Jesus went out to the lake with his disciples, and a large crowd followed him. They came from all over Galilee, Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, from east of the Jordan River, and even from as far north as Tyre and Sidon. The news about his miracles had spread far and wide, and vast numbers of people came to see him.

Jesus instructed his disciples to have a boat ready so the crowd would not crush him. 10 He had healed many people that day, so all the sick people eagerly pushed forward to touch him. 11 And whenever those possessed by evil spirits caught sight of him, the spirits would throw them to the ground in front of him shrieking, “You are the Son of God!” 12 But Jesus sternly commanded the spirits not to reveal who he was.

13 Afterward Jesus went up on a mountain and called out the ones he wanted to go with him. And they came to him. 14 Then he appointed twelve of them and called them his apostles. They were to accompany him, and he would send them out to preach, 15 giving them authority to cast out demons. 16 These are the twelve he chose:

Simon (whom he named Peter), 17 James and John (the sons of Zebedee, but Jesus nicknamed them “Sons of Thunder”), 18 Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James (son of Alphaeus), Thaddaeus, Simon (the zealot), 19 Judas Iscariot (who later betrayed him). – Mark 3:7-19

Train Fitting | Galveston Railroad Museum | August 2020

I have been known to spend some time watching Fool Penn and Teller videos on YouTube. Amateur and professional magicians would come on the show and perform for these two masters hoping to fool them. They seldom succeeded. Penn and Teller would unmask them using coded language and ask, after the commentary, “Did I get that right?” Most of the time they did. They know the tricks of the trade. 

I didn’t know the tricks of the trade. Sometimes I was completely fooled. Other times, although I could never do the trick or explain how the magician did it, I saw through the trick. It was entertaining. But I knew it was a trick.

Jesus is no magician. He is not using sleight of hand. He is God in the flesh and is able to do what no magician does. He is able to heal the sick, cast out demons, and raise people from the dead. He is able – and will show this – to calm storms, walk on water, and feed a multitude with two fish and five loaves of bread. 

It is clear that Jesus is not just an entertainer for two important reasons. First of all he is not interested in mere notoriety, fame, or showmanship. His miracles are in response to people’s actual needs. He has an impact on evil that undercuts their influence. He has nothing to do with the deceitful schemes of the evil one. 

Second, he will send his disciples to do as he has done. They will be charged with casting out demons, healing diseases, and proclaiming the Good News of God’s reign and rule. Jesus’ purpose and goal is not to entertain, it is to release, heal, forgive, and save. He has no desire to set up a YouTube channel to let people try and fool him with their miracles and faith. 

Jesus is no mere entertainer. He is the Son of God, the Savior of the world, the King of kings. For now there may be a flurry of followers looking for a show. When they encounter Jesus, however, they will not find a show, but they will find a Savior. 

Here are portions of 5 Psalms for your personal reflection and edification, prayer and meditation on this Sunday Lord’s Day. Join us in person or online at 8:15 or 11 AM for worship, and 9:45 for Bible Class.
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Psalm 16:1-2
Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge.
I say to the LORD, “You are my Lord;
I have no good apart from you.”

Psalm 46
God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy habitation of the Most High.
God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved;
God will help her when morning dawns.
The nations rage, the kingdoms totter;
he utters his voice, the earth melts.
The LORD of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah
Come, behold the works of the LORD,
how he has brought desolations on the earth.
He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
he breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
he burns the chariots with fire.
“Be still, and know that I am God.
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!”
The LORD of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah

Psalm 76:4
Glorious are you, more majestic
than the mountains full of prey.

Psalm 106:1–5
Praise the LORD!
Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever!
Who can utter the mighty deeds of the LORD,
or declare all his praise?
Blessed are they who observe justice,
who do righteousness at all times!
Remember me, O LORD, when you show favor to your people;
help me when you save them,
that I may look upon the prosperity of your chosen ones,
that I may rejoice in the gladness of your nation,
that I may glory with your inheritance.

Psalm 136:1-9, 26
Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever.
Give thanks to the God of gods,
for his steadfast love endures forever.
Give thanks to the Lord of lords,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
to him who alone does great wonders,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
to him who by understanding made the heavens,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
to him who spread out the earth above the waters,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
to him who made the great lights,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
the sun to rule over the day,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
the moon and stars to rule over the night,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
Give thanks to the God of heaven,
for his steadfast love endures forever.

One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grainfields, and as they made their way, his disciples began to pluck heads of grain. 24 And the Pharisees were saying to him, “Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?” 25 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: 26 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?” 27 And he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. 28 So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.”

Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there with a withered hand.  2 And they watched Jesus, to see whether he would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse him. And he said to the man with the withered hand, “Come here.” And he said to them, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent. And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. The Pharisees went out and immediately held counsel with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him. – Mark 2:23-3:6

 
Caboose | Galveston Railroad Museum | August 2020

“I would have wished for a more gracious response from you.” That’s a quote from a letter I wrote to someone who took me to task about comments and advice I had given. I was serving as circuit counselor. The church of which the gentleman was a member was going through a call process. Some of the people on the Call Committee had called me for advice. I happened to agree with their concerns.

Mr. Orange (not his real name) did not agree. He was championing a different agenda. So he wrote me expressing how poorly I had served the committee and how I had failed to be faithful to God and truth. I was stunned, so I wrote back, defending myself to some degree, but also expressing my sadness that his accusation was not as gracious as I had hoped. 

Jesus might not have expressed his disappointment with the Jewish leaders quite so softly. In fact, he came on like gangbusters sometimes. Calling them whitewashed tombs, blind guides, and on this occasion displaying a degree of anger and distress that was observable. 

It would be so good if all the people who claim to be Christian were kind, gracious, gentle, and humble. Sadly, however, that is not the case. Whether it’s warring factions in Ireland (both of them claiming to be Christian), the people who pushed their enemies out the window of the castle in Prague, or the ruling Christians in Syria: there seems to be a shortage of kindness, mercy, humility, or gentle rebuke. 

I realize sometimes we need to plant a stake in the ground. Jesus did on this occasion. His anger was kindled over the people’s hesitancy to do good on the Sabbath. People’s good and blessing was at stake. A man who was a cripple could just stay crippled for a day or two more as far as they were concerned. Really?!?

One time I ran into a buzzsaw with a member of a church I was serving at the time. A wise older pastor advised me to say to the buzz-sawer, “Well, you can let God back on his throne now.” That’s where God belongs, not us. And as long as we remember that, our conversations – even our corrections will be seasoned with grace as well as truth. We will be gentle in our admonitions. And the cause of the Kingdom will be better advanced. 

One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grainfields, and as they made their way, his disciples began to pluck heads of grain. 24 And the Pharisees were saying to him, “Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?” 25 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: 26 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?” 27 And he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. 28 So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.”

Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there with a withered hand.  2 And they watched Jesus, to see whether he would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse him. And he said to the man with the withered hand, “Come here.” And he said to them, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent. And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. The Pharisees went out and immediately held counsel with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him. – Mark 2:23-3:6

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Santa Fe | Galveston Railroad Museum | August 2020

Touchy, touchy, touchy! Why are you so touchy about this? Ever been asked that question? It might be asked by someone who is rather thoughtless and insensitive to your heart. It might be asked by someone who is dedicated to her own agenda and must destroy any objection you would offer. It might be because he who says it really doesn’t realize what he’s said, and sincerely wonders why he has hurt you.

For the Pharisees the issue of the Sabbath was a BIG DEAL. In fact among Orthodox Jews Sabbath is still a big deal. The most dedicated will do no work of any kind. They will observe every facet of the Sabbath Laws. For to them it’s a big deal.

Let’s say that it is a big deal. Sabbath is one of ten commandments. It’s up there – if you’re honest with the text – with murder, adultery, stealing, and using God’s name in vain. It’s part of the First Table of the Law: those commandments that explain what it means to love God with your whole being. That makes it a big deal.

But Sabbath is also made for man according to Jesus. It’s not something to prove our religious rigor. It’s not given to take away our joy. It’s given to make us better aligned with God’s place in the world.

Observing Sabbath is a big deal because observing Sabbath requires that we lay aside the crazy notion that we must run the world, keep the plates spinning, and make sure things are working as they are. In fact Sabbath is an exercise of faith and trust in God. He can actually run the universe and every aspect of it without our help.

Sabbath is an invitation to rest in trust of God and in anticipation of the eternal rest in the life of the world to come where everything is perfectly in balance and all is right and good and peace. Whenever we are able to tap into that we should. Once a week sounds about right to me. After all God rested on the Sabbath. Maybe his children can too. We can stop our striving. We can enjoy his presence. We can breathe. And that’s a big deal!

One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grainfields, and as they made their way, his disciples began to pluck heads of grain. 24 And the Pharisees were saying to him, “Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?” 25 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: 26 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?” 27 And he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. 28 So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.”

Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there with a withered hand.  2 And they watched Jesus, to see whether he would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse him. And he said to the man with the withered hand, “Come here.” And he said to them, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent. And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. The Pharisees went out and immediately held counsel with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him. – Mark 2:23-3:6

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Butterfly Flower | Cypress, Texas | July 2020

The Law always accuses. That’s a direct quote from the Lutheran Confessions, the Defense of the Augsburg Confession (Article IV, 38). It’s a good reminder as far as it goes. But don’t take it too far, for that’s not all that the Lutheran Confessions says about the Law. The Formula of Concord says that,

the Law was given to men for three reasons: first, that thereby outward discipline might be maintained against wild, disobedient men; secondly, that men thereby may be led to the knowledge of their sins; thirdly, that after they are regenerate and the flesh notwithstanding cleaves to them, they might on this account have a fixed rule according to which they are to regulate and direct their whole life.

In other words the Law also guides us in right living. Nothing is said here about the law being a means by which we show God how good we are. Nothing here says that the Law is a means by which we can justify ourselves: “I’ve kept the whole law” is nothing anyone other than Jesus can ever claim.

Many people rebel at the idea that they should be told that certain things are evil and other things are good. That attitude goes all the way back to the Garden when Adam and Eve took the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. They decided to determine for themselves what was good and what was evil. Adam and Eve live on today in the hearts of all people. We would rather tell God what is good. We would rather claim our own brand of righteousness. Even though it never really works out for our good.

Now comes Jesus with a whole new way of considering the Law. It is given by God for our good. It was made for us. It is a blessing from God. The Law is our friend – whether it is curbing gross outbreaks of sin, showing us clearly how we have sinned, or guiding our everyday decisions about life.

The first and third uses of the Law are obvious in their blessing. We benefit from the fact that most people will not murder, steal, or lie. It is good that even unbelievers will exercise some self-control lest they suffer the consequences of disobedience – however it may come. And to learn what is pleasing to God is a good thing for his people – even if we never do it perfectly.

But when we discover – as we always will eventually – that we have sinned despite our best efforts, the law (accusing as it is) does not seem to be a friend. Yet it is. For in those moments we are driven to the cross of Jesus. We are taken off the treadmill of self-righteousness. We are able to perceive how precious God’s grace is.

Jesus said that the law was made for man. That is true no matter how we encounter it. For it protects us from grave harm. It provides guidance in godly living. And it reminds us of our need for Jesus who is Lord of the Sabbath and all laws of God, and who kept them perfectly in our place.

One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grainfields, and as they made their way, his disciples began to pluck heads of grain. 24 And the Pharisees were saying to him, “Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?” 25 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: 26 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?” 27 And he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. 28 So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.”

Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there with a withered hand.  2 And they watched Jesus, to see whether he would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse him. And he said to the man with the withered hand, “Come here.” And he said to them, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent. And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. The Pharisees went out and immediately held counsel with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him. – Mark 2:23-3:6

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Backyard Monarch | Cypress, Texas | July 2020

What if you’re on your way to a church meeting and you see someone in urgent need? What if you’re supposed to sing in the choir and your neighbor needs you to sit with her husband at home while she makes an emergency run to the drug store? What if you’re hungry and you’re walking through someone’s field, is it OK to “harvest” some grain on the Sabbath?

A friend of mine was a Shabbos Goy for his across-the-street neighbor. He would go over to his neighbor’s house and turn off the lights at night, and return the next morning to turn them on. Thus his neighbor observed the Sabbath which starts at sundown on Friday and lasts all day Saturday till sundown. Perhaps he did other things his Jewish neighbor wished not to do on the Sabbath.

The Jewish rabbis built a fence around the law. Don’t cross the fence, you certainly won’t break the law. No more than five sticks of wood. No more than 1500 paces. One could imagine all kinds of reasons behind these laws. But none of them served the spirit of the Law of God. God wanted his people to be different, but not self-righteous. He wants his followers to obey his law in such a manner that they expressed love for God and their neighbor; not to show everyone how religiously rigorous they were.

A key insight to this is the preaching of John the Baptist. When he called people to repentance he was asked by those who came out to him, “What shall we do?” He talked about everyday things: being satisfied with your wages. Share your extra cloak. Don’t extort money. Don’t make false accusations. Sounds very much like the “do-this” side of the second table of the 10 Commandments. Perhaps if John were to come today, he would speak to the world around us and call us all to seek more to honor God.

