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Tuesday, February 23, 2016
Today’s Reading | Luke 5:27–39
After this he went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax booth; and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up, left everything, and followed him.
Then Levi gave a great banquet for him in his house; and there was a large crowd of tax collectors and others sitting at the table with them. The Pharisees and their scribes were complaining to his disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” Jesus answered, “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 to repentance.”
Then they said to him, “John’s disciples, like the disciples of the Pharisees, frequently fast and pray, but your disciples eat and drink. Jesus said to them, “You cannot make wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them, can you? The days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast in those days.”
He also told them a parable: “No one tears a piece from a new garment and sews it on an old garment; otherwise the new will be torn, 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 will be spilled, and the skins will be destroyed. But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins. And no one after drinking old wine desires new wine, but says, ‘The old is good.’”
It’s amusing to read this passage and note how uncomfortable the Pharisees and scribes are with Jesus’ increasingly radical teachings.
“But you’re eating and drinking with the sinners!” they whine. “Look at us: we’re righteous. We’re fasting and praying and reinforcing the right religious and social behaviors. Why can’t you just eat with our kind of people?”
Sure, it’s easy to apply biblical teachings to one’s code of conduct when it’s satisfying or convenient. In picking certain aspects of their lives to sacrifice—the amount they eat, how often they pray—the Pharisees and scribes seem to be saying, “Look at what we’ve given up! We’ve clearly figured everything out. We’re good.” They’re holding onto the parts of their lives to which they’ve grown accustomed and have sprinkled some worship alongside.
But, as Jesus points out, one cannot seamlessly combine pieces of a new garment with the old, just as the scribes and Pharisees cannot retain their lifestyles and pick and choose pieces of God’s word to follow. They must, as Levi did, drop everything and open their minds to the grace of these new ideas—regardless of how uncomfortable they feel—and receive righteousness through God, not through themselves.
And do they adhere to Jesus’ teachings after this day? No, they just keep questioning him in Luke 6. Those scribes and Pharisees never learn, do they? But there’s still hope for us.
Lord, open our hearts and minds, so that we might shed the old and fully clothe ourselves in the grace and truth of your teachings. Amen.
Written by Katie MacKendrick, Editorial Assistant
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