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Author:Rev. Jeremy Segstro
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Congregation:Cloverdale Canadian Reformed Church
 Surrey, BC
 cloverdalecanrc.org
 
Title:The Parabolic Kingdom 2: The Parable of the Old and the New
Text:Mark 2:18-22 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Unclassified
 
Added:2022-07-15
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Reading: Leviticus 16:1-34, Galatians 4:1-31

Text: Mark 2:18-22

 

THE PARABOLIC KINGDOM: THE PARABLE OF THE OLD AND THE NEW

  1. In the New, We Do Not Fully Mourn

  2. The New MORE THAN Replaces the Old

 

  1. Psalm 63: 1-4

  2. Psalm 125: 1-4

  3. Psalm 45: 1, 3, 5, 6

  4. Hymn 55: 1-3

  5. Hymn 83: 1-2

 

Words to Listen For: pain, markers, muscles, assassinate, physical

 

Questions for Understanding:

  1. Was Jesus a Reformer?

  2. Where did the idea for regular fasting come from?

  3. How are we like someone who is engaged?

  4. Can Jesus be like a patch?

  5. Describe the history of salvation like a sunset.

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Jeremy Segstro, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved in Christ our Lord,

We love to place ourselves in the line of great reformers, don’t we?

The motto of the reformation: Reformed and always reforming is something that we hold dear to our hearts.  And legitimately so!  We are REFORMED.  The church became DEFORMED and lost sight of the true gospel, and, by the grace of God, He raised up powerful and faithful men and women to bring us back to the truth.

And if we discover that we have turned away from that truth again, we must always submit to the Word of God and the will of God and reform ourselves again.

We place ourselves in the line of King Hezekiah and King Josiah who both re-opened the temple for worship.  Who celebrated the Passover with the people.  Who destroyed idols.

We place ourselves in the line of Martin Luther and John Calvin, as they struggled against the Roman Catholic abuses and heresies.

And we like to place Jesus in this line too.

Hezekiah, Josiah, Jesus, Martin Luther, John Calvin.  Great company to be in!

The Old Testament reformers fought against idolatry and returned to proper temple worship.

The Reformers of the Middle ages fought against idolatry and returned to the proper preaching of the gospel.

And Jesus…

In His day, the people had lost their way, and He was bringing them back to what was right...wasn’t He?

But let me tell you something...Jesus Christ was not a Reformer.

He wasn’t.

Jesus Christ did not come to this earth to return the Pharisees to the proper Mosaic covenant.  He wasn’t there to make sure that the animal sacrifices were done properly.  That incense would be burned and Herod’s temple wasn’t profaned.

Our Saviour came, not to REFORM, but to TRANSFORM.

We heard about that in our reading from Galatians this morning.  There were two children.  The child of the slave woman Hagar, and the child of the free woman Sarah.

And the child of the slave woman represents the covenant on Mt. Sinai.  This is the Old Covenant. It was a covenant of glory, Moses’ face shone with the glory of the covenant, but it was a FADING GLORY.  Paul, in his second letter to the Corinthians explains that THIS is the reason that Moses would wear the veil.  Not so much to stop the people from fearing when they saw the glowing face, but so that they would not see the glory fade.

Jesus Christ did not come to bring back the fading glory that Mt. Sinai had.

But instead, Jesus Christ came to bring about the New Covenant.  Not Mt. Sinai, but the heavenly Jerusalem.  With a glory that will never fade.

He has come to bring about

THE PARABOLIC KINGDOM: THE PARABLE OF THE OLD AND THE NEW

  1. In the New, We Do Not Fully Mourn

  2. The New MORE THAN Replaces the Old

 

In the New, We Do Not Fully Mourn

We begin our text with the question of fasting

Now John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting.

For those who don’t know, FASTING is Biblical practice where you deny yourself food and usually drink as well.

We heard about the only specifically prescribed Old Testament fast - on the Day of Atonement. And it shall be a statute to you...in the seventh month on the tenth day of the money, you shall afflict yourselves and shall do no work.

Afflicting yourself is another way of saying “fast.”  Take in no food.  Allow yourself to feel the pain of your empty stomach.

And then the people could also choose to voluntarily fast when tragedy struck

  • King Saul foolishly imposed a fast on his army while they were fighting the Philistines.

  • Queen Esther and the Jews fasted for three days when they heard of Hamaan’s plot to destroy God’s people.

