GOSPEL OF MARK – ROBBY GALLATY – Program 5
By: The John Ankerberg Show
|By: Pastor Robby Gallaty; ©2010|
|Have you become so attached to your traditions, to your way of doing things, that nothing – not even truths from God’s word – can move you?|
Does Faith Trump Tradition
The title of the message this morning is this: “Does Faith Trump Tradition?” If you have your Bibles, turn with me to Mark 2:18. Jesus just got finished calling Levi, Matthew the Tax Collector, He said, “Levi, leave the tax table and come follow Me.” This man, who was the lowest of low, he was a con artist, he was a rip-off artist, and Jesus called him to follow Him. Matthew in his excitement throws a party, a festival if you will. Invites all the scum of the earth back then to this party. And Jesus brings His disciples to dine with these spiritual lepers. And the Pharisees and the religious leaders and the scribes are outside of place the looking in the window and they are appalled. I mean, does Jesus know who He is meeting with? Does He know who these guys are? On the heels of that story comes this text. All three of the synoptic gospels—Matthew, Mark and Luke—include this story right after the feast at Matthew’s house. Let’s consider it this morning. Turn with me to Mark 2:18.
“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?’ 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. 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.’”
What’s interesting is, this is kind of a Q & A with Jesus. And let me just state my goal up front. My goal is that each and every one of us would think: Do we put tradition over truth? Do we elevate the way things have always been over the way Scripture suggests they should be? And the Q & A starts with a question. Look at it. What’s the first question? It’s actually a conflict in the text. The Pharisees and scribes come to Jesus and they say, “Jesus, why did John’s disciples and why do the Pharisee’s disciples fast but yours don’t?”
It’s important for us to really understand who’s asking the question; and, church, when you see who’s asking the question, it’s going to blow you away. Look at it in verse 18. We don’t really know from this text but it says, “And people came to Him.” Well, who are the people? Go back to verse 16: “the scribes of the [who?] the Pharisees.” Turn to Luke 5. Same story, different gospel. In Luke 5 it’s the same story. It falls on the heels of the festival at Matthew’s house. Look at it in verse 33. And here’s the question: who are “they?” Go back to verse 30: “And the Pharisees and their scribes grumbled at the disciples.” Now, we can understand that. We understand the Pharisees and scribes were disconnected from Jesus.
But Matthew inserts an interesting caveat that the other two miss. Go to Matthew 9. Matthew just left the party so he’s very observant of who’s in the crowd. And notice what Matthew says in Matthew 9:14. Watch this: “Then the disciples of [Who?] John.”
Is that odd to you? I mean, what are the disciples of John doing hanging out with the Pharisees? What do these two groups have in common? You would think they are diametrically opposed to one other, but it says they are together on this issue. It’s amazing because it’s just a reminder for us. Just because those men followed John in the baptism of repentance and forgiveness of sin—don’t miss this—it doesn’t necessitate that they became disciples of Jesus. Did you catch that? Just because they followed John doesn’t mean they became disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. In fact, in Acts 19 there’s a story of the disciples going to this group of followers of John. And they say, “We didn’t know Jesus died and rose from the dead as the Messiah. We don’t have the Holy Spirit.” So it shows us that this group got off some kind of way. It’s a constant reminder for you and I today that even if the disciples of John missed it, how easy is it for us to miss it, right?
Now the question is about fasting. And fasting was common to the Old Testament saints. In fact, they knew of fasting. According to Jewish law, the Old Testament law, there was one day of the year where every Jewish man, woman, child had to fast, right? Child of age had to fast. And it was on the Day of Atonement or Yom Kippur. Now you could fast in addition to that, but it was always a voluntary fast. It was a fast that you would fast from food. Here’s a side note; biblical fasting is always from food.
What happens is, Jesus talks about this. Now, there are three forms of spiritual discipline that were the highest of all disciplines. Do you know what they are? Fasting, alms giving, and prayer. Now Jesus talks about this in Matthew 6. Remember when He says, “And when you pray, don’t stand on the street corners like the scribes and Pharisees do so that they can be heard for their many words. And when you fast, don’t be like the Pharisees who don’t wash their face so that people can see them. No, you don’t do that. And when you give don’t sound a trumpet so other people can see you.” Jesus addresses all three of those.