We can prove we are religiously rigorous in many ways. We can pray long prayers. We can attend every Sunday worship, Bible Class, church meeting, and evangelistic event. We can walk around with our hands folded just right (I actually saw this on the part of some fellow seminary students!). We can hold our heads in a certain manner if we wish to show we are not joining in their heterodox prayers. We can wear certain garb, or join a convent or monastery.

That may impress some people. But I’m afraid it will turn more people away. What’s more, Jesus never taught that as an example or command. His commands were to love your neighbor, love your brother, and pray for your enemy! The world needs religious people to give witness to the spiritual dimension of life. But it needs even more for religious people to express their faith in acts of kindness, grace, and mercy.

One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grainfields, and as they made their way, his disciples began to pluck heads of grain. 24 And the Pharisees were saying to him, “Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?” 25 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: 26 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?” 27 And he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. 28 So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.”

Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there with a withered hand.  2 And they watched Jesus, to see whether he would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse him. And he said to the man with the withered hand, “Come here.” And he said to them, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent. And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. The Pharisees went out and immediately held counsel with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him. – Mark 2:23-3:6

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Creekside Tree | Wimberley, Texas | June 2020

My Sunday School teacher made a big impression on me. He was a carpenter. Calloused hands. No queen’s English. Sincere. Dedicated. Faithful. I recall him asking us boys if it was OK to go fishing on Sunday. Granted, these were the days of Blue Laws, and no open stores on Sundays. I didn’t think he meant taking the day off, going to the lake all day. I took him to ask whether it was it OK to go fishing on Sunday afternoon. Period.

Now I wonder. Maybe he was thinking we would miss the Sunday evening service if we chose to go. I think, today, he meant for us to realize going fishing on Sunday was not a good thing to do because we would not be able to follow the godly rhythm of worship and rest before taking on the week ahead.

A photo buddy of mine is a dedicated Christian who was planning to build a house in Colorado. He had drawn up the plans. He had the land. I gather that he had the money as well. But he told me that he and his wife had committed to teaching a Sunday School class. They knew that if they built the house they would abandon their class at least 50% of the time. The plans went in a drawer. The land remains undeveloped.

Jesus challenged the Sabbath laws for an entirely different reason. The people of his day had turned these laws upside down. They had made these laws so formalistic that one could travel 1499 paces from his home, but not take the next step; otherwise they would break the Sabbath. Carry 4 sticks of wood: OK. But don’t take a 5th, or else you’re breaking the Sabbath law. The law became more important than love.

In the face of their objections Jesus makes two points. He is Lord of the sabbath. It’s his law. He will define what it means – not even the best rabbis would dare try to instruct God! And it is always good to do good. Always. Keeping the sabbath or helping your neighbor in need. And when it comes to loving God, the best way we can show our love for God is to love our neighbor.

Jesus went back again to the shore of Lake Galilee. A crowd came to him, and he started teaching them. 14 As he walked along, he saw a tax collector, Levi son of Alphaeus, sitting in his office. Jesus said to him, “Follow me.” Levi got up and followed him.

15 Later on Jesus was having a meal in Levi’s house. A large number of tax collectors and other outcasts was following Jesus, and many of them joined him and his disciples at the table. 16 Some teachers of the Law, who were Pharisees, saw that Jesus was eating with these outcasts and tax collectors, so they asked his disciples, “Why does he eat with such people?”

17 Jesus heard them and answered, “People who are well do not need a doctor, but only those who are sick. I have not come to call respectable people, but outcasts.”

18 On one occasion the followers of John the Baptist and the Pharisees were fasting. Some people came to Jesus and asked him, “Why is it that the disciples of John the Baptist and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but yours do not?”

19 Jesus answered, “Do you expect the guests at a wedding party to go without food? Of course not! As long as the bridegroom is with them, they will not do that. 20 But the day will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast.

21 “No one uses a piece of new cloth to patch up an old coat, because the new patch will shrink and tear off some of the old cloth, making an even bigger hole. 22 Nor does anyone pour new wine into used wineskins, because the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the skins will be ruined. Instead, new wine must be poured into fresh wineskins.” – Mark 2:13-22

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Sunset Over the Vineyard | Paso Robles, California | June 2010

On vacation this week, we have enjoyed family, sightseeing, Gulf shoring, Swimming pool cooling, cooking and eating, and an occasional glass of wine. The other afternoon, a fellow guest saw me with my plastic wine glass and commented, “Ah…a glass of wine. I had my glass of wine and now I’m going for a walk.”