Fasting was a very serious business, and was not to be taken lightly.

Now John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting.

We just heard that fasting was not something to do lightly...why were these two groups fasting?

We learn from this account in Matthew that at this time, John the Baptist had been put in prison by Herod for speaking out against him, and so very likely John’s disciples were fasting and praying, hoping that their teacher would be set free.

As for the Pharisees, we hear elsewhere that fasting was a matter of self-righteous pride.

The Pharisee prayed, looking up into heaven: I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.

John’s disciples were in mourning, and the Pharisees were prideful.

And both groups looked down upon Jesus’ disciples.  Jesus’ disciples were a strange bunch, made up of fishermen (hardly well-trained students of the Torah), a traitorous tax collector, a violent revolutionary against Rome, and Judas...a greedy thief who would one day betray his Teacher.

The 12 hadn’t come from high positions.  They were not wise according to the worldly standards.  They were not powerful or of noble birth.  And now...here is the proof that Jesus’ disciples aren’t even very religious...THEY DON’T EVEN FAST!

Fasting was THE spiritual discipline of the day.  It showed that you knew about the seriousness of life.  The brokenness of this world.  How bad your sins were.  That was how it looked on the outside at least.

The Pharisees had warped and twisted it until the very thing that was to show humility was there to serve their pride.

But it was strange for disciples of a Rabbi not to fast.

Now John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting.  And people came and said to Him, “Why do John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?”

People came and said to Him

Who were these people?  Perhaps a strange question to ask.  A piece of information that Mark chose not to tell us.  But if you look at the different gospel accounts, Matthew says that it was John’s disciples who asked.  Luke says it was the tax collectors and sinners who asked.  And Mark doesn’t specify.

So who was it who asked this question?  Historically, who gave Jesus the opportunity to share this teaching, this parable?  Is there an issue here with Scripture?

No.  This was a question that was probably asked more than once.  Because this was a momentous change.  Rabbi Jesus was not REFORMING the first century church, but instead He was TRANSFORMING it.

One commentary explains this by saying, “Imagine that the disciples are like students trying to understand a difficult concept, saying ‘Okay, wait.  Explain this again for me.’”

Fasting was a VITAL part of the Jewish religion.  And the 12 didn’t do it!

But why?  Why was it so important?

After all, only one fast is commanded in the Old Testament.  One fast.  1 day a year.  But then by the time the New Testament comes, suddenly it is strange that Jesus’ disciples don’t fast regularly.  What changed?

Well, congregation, what changed was the exile.  What changed was the utter destruction of the Jewish way of life.  The 10 northern tribes were taken away to Assyria, and the vast majority of them never returned.

And then the southern two tribes were taken away into Babylon.  Suddenly, the two main markers of their identity was gone.  The temple was gone.  It was destroyed, and they were taken away, with no change to rebuild.

The temple was gone, and the freedom to practice their ceremonies was gone.  And so what did they do?

In fear of never returning from exile, in fear of never being forgiven by God, they moved to a works-righteousness kind of theology.

They put such an emphasis on ACTING HOLY.  And so they would pray.  Loudly and regularly.  They would fast twice a week.  They made up so many extra laws to make sure that they would not break God’s law.  They instituted the synagogue in exile, and the Pharisees and the scribes were the ones who passionately defended these additions and tried to enforce them.

But over time, they moved from fear and holiness to pride and arrogance.

Why do John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?

And Jesus does not answer clearly.  But instead He answers using a parable.

And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them?  As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast.  The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in that day.

Jesus answers using the parable of a wedding.

And we sang from a wedding psalm earlier in the service.  Psalm 45.  And at that time, I asked you to contrast in your mind the JOY of the wedding psalm with the STRICT DUTY of Leviticus 16.

And that is what Jesus is saying here too.

The bridegroom is with them.  The Kingdom has come in the person of Jesus Christ...HOW CAN ITS CITIZENS MOURN?

For 400 years there was silence from Heaven.  For 400 years after the return from exile.  The long-awaited Messiah was nowhere to be found.  The new rules and regulations of the Pharisees seemed to have gotten them out of exile...but then they were lost.  As sheep without a shepherd.

And then finally...the Messiah had come!  God had come down to earth and He was TRANSFORMING EVERYTHINGEVERYTHING WAS CHANGING!

How can you mourn when God Himself is standing in front of you, proclaiming salvation and victory and joy?