But let me just address fasting for a moment. There are three times, according to the Mishnah tractate Ta‘anit, where there are three fasts that you can do. The first one was that you could fast for a national disaster and mourning. Whenever there was a national catastrophe, the Israelites would fast. Now an example of this is in Zechariah 7. Remember when Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the temple and all the people fasted because of that? That’s one example. The second fast is in a time of difficulty or time of war or famine or drought. So the people could fast. And the third fast was just a voluntary fast. If you wanted to fast unto the Lord, you could do this.
Now the Pharisees ran with this because what they did is this: they said that in order to be spiritual, in order to be holy, we fast twice a week, right? We don’t fast once a year, we twice a week on Monday and on Thursday. And remember the story of the Pharisee and the tax collector? He goes to the temple that day in Luke 19 and he says, “I thank my God that I’m not like this guy because I fast [what?] twice a week.” And what happened was, they had gotten caught up in this system of self-righteousness. It was a system of doing all these things in order to merit the favor of God. They thought if they looked this way or acted a certain way, they would look spiritual in the community, right? They could put on this show that they were spiritual and so they worked hard at looking bad, right? I mean they worked hard.
In fact, they said there were some stories that some of the Pharisees actually would whitewash their face so they could walk through the community with a sunken look. They wouldn’t take baths and they’d wear shoddy clothes and they walked around and you’d say, “Wow. That guy’s holy. Man, he’s fasting, right?” And they realized that if they looked a certain way or acted a certain way, people would think they’re spiritual.
Do we see this in the church today? You know, there’s a train of thought in some churches that if you look bad, and you’ve got to be reverent and stoic in church. You’ve got to revere the Lord because we’ve got to come to the Lord. And there are times for that. But, friends, the Christian life is a life of joy, right? It’s a life of celebration. It’s a life of new life in Christ.
But here’s the point. The point is this: Jesus is addressing the fact that there were some people who got caught up in works righteousness and not faith-based salvation. It’s a difference between—get this—freedom and bondage; it’s a difference between works and grace. It was a difference between working out your own salvation and receiving the gift from the Lord Jesus Christ. And if we’re not careful, guess what? We can fall into that trap. It’s the idea that we work for the Lord not because we have to earn something from God. We work for the Lord because He’s already worked for us, right? We don’t work to get to heaven. We work because we’re already sealed as believers IN heaven. Do you get the difference?
Let’s see what Jesus says about it. Don’t take my word for it. Go to Mark 2. We’ve seen the question. Let’s see the answer. Here it is. Jesus gives it in one illustration and then two parables. Look at it: “…can the [wedding guests] 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 [is] taken away from them, and then [will] they fast in [that] day.”
Now here’s the pop quiz: who’s the bridegroom? Jesus, right? Jesus is the bridegroom. Who’s the bride? The church. We are. Now, this concept was not taught in the Old Testament. The Messiah in the Old Testament was never considered to be the bridegroom. This is a concept that Jesus explains in the New Testament and we see it clearly—you can study it later—in Matthew 25. Remember the story of the 10 virgins that are waiting for the bridegroom to come? And so Jesus equates Himself to the bridegroom, as the Lord who will return to receive them.
But the question is, why does Jesus answer a question about fasting with a wedding? And it’s a good question. Let me explain to you the wedding system in the first century. When you would get married in the first century, after the ceremony you didn’t go on your honeymoon like we do. We get excited to go on a honeymoon. They stayed in town and for an entire week they invited all their friends, their choice friends, to come celebrate this week long festival. And if you were a participant at this week-long festival of joy and excitement, you were exempt from one thing according to the rabbis. What was it? Fasting. How cool is that? If you showed up at the wedding, at the week-long celebration, you didn’t have to fast. No matter what happened or what was going on, you were exempt from fasting. Why? Because the wedding was a time of celebration. And Jesus is equating in the text that He’s the bridegroom. The disciples are the bride. He’s teaching, in essence, that believers are the bride to be and one day He’s going to come back to get his Bride.
Listen to Ray Vanderlaan, a Jewish historian. “When it was time for a man and a woman to marry, both fathers would negotiate a price for the bride, recognizing that the bride would be a precious loss to her family.”