Foolishly, I began to brag about our current challenge from our gym: walking a marathon over a period of two weeks. It amounts to 2 miles a day. And we had walked 2.25 miles that morning. “We walked 2-1/4 miles this morning.”

“I walked 55 miles last week. I walk down to Pleasure Pier and back after a 30 minute warm-up.”

“Wow. How far a is that?”

“It’s 7 or 8 miles down there.”

Silly me: bragging on 2.25 miles. I decided I was out of his league, but still enjoyed my glass of wine. There is little real pleasure in bragging about walking 2.25 miles. There is great pleasure in a glass of good wine.

Jesus was very familiar with wine and the skins in which it was stored. New wine would expand over time and wineskins would lose their elasticity over time. Store new wine in old wineskins and they will burst as the new wine ages and ferments. New wine requires new wine skins.

I cannot remember a time when I didn’t believe in Jesus. My earliest memories are of getting ready for Sunday school and singing Jesus Loves Me, as I stood on my parents’ bed. Those like me who are for all practical purposes lifelong Christians may not realize just how radical the transition is from unbeliever to Jesus Follower. But if Jesus changes a life, it’s a major change and not to be underestimated.

Andy Stanley says, “Time in erodes awareness of.” The longer we are in any particular setting or mode of life, the less aware we become of our surroundings and the uniqueness of it. The longer we are Jesus followers, the less aware we become of what that means. It becomes second nature. It also becomes something we take for granted. Old wine. Old wineskins. It can stifle new expressions of faith and love. 

But if we become more intentional about living a redeemed life, and more aware of the incredible rescue he has provided for us, the more the old wineskins will cramp our style. 

I don’t think that means we must jetisone every cherished tradition or sacred custom. But it will certainly mean we are more aware of other’s lack of appreciation for these treasured practices. It will mean that we don’t expect those who don’t follow Jesus, or who are new to the faith to appreciate how precious these ways are to us – or even how truly edifying they may be. We might also be a bit less dismissive of new follower’s zeal. Even new wine ages over time and new wineskins will allow that to happen in a decidedly delightful way.

Jesus went back again to the shore of Lake Galilee. A crowd came to him, and he started teaching them. 14 As he walked along, he saw a tax collector, Levi son of Alphaeus, sitting in his office. Jesus said to him, “Follow me.” Levi got up and followed him.

15 Later on Jesus was having a meal in Levi’s house. A large number of tax collectors and other outcasts was following Jesus, and many of them joined him and his disciples at the table. 16 Some teachers of the Law, who were Pharisees, saw that Jesus was eating with these outcasts and tax collectors, so they asked his disciples, “Why does he eat with such people?”

17 Jesus heard them and answered, “People who are well do not need a doctor, but only those who are sick. I have not come to call respectable people, but outcasts.”

18 On one occasion the followers of John the Baptist and the Pharisees were fasting. Some people came to Jesus and asked him, “Why is it that the disciples of John the Baptist and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but yours do not?”

19 Jesus answered, “Do you expect the guests at a wedding party to go without food? Of course not! As long as the bridegroom is with them, they will not do that. 20 But the day will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast.

21 “No one uses a piece of new cloth to patch up an old coat, because the new patch will shrink and tear off some of the old cloth, making an even bigger hole. 22 Nor does anyone pour new wine into used wineskins, because the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the skins will be ruined. Instead, new wine must be poured into fresh wineskins.” – Mark 2:13-22

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Tanzanian Wildflower | Shinyanga, Tanzania | February 2020

Our parties are pretty tame by modern standards. I’ve seen soirées and even helped cater parties the likes of which I cannot imagine paying for. My colleague’s wife worked for a place where the liquor bill for a gala wedding reception was $75,000 alone. Dom Perignon for everyone? As I said, “I can’t imagine.”

So what will the heavenly celebration look like? The Old Testament offers a picture:

On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples
a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine,
of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined.

And he will swallow up on this mountain
the covering that is cast over all peoples,
the veil that is spread over all nations.

He will swallow up death forever;
and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces,
and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth,
for the LORD has spoken.

It will be said on that day,
“Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us.
This is the LORD; we have waited for him;
let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.”

Isaiah 25:6-9

Jesus gives us a further clue in this encounter with Matthew and his friends. The clue is the guest list. And the key is the host. The guest list of the Great Last Day Eternal Party is filled with sinners. Others need not RSVP. If you don’t need forgiveness, mercy, hope, and grace you won’t want to come. In fact if you’re uncomfortable with being in the presence of down-and-outers, you might want to adjust your comfort zone. And if you think everyone will be like you, you’re just plain wrong.

