bridegroom in the Old Testament is God, and the bride is the nation Israel. But in the New Testament, the bridegroom is the Son of God, and the bride is His church. And so again, Jesus is claiming more than His Messiahship here when He refers to Himself as the bridegroom. He's saying, I'm the Son of God, and when I am here bringing to you the kingdom, and as long as the bridegroom is in your presence, this is the time you people should be celebrating, not fasting, because the kingdom has come in your midst. Oh, you're not going to have the bridegroom with you. The day is coming where the bridegroom will be snatched away from you. He's obviously referring to His own execution and departure from this planet.

Then He said, will be the time to fast, but while I'm here, it's time to feast, a remarkable metaphor that we have here. Then He switches His metaphors, and He says, no one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, or else the new piece pulls away from the old and tears made worse. I don't understand this because I don't mend clothes, and I don't know how to sew, but apparently that if you have a garment, and that you've washed it several times, and it's all done shrinking, and then you rip a hole in it, if you put a new piece of cloth in it that hasn't been pre-shrunk, and it's still going to be shrunk, then you match it perfectly to the hole, and you put it in the washing machine.

That's where you put it, isn't it? Thanks, Cindy. And then that piece shrinks. What happens? Not only does it tear loose, but it exacerbates the tear in the cloth.

Nobody does that. Even Sproul wouldn't do that if he had to sew pants, which fortunately he doesn't. And then He uses the illustration of the wineskin. Again, in the ancient world, the usual standard skin that was used was the goatskin, and they would get a new goatskin or wineskin, put new wine in it, and when you put the new wine in the goatskin, the wine would ferment, and it would put gases that would emit from the fermentation that would cause an expansion of the wineskin, and it would stretch the wineskin. But new wine went with new wineskin because new wineskin had room for the expansion. But every Jew in Israel understood that you didn't put new wine in an old wineskin because the old wineskin had already been stretched to the max. And if you put new wine into the old wineskin, and that new wine begins to ferment and begins to expand, what happens? The wineskin is pushed to the breaking point.

It bursts. You lose the wineskin, and you lose the wine. And so Jesus said, look, you can't take the new and force it into the old structures because the old structures won't be able to bear it. Now He's not condemning the Old Testament here. He's not condemning the law of God.

But what He is condemning are the traditions that had developed among the Pharisees and among the scribes that Jesus challenged. He said, I come with good news. I come with the breakthrough of an entire new situation. Your King is here, and that's new.

And you can't deal with this King unless you make room for Him by getting rid of the structures that would make it impossible for you to receive Him. This is something that is so transcendentally new that you cannot receive Christ into your life without being made new yourself. The newness of Christ is what transforms you.

And if you try to be a Christian and keep your old ways, it won't work. You'll burst, and you'll lose the precious wine that has come to us in Him. Have you experienced that new life in Christ that R.C.

Sproul mentioned? If not, please download and read his free e-book, What is the Gospel?, at slash gospel. This is Renewing Your Mind, a daily discipleship outreach of Ligonier Ministries. Later this year, Renewing Your Mind will mark 30 years of daily teaching and preaching, all made possible under the Lord's blessing thanks to generous supporters like you.

And today, if you give a gift in support of Renewing Your Mind at, as our way of saying thanks, we'll send you R.C. Sproul's entire hardcover commentary on Mark's Gospel. So walk through this Gospel line by line with Dr. Sproul when you make your donation today at This offer ends at midnight, so thank you for your generosity. As we conclude this sermon series in the Gospel of Mark, R.C. Sproul will consider what it means that Jesus is the Lord of the Sabbath. That's next Sunday, here on Renewing Your Mind. .
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-02-10 18:43:14 / 2024-02-10 18:52:06 / 9

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