Did you understand that? When a marriage was arranged, the father of the son would go to the father of the bride and say, “I think we’ll give you about $200 for her.” That’s what they would do! “Nah, that’s not going to work.” “Okay, $250 we’ll give you.” I mean, that’s really what they did. And the reason is not because she’s worth that—and she might be—the difference is he had to pay for the absence of the work in the house. If you take a girl out of the house, you lose workers in the house. And so you would compensate the father for that.
Now listen to it. It goes further. Then after the negotiation was made, the groom would take a cup of wine. He would drink it as a sign of his covenant to her and basically he would say, “I’m making a covenant to you that I’m going to give my life for you. If I have to die for you, I’m going to die for you.” Then he would hand the cup to his would-be wife and she would drink it and it would form an engagement. There was a covenant here. She was betrothed to him and she was always referred to, according to Ray Vanderlaan, as a bride bought with a price.
Now why do I say that? The New Testament, as you read the New Testament, it’s filled with this imagery of the wedding, right? Remember what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20. Do you not know you’re body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, whom you are God’s? You are not your own. You were bought with a price, right? Who bought you? The Lord Jesus Christ. Is it any wonder at the Last Supper when Jesus has all those disciples there, He takes the cup, He takes the cup and He raises and He says, “This is a sign. This is my blood. It’s a sign of my covenant with you.” Jesus told the disciples without saying anything, “Don’t worry guys. I’m going to come back to get you. As the bridegroom, I’m going to return.” He even told Thomas, “I must go prepare a place for you so that where I am, you may also be. If it were not so, I would have told you so. But if I’m there I’ll come back to get you.”
Now Jesus is the bridegroom; the church is the bride; then what is the Holy Spirit, right? The Trinity, right? What is the Holy Spirit? Jesus, God the Father. Look at the Holy Spirit. Go to Ephesians 1:13 and let me show you what the Holy Spirit’s role is. One of the roles. Many roles. But let me show you one of the roles. Ephesians 1:13. You don’t want to miss this.
“In him [who’s that? Jesus] you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee [There it is. Circle that word, underline it] of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.”
Eerdman’s Bible Dictionary says that word “guarantee” means this—watch this: “It is a commercial term for a deposit or down payment on something holding a legal claim or a binding contract.” In essence what Jesus is saying, or what Paul is saying about Christ, is when we accept the Lord Jesus Christ through salvation, the Holy Spirit of God, which is the third person of the Trinity, invades your life as a promise—get this—and a guarantee of our inheritance. Now that word “guarantee” in our natural English language today is the word for engagement ring. Did you know that? The Holy Spirit is the engagement ring for the bride, which is us. And it’s a promise that Jesus Christ will come back again to get us.
Now Jesus says no one is mourning during a wedding celebration but then He goes on. He says, “Not only do I want to tell you about a wedding, let me explain it to you through the wardrobe.” Wedding wardrobe. Go back to Mark. “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.”
None of us today really wear patches anymore, right? Remember in the 70’s when patches were hip, right? How many people used to wear patches on their jeans? I mean you really were something if you had a patch on our jeans. We don’t do that anymore, right? We just buy new jeans today. But you used to patch jeans. The only people, I think, that wear patches today would be people in the military or the kids in AWANA, right? If you get a patch in AWANA that’s a big deal, right, if you’re a kid because you memorized your scripture. But today we really don’t understand the concept of patching. But this is the idea. If you take a new piece of patch or new piece of cloth and you sew it in to an old garment, what happens over time as you wash the garment, what happens to the new patch, the new cloth? It shrinks. What Jesus says is it will actually tear the old garment. Here’s the point: Jesus says the old system of Judaism does not mix with the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ and the new Covenant. It does not go together. You cannot fit the two. It’s a total replacement theology. You’ve got to replace your thinking. You cannot mix the old with the new.
But not only wardrobe. Then He goes into what? Wine-skins. Look at the last illustration. Jesus solidifies His point at the end. “And no one puts new wine into old wine-skins. 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 wine-skins.”