The next time you’re at a wedding, take a close look at the face of the bride.  If you can, especially look at her when they’re taking pictures with the photographer.  The bride will sometimes do something strange.  Between pictures, she will purposely frown.  She will very unnaturally contort her face.  And I asked one of my photographer friends about this.  The idea is that the bride will be smiling so much that day that she will actually hurt her face, and so there is forced relaxation of those smiling muscles.  This is the joy of a wedding.

But the eternal wedding feast hasn’t started yet.

As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast.  The day will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in that day.

There will be a time when Jesus was no longer with His disciples.  But the question is...what exactly does this refer to?  Does this refer to us right now?  Jesus is not with us, walking and talking, teaching and healing.  The bridegroom has gone away.

And yet, He has not left us alone.  Christ kept His promise to be with us until the end of the world.  He is with us by His Holy Spirit.

And so these days of mourning that Jesus speaks of refer to the days of His arrest, crucifixion, and death.  This was the time when the disciples truly mourned.  One betrayed Him, and then was overcome with guilt and killed himself.  Another denied Him, was overcome with guilt, and wept bitterly.  And the rest simply fled.

Truly a dark day.  This would truly be a reason for fasting and mourning.  A reason perhaps better than that of the Pharisees and John’s disciples.

     The Pharisees fasted over their sins

     John’s disciples fasted over imprisonment

     But Jesus’ disciples fasted over their loss of hope.  The hope that Jesus was the Messiah that would change everything for them.

     But when He died, they doubted.

 

But all this was still to come.  We are only in Mark 2.  And so the disciples COULDN’T possibly mourn.  There was the joy of being with the bridegroom.

But for us today, we also do not truly mourn.  Of course we mourn over the brokenness of this world.  We mourn over racism.  We mourn over poverty.  We mourn over abortion and euthanasia.  We mourn the death of loved ones.

But when Christians mourn, we do so in a different way than the Israelites in exile, having lost everything.

When Christians mourn, we do so in a different way than the disciples during those three days.

When Christians mourn, we mourn with hope.

Things SHOULD BE DIFFERENT

Things WILL BE DIFFERENT...one day.

And, to mix metaphors a little here, we can think of it like an engagement.  Jesus Christ, the bridegroom, was here on earth 2000 years ago.

He ushered in the beginning of a new age.  He essentially got down on one knee and promised to marry His church.  And the joy was great.

But now He has gone away to prepare for the Heavenly Wedding Banquet.  We see the ring He gave us, the pledge, the Holy Spirit.  We hear His promise that He will be with us always.  And we LONG for the day when HE will return, and we will be married.

Engagement isn’t the same as married life.  There is that longing.  There is the sense of incompleteness.  Only one of you wears a ring.  And the bride-to-be is waiting for that second ring.  The engagement ring is lovely...but the wedding band?  That is when wedded bliss begins.

Is a fiancee as joyful as a bride?  No.  There are difficult moments still.  There is longing, there is loneliness, there may even be stress and sadness.  But a fiancee is filled with hope and eager expectation for that day.  A fiancee does not mourn or cry bitter tears.  But she longs for when marriage will replace engagement.  And we are LONGING for the day when the New will MORE THAN replace the Old.  Our final point.

When Jesus was questioned about why He and His disciples did not fast, He gave two answers.

Why do you and your disciples not fast?

-How CAN we fast??  How can we fast when we are celebrating and joyful and hopeful?

And then secondly, our Saviour explains that fasting belongs to the OLD WAY.

And He is not a REFORMER.  Jesus is not trying to regain the glory of the Old Covenant. The glory on the mountain with Moses.  But He is about TRANSFORMING.

And He explains this with the parable of patches and clothing, as well as wine and wineskins.

No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment.  If he does, the patch tears away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear is made.

And no one puts new wine into old wineskins.  If he does, the wine will burst the skins -  and the wine is destroyed, and so are the skins.  But new wine is for fresh wineskins.

Jesus uses regular earthly examples to teach about heavenly truths.  Just as He did with the soils last time.  If you sew a piece of UNSHRUNK cloth onto a preshrunk garment, eventually the unshrunk cloth will shrink.  And it will tear away from the garment, and cause more problems.

Similarly with wine.  New wine has not fully fermented yet.  And when it ferments, it expands and there are different gasses released.  If this new wine is put into a new wineskin, where there is some give, and the wineskin can stretch with the wine.  But in an old wineskin, one that is already stretched and will not stretch any further...you’re asking for trouble.

