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Mark’s first-century biography – page 7

“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.”

The year is around AD 30. The place Galilee. The man Jesus is failing greatly in the eyes of the religious. So are his followers.

On one of the days when fasting was mandatory, they had all deliberately not done so. Jesus gives his reasons. The Jewish religion is an old garment. What then is a “piece of unshrunk (literally “uncarded”) cloth”? We don’t realise it but all our wool, cotton and similar clothing materials have been carded.  According to Wikipedia, “carding is a mechanical process that disentangles, cleans and intermixes fibres” so that the cloth can be used.
No one would sew an uncarded cloth patch onto an old garment. Is Jesus that “uncarded patch”. Is he that different from “religion” – that unruly?  If he is added to “religion” will that religion become even more torn?

And what about Jesus being “new wine”? Is he “new wine” which, with all its vigour, cannot be contained within lifeless religion? Who is this man?

One Sabbath he was going through the grain fields, and as they made their way, his disciples began to pluck heads of grain. And the Pharisees were saying to him, “Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?” 

The religious Pharisees are shocked. One of the Ten Commandments is being broken by Jesus’ disciples. Not “you shall not steal” – because individual gleaning in a neighbour’s field was permitted under the law given to Moses. This was far more serious. “Observe the Sabbath day to keep it holy as the LORD your God commanded you.”  It was joyful harvest time but not on the religious Sabbath.

‘Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, as the Lord your God commanded you. Six days you shall labour and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter or your male servant or your female servant, or your ox or your donkey or any of your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates, that your male servant and your female servant may rest as well as you. You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore, the Lord your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day. (Moses’ report about Sabbath work, c. BC 1350)
And he said to them, “Have you never read what David did, when he was in need and was hungry, he and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God, in the time of Abiathar the high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and also gave it to those who were with him?” 

This “David” of whom Jesus spoke in that field in Galilee in AD 30, became King of Israel around 100 – 970 BC. In his time, the Mosaic law was the rule. Its religious procedures included the provision of fresh daily bread for the priests. The bread was placed in the “house of God” every Sabbath and only the priests were permitted to eat it because, being priests of God most high, they were holy enough to receive God’s “bread of the presence” within. 

Not only did David (well before he became King) eat the bread (made, of course, from grain similar to that being gleaned by Jesus’ disciples 1,000 years later) but he also gave it to those who were “with” him, going his way.

Jesus was asking these AD 30 religious leaders whether they recalled – and had understood – that the very presence of God within had been made available to sinful men. Their religion was now about to exclude people from even the blessing of the presence of God within – despite such Sabbath blessings having been given to David and his men – a fact of historical record.

‘I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit’).’ (John the Baptist’s message about Jesus, c. AD 30)
And he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.”

Did this whole incident take place so that this message would be permanently on the record? The LORD God’s desire is to bless human beings greatly on his Sabbath: partly through the blessing of weekly rest; fully through receiving within the presence of God and the eternal, abundant life that goes with it. 

The Sabbath – the complete Sabbath - was made for the blessing of human beings. The Son of Man is in charge of it. Not the religious. Jesus – only.

Sinner Syvret

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