Jesus basically confirms His point with this idea of wine-skins. Let me explain the process. In the first century, you would take a goatskin. They would strip it. They would lay it across a bed of wood with fire. They would burn it and try to tan it and then they would let the sun beat on it to create more elasticity. Then they would sew the edges up. They would pour grape juice into it. They would sew the top up. They would let it sit. It would ferment. This is the process. As the wine would ferment or the grape juice would ferment, it would stretch, and so the goat skin had to be elastic. It had to stretch. It had to be pliable. What Jesus says is no one takes new wine or new grape juice, puts it in an old wine-skin and closes the top. Why? Because it’ll break, right? It’s brittle. It’s not flexible. It’s not pliable anymore. And so Jesus says if you do that, not only do you lose the wine, but you burst the wine-skin.
Now, before some of you young folks or maybe some of you older folks get too excited about wine, let me just say a side note for you. Drinking wine in the first century was nothing like drinking wine today. In fact, if you study the process of the fermentation process, they would reduce the wine four times with water or something else to reduce the alcohol level. So drinking in the first century was nothing like drinking today. In addition to that, the water was so contaminated, they didn’t have an option to go to the 7-11 to buy Dasani, right? They couldn’t do that. Milk and water were too risky, and so they would drink wine that was diluted. Paul even tells Timothy, in 1 Timothy, to drink a little what? Wine for your stomach. Obviously he had some issues there.
But the point is this: Jesus in both cases is saying you cannot mix old tradition with the new covenant. You cannot mingle the two together. It won’t work. Do you see the point with the wedding, with the patch and with the wardrobe? In essence, what He’s saying is this: Truth trumps tradition. Right? Or the gospel trumps tradition in your life. And I want to ask you this morning: Is that the case with you? Wow. You know what’s neat about a church, especially a church of our size, is that we have many people from different backgrounds and different churches and different denominations and beautiful thing about our church is that we love them all. We accept them all, right? And one thing I want to ask you is this: Is your tradition trumping truth? Because if it does, I want to encourage you to go back to Scripture.
Now, here’s the question: Why is it so hard for traditionalists to accept truth sometimes? I’m glad you asked. Go to Luke 5. Jesus gives the answer. If you’ve ever read this passage, you’re probably as puzzled as I’ve been because I’ve been pretty puzzled trying to figure out what Jesus means here before I studied it. And I’m going to share with you what I think He means. Luke puts this interesting conclusion to this story. Matthew misses it. Mark doesn’t include. Luke does. Look at verse 39: “And no one after drinking old wine desires new [wine. Why?], for he says, ‘The old is good.’” Or your translation says the old is what? Better. Is that puzzling to you? I mean it’s almost like a contradiction. Like, “Jesus you just said the new is better but then you want the old.” Let me tell you what John MacArthur says, and I think he’s right. Listen to what he says.
“Jesus said it’s very natural for people to hang on to old familiar religion. The Jews [in essence] with their old and ancient traditions, passed down from one generation to another generation to another generation, from father to son and on and on and on and on, so deeply ingrained all the rituals, all the ceremonies, all the behaviors that become so closely knit together that they didn’t release them easily. It has become such a part of their lives. They cultivated such a taste for their own religion that if you offered them anything else, they’re not interested in it. They were so self-satisfied with the familiar. They have been drinking a certain religious wine for so many years that they’re not interested in a new kind [of wine] no matter what it promises.” Listen to how he closes: “This is such a deadly thing, a cultivated deeply cultivated love of false religion that is so hard to break.”
I want to submit to you we can get caught up in that, right? If we don’t watch it, some of the traditions that we hold to that don’t line up with scripture can supersede scripture. And what’s even more amazing is this: if you go back to Mark 2:18, you’ll notice they didn’t come to ask Jesus a question. They weren’t interested in His answer. They were coming to accuse him, right? They already had their minds made up. They didn’t care what Jesus said. They were actually calling Jesus out. I mean, can you sense the pride in the question? “John’s disciples don’t fast and the Pharisees’ disciples don’t fast. Why are you’re guys fasting?” Can you sense the arrogance there?
But the flip side is, can you feel the patience of Jesus? I mean, that’s the gospel, right? Here’s the gospel. Jesus is saying it’s not about works, it’s about faith. It’s not about the flesh, it’s about the spirit.