You see, old and new don’t mix.

In the same way, you can’t be a Pharisee who follows Christ.  Not that you can’t be a FORMER PHARISEE...for such was the Apostle Paul.  Matthew was a former tax collector.  Simon was a former violent zealot.

But that’s the point.  You can’t hold onto what you had before and just add Christ in.  Paul didn’t stay a Pharisee.  Simon didn’t go and assassinate Roman soldiers during the night while the other disciples were asleep.  You can’t hold onto what you had before and just add Christ in.

In doing so, you are saying to Jesus Christ: “But I want to hold onto all my worldly treasures.  I want to be able to keep all of my thoughts and feelings exactly the same, hold on to my bitterness, keep revelling in my private sins, and then have you too.  I want to hold onto this.  Please just act like a patch on my old, dirty, stained, broken garment.  You can be a bright little patch.”

But that’s not the way it works!

Even for the disciples of John the Baptist!  We read in Matthew 11 that John the Baptist was seen by Christ as the greatest of the Old Testament prophets.  Among those born of women, there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist.  YET the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.

The Old Covenant had its own glory and blessing, but even the greatest in the Old Covenant...Moses, Elijah, John the Baptist...the blessing of the new covenant, the KINGDOM...they are much more richly blessed.

Our Saviour came to announce that the KINGDOM HAS COME...AND IT HAS CHANGED EVERYTHING!

The New has SHATTERED the Old.  Jesus filled and filled and filled and fulfilled to the Old Covenant to overflowing.

     SHADOW was replaced with SUBSTANCE

     LEGALISM was replaced with LOVE

     GLOOM was replaced with GRACE

Now, this could cause us to wonder...was the Old Covenant a BAD covenant?

No, not at all!  The Old Covenant was from God.  There was grace, there was glory, there was godliness before Christ came to this earth.  But the Old Covenant was always meant to be temporary.

Immediately after the Fall into Sin in Genesis 3, what did God promise?

He promised a SAVIOUR who would defeat Satan.

The hope promised was not the promise of a law given on a mountain, but a man crucified on a mountain.

The Old Testament leads up to Mount GOLGOTHA, not Mount SINAI.

Even on Mt. Sinai, when God gave the law, He promised to Moses that one day a prophet would be raised up from among the Israelites.  A great prophet.  THE CHRIST.

Because the sacrificial system of animals would not do forever.  The blood of bulls and goats can never take away sin.  But Jesus Christ, the God-man, on the cross...THIS is what it was all leading up to!

And this is what Jesus was teaching the people.  Their old ways of living were an impoverished reality.  The days of animal sacrifices and fasting and having a physical temple with weak and sinful human priests...these days were over.

The old has passed away, and the new has come.

And it has come GLORIOUSLY.

Think of it like a sunrise.  All is darkness.  No hope.  Mourning.  Sin.  Grief.

And then, a faint hint of light appears in the sky.  The blackness is a little less black.  And the light spreads across the horizon, getting brighter and brighter until…

SUDDENLY

The Sun appears over that horizon line...bright and glorious.  BLINDING!

When Adam and Eve fell into sin, it was all dark.  They had lost their good relationship with God.  They had lost their righteousness and holiness.  They lost their innocence.

But moments later, there was already a faint hint of light in the sky: “Where are you?”

God was searching for His lost children.  Calling them home.

And the light got brighter and brighter.  In the shadows and ceremonies of the law.  In Mount Sinai.  There was light.  The light was real.  The light was beautiful.  But it wasn’t blindingly GLORIOUS yet.

And then, when Jesus came, that first Christmas, the sun finally appeared over the horizon line.  The glory was blinding.

And now, in this kingdom that has come and yet is still not fully here, when we pray for God’s kingdom to come…

We are living in a time where the sun has risen already, but it’s not at its highest point in the sky.  The light is still growing and spreading, and we eagerly await the day when ever last shadow will flee, and all will be light.  Forever.

_______________________

Why don’t we fast?

BECAUSE THIS KINGDOM IS TOO GLORIOUS TO FAST.

THE GOSPEL IS TOO RICH FOR US TO MOURN WITH EVERY PART OF OUR BEING.

We don’t fast, because we are longing for the day of feasting when the Kingdom comes in its fullness, and Christ shall be all in all.

AMEN.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Jeremy Segstro, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright, Rev. Jeremy Segstro

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