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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Friday, February 23, 2018

Today’s Scripture Reading | Mark 2:13–22

Jesus went out again beside the sea; the whole crowd gathered around him, and he taught them. As he was walking along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up and followed him. And as he sat at dinner in Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were also sitting with Jesus and his disciples—for there were many who followed him. When the scribes of the Pharisees saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, they said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” When Jesus heard this, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.”

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?” Jesus said to them, “The wedding guests cannot fast while the bridegroom is with them, can they? 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 on that day.

“No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old cloak; otherwise, the patch pulls away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear is made. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and the wine is lost, and so are the skins; but one puts new wine into fresh wineskins.” (NRSV)

I can’t help but feel a bit sorry for the Pharisees who were confronted with Jesus’ message. We’ve at least had a couple thousand years to try and comprehend his radical message, but they had no such luck. They had grown up in a highly structured religious society that told them if they followed certain rules, everything would be OK. If they fasted and prayed and followed all these rules, they would be in the good graces of God.

And then Jesus showed up and declared that the way they did things was obsolete. He was the new cloak and the new wineskins. Why would their old way of life have any relevance to him?

So I feel pity for those Pharisees, and maybe it’s because we’re not so different from them. Despite two thousand years of hindsight, I’m not sure we’ve learned too much. We still try to build rules around our lives to make sense of this messy world. And when we do that, we try to limit Christ’s grace.

But the promise of this scripture is that there is always newness in Christ. He didn’t just turn things upside down back in the day. He does it every single day of our lives when we embrace his vision for the world.

Lord, free us from the rules we try and impose upon ourselves and others. Give us opportunities to live our lives with a grace and peace that is only possible through your Spirit. Amen.

Written by Jared Light, Member of Fourth Presbyterian Church

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