Here’s the gospel: Jesus Christ came to the earth as a man and as all God. He lived a perfect life. He went to the cross of Calvary and was punished for something He did not do. He bore the sins of the world. He was not sinful. He who knew no sin bore the sins of the world. You and I sin. All the sins before, all the sins of that time, all the sins that ever will be were placed spiritually upon the head of the Lord Jesus Christ and He bore the sins. He died a horrendous death, a shameful death, went to the grave, rose from the dead and came back.
And what he said was this: Paul said if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord—not other religions, not other denominations, not popes, not priests, not Muhammad, not Islam, not Jehovah’s Witness, not Buddha—JESUS as Lord, you will be saved. If you believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. Whoever calls upon the name of the Lord Jesus Christ will be saved. That’s good news this morning, amen?
And the beautiful thing about the Lord Jesus Christ is that it’s good news today just like it was 2,000 years ago. Friends, we’ve got to get to the place when we align with the Lord Jesus Christ and we realize that His Word is the resounding, final authority in our life and we submit to His Word. Do you realize how hard that was for me? Twenty six years I was in a religious system, for me—maybe not for everybody, but for me—where that’s all I did was walk in on Sunday, check a spiritual time card and I did whatever I wanted during the week. I didn’t read the Bible. I didn’t have a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. I wasn’t told to read the Bible. I didn’t know the Lord personally.
Now, what I realized is that wasn’t just in that system. It’s in all systems, right? All religions you can find that. So when I came to the Lord Jesus Christ, I wanted to find Jesus. I didn’t care what a pastor said. I could care less what the Pope said. I could care less what a priest said or a cardinal or a bishop or whoever. I wanted to know what God said about Christ, right? Because that’s really it came down to. When I started reading the Bible I realized that, yes, there were some things that were right and the same, but most of the things were different. You know what it’s like to change what you’ve been ingrained from a child? That’s not beige, that’s red. What? That looks beige to me. No it’s red. And it might not even be beige. I’m color blind so I could get it wrong so don’t e-mail me, okay? That’s not black. That’s white. But no, it looks black. No it’s white. And so I had to change the theological foundations of what I was taught as a kid. It’s hard to do that.
And there are some people this morning, God bless you, you have put tradition over truth. And I want to ask you this morning to get that right. I want you to get that right this morning. It was hard for me. We’ve got to get to a place that we’re a New Testament church when we say, we don’t just answer, “Well, Pastor, this is always what we’ve done here.” We answer, “John 1:1 says this.” Right? “John 14:6 says Jesus is the only way to heaven. Don’t blame me! The Bible says it’s narrow to come to God.” “Robby, you’re narrow-minded.” Well don’t blame me. It’s the Bible! Friends, we’ve got to get to the place when whenever we answer people, it’s not tradition. It’s truth that triumphs tradition.
Let’s pray as we close because I believe there are some people in here this morning that are struggling with that. Listen, before you pray. We’ve got to get to the place like the Apostle Paul did in Philippians 3 when he said, “If anyone has reason to put confidence in the flesh, if you want to talk about somebody that was ingrained in the old system of Judaism, it was me. I was circumcised on the eighth day, of the tribe of Benjamin, of the nation of Israel. A Hebrew of Hebrews. You want to talk about ancestry? I had it all. If you would have seen a poster of Jewish man of the year,” Paul said, “It would have been me.” Then he goes on and says, “Let me tell you about my achievements.” He said, “As for the Law, I was a Pharisee. As for zeal, I was a persecutor of the church. As for righteousness to the Law, I was blameless. I was perfect.” You would have said, “Paul, you’ve got it all going on. You really have it all.”
But then he gets to verse 7. Don’t you love the sanctified “but”? “But, whatever was to my gain, I now count as loss for the sake of knowing Christ. Indeed I’ve counted everything loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, whom I’ve suffered the loss of all things and I now count them as rubbish so that I may gain Christ and be found in Him and share in the fellowship of His suffering to be in His likeness.” Verse 10. “And I want to know Christ.” Could you say that this morning? Can you say, “Pastor, Jesus is enough for me. Jesus is enough for me.”