Except for one thing: we’ll all be delighted at being with Jesus. We’ll all be astonished at his grace. We’ll have a hard time comprehending just how good, gracious, abundantly generous and delightfully enjoyable his presence can be. That’s the lot of those who are invited to the party that will be hosted in Jesus’ honor at the end of time.

We’re enjoying some mighty luxurious digs this week. Our granddaughter was totally blown away by it. Balcony. Swimming pool. Beach. All very nice. And all reserved for the owners and their guests (by virtue of renting the condo we are allowed as guests). And we’ve had a couple little parties ourselves. But they’ll hold nothing to the Jesus party to which repentant sinners and former outcasts are all invited.

When Jesus was with his disciples on earth the religious leaders thought his disciples should act with more decorum. Jesus told them it was time to celebrate for the bridegroom was present. On that Day, the groom will summon the bride and we’ll enjoy a celebration the likes of which has never been seen before. $75,000 liquor bill? That’s nothing. Our party has been paid for by the blood of the Lamb of God and he’s been working on the preparations for 2000 years! It’s gonna be some party!

Jesus went back again to the shore of Lake Galilee. A crowd came to him, and he started teaching them. 14 As he walked along, he saw a tax collector, Levi son of Alphaeus, sitting in his office. Jesus said to him, “Follow me.” Levi got up and followed him.

15 Later on Jesus was having a meal in Levi’s house. A large number of tax collectors and other outcasts was following Jesus, and many of them joined him and his disciples at the table. 16 Some teachers of the Law, who were Pharisees, saw that Jesus was eating with these outcasts and tax collectors, so they asked his disciples, “Why does he eat with such people?”

17 Jesus heard them and answered, “People who are well do not need a doctor, but only those who are sick. I have not come to call respectable people, but outcasts.”

18 On one occasion the followers of John the Baptist and the Pharisees were fasting. Some people came to Jesus and asked him, “Why is it that the disciples of John the Baptist and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but yours do not?”

19 Jesus answered, “Do you expect the guests at a wedding party to go without food? Of course not! As long as the bridegroom is with them, they will not do that. 20 But the day will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast.

21 “No one uses a piece of new cloth to patch up an old coat, because the new patch will shrink and tear off some of the old cloth, making an even bigger hole. 22 Nor does anyone pour new wine into used wineskins, because the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the skins will be ruined. Instead, new wine must be poured into fresh wineskins.” – Mark 2:13-22

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Pride of Barbados | Wimberly, Texas | June 2020

We’re on vacation now. Everything is different and new. Our schedule has changed. Our routine is upended. Our normal is anything but. Our digs are really nice, but really unfamiliar. And let’s not talk about the internet connection: nothing like at home.

But tonight we had a real live board game. And this morning we were at the pool for a few hours. Grandkids played. We read. No emails answered…well maybe just a few. And this afternoon I indulged my latest guilty pleasure: I binged on the National Geographic program Wicked Tuna. Vacation time is a whole new and different way of life.

But it’s only temporary. Monday will find me back in my groove. Not sure about our workout tomorrow. But come Monday, Lord willing, we’ll be back at it for sure. All that remains is for us to complete our walking challenge – which I totally flaked out on today. We’re on vacation after all.

Jesus was not on vacation when he came to earth and called his disciples to follow him. He was not on vacation when he healed and taught and cast out demons. But he did bring a new way of life into view. A totally new way of life. A wineskin-bursting change of pace, priorities, and pursuits. His ways are unlike any before or since. His call is unlike any others.

So he calls for new wineskins for this new wine way of life. It won’t work to treat our Sunday morning foray into religion as a vacation from the world. He doesn’t want us simply to put a patch of religion on our daily pursuits. He doesn’t want to be a slice of the pie of life. He is the source of all of life. He will change us from the inside out.

I’m not sure what that means for you, but I know it means that for us, Jesus is still center of life for us. We continue to pray. We read Scripture. We praise God for his good gifts. We look for opportunities to seek his reign and rule.

Yesterday at the pool I saw a man reading a book, The Truth About [something I couldn’t see]. I asked him, “You book: The Truth about what?” He said, “It’s the truth about us. It’s about self-righteousness. And we’re all self-righteous.” Indeed. Then we agreed that it’s true, and that we need a righteousness that is outside of ourselves. Jesus is that righteousness. And when he moves in, self-righteousness must go. That’s the old wine. And the new wine of his grace is the best there is.