Matthew 9:1-17, 32-34.
Have you ever listened to someone seriously try to defend an idea that you firmly believe is not true? I’ve noticed that debaters and arguers don’t often make their case with their opponents. Have you noticed that? You rarely hear one say to the other, “Wow! Now I get it! You ARE right! I was in error and now I see my mistake! Thanks so much for explaining that! It’s usually quite the opposite stirring more anger and resistance. Why? Once someone gets hardened into their views, they become invested in them making them part of their world view, their habits, even their livelihood. We all do it. Our lives become shaped by our world view so that it becomes extremely hard to make changes without creating crisis. Imagine what this was like for our Lord. Here He is, Son of God, son of man, having become flesh, having left eternal glory and being born into this world of sin and death with a mission that would shake the planet. Jesus’ mission would bring changes into this world that would not just bring salvation, but also create division and crisis for individuals, families, communities, and entire nations. Jesus tells us that once the wineskin gets old, it’s tough on it to put new wine in it. In fact, it will burst the skin and you will lose both the skin and the wine. Jesus said to put new wine into new wineskins so that both are preserved.
Following Jesus Christ requires being born again. Becoming a new creation in Christ. The old man must be done way and we must put on the new man, created in Christ to be like God.
What does this have to do with our study of the life of Christ? Today we are on lesson eight in our Fall campaign. We are looking at Jesus in this series and have covered a lot of ground thus far, but today’s lesson introduces the opponents of Jesus and the opposition that He faced. This opposition is no surprise. What Jesus was saying and doing threatened the very world views of the day. His words about the kingdom of God, forgiveness of sin, who God accepts and rejects… this plus His power to perform miraculous signs to convince others that God was behind all this, put Him on the tip of the spear of change. You didn’t get to write Jesus off easily. His message and power were a manifestation of the intersection between God and humanity. But resistance of unbelief is amazingly stubborn.
Imagine if you could discover the cure for one of the great killer diseases of our day. You might think that if you found the cure and showed it to people that they would all gasp with delight, hail you as a great hero and your fame would almost immediately spread throughout the world. You might think that, but you’d most likely be wrong.
There is an amazing principle of resistance to changes in our world. In fact, those who bring change often meet with accusations and resistance of all kinds from otherwise good hearted people. People get used to the way things are. A stable system is preferable to a chaotic one, so that many people fear the unknown. This is especially true regarding religion but also tends to be true of politics, science, understandings of history, language and grammar, etc. Stability in life depends on a certain amount of predictability. Change can threaten a sense of security, even if it is false
Jesus came bringing changes. Not whimsical or man made changes, no. These were divinely planned changes, changes that had been laid out in prophecy in the scriptures, changes that were ordained in God’s purposes from before creation. Changes that would open the way to eternal life, bring light to the Gentiles, bless all nations, and fulfill the promises of God that go back to the garden of Eden and to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Judah, Moses, David, the prophets. God intended these changes from the beginning, but brought them about in His own time and location. Here’s a fact, when God intersects with humanity, there is ALWAYS CHANGE. God is careful in doing this, because, as He told Moses concerning Israel, “I will not go up in your midst lest I consume you on the way, for you are a stiff necked people.” Exodus 33:3. God knows that we are made of dust and though we bear His image and likeness as He Himself created us, we also are fallen, sinful and often rebellious to Him. God’s holy presence in it’s full glory would consume us… unless we are changed.
Jesus, God’s only begotten Son, was given to us. The Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world. Now that’s a change! It is a welcome change to those that hate sin and long for God, But, listen carefully, it is an unwelcome change for those that love sin and rejoice in their rebellion. Paul describes the aroma of Christ as the fragrance of life to those who are saved and the smell of death to those who are perishing. 2 Cor. 2:15-16. Jesus said, “This is the verdict, light has come into the world but men loved the darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. Everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light lest his deeds be exposed. But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God. John 3:19-21
You see, sin changes us too. It darkens our understanding and deceives our hearts with the illusion that we are safe, when, in fact, we are in grave danger. All the while, sin strokes our pride and selfishness, promising all manner of thrills and pleasures. Sin is the child of temptation. Temptation is the child of fleshly desire. James 1:14-16 puts it well: But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own evil desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. God knowing our need to escape this destructive delusion, sent Jesus to reclaim us, restore us and redeem us. This requires change.
Jesus brings not simply change, bur renewal. He came here to seek and save that which was lost. Jesus has power to make us new. John tells us that to all who believed in His name, He gave power to be children of God, children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. (John 1:12-13)
God wants to put the new wine of Christ into new wineskins. Only when we come to Him in faith, denying ourselves and taking up our cross to follow Him, do we experience the change and renewal that comes through His power in the gospel so that we may be filled with Christ. Through faith, we are changed people. Changed for good. Changed for God. This can only come through Jesus Christ. Sometimes this happens suddenly, sometimes it takes a while. There are punctiliar and linear conversions, but all carry this promise: He who began a good work in you will perform it till the day of Jesus Christ. Philippians 1:6.
As followers of Jesus Christ, born of water and the Spirit, we can say: I am a child of God.
If this is true of you, guard this truth with all your heart and give yourself to Him fully allowing Him to change you into His likeness and image through whatever it takes.
If this is not true of you, may God open your heart and mind to stop resisting His will. Rethink what matters forever, not just here and now. Not just in this brief life between physical birth and burial. God paid a high price to save you. Reconsider your condition without Him. Turn to Him, trust Him, bow to Him, obey Him. He is able to change you. Let go and let God.