Don’t try to add untimely new teachings to the old teachings of the Torah. If you do you will cloud its meaning and detract from its goal.
An examination of Luke 5:27-39
This latter section of Luke chapter six follows several miraculous events performed by Yeshua. The large catch of fish after an unsuccessful night of fishing by Shimon, Yaakov and Yochanan, the healing of a man with leprosy and the healing of a bed ridden cripple who had been lowered down from a roof by friends.
Shimon, at the sight of the miraculous fishing event, falls on his knees before Yeshua and proclaims, “Depart from me lord, for I am a sinful man.” Following this Yeshua calls Shimon, Yaakov and Yochanan to be fishers of men. Yeshua calls these talmidim to shuva (return) to the calling of Israel, written in the Torah, to be a light to the nations, to do the things that the prophets of old did, thus becoming fishers of men. The old is better than the new.
When the man with leprosy is healed Yeshua commands him to go and do what is lawful according to the instruction of Moshe, by showing himself to the Temple priests. He does this to ensure that the man will be publically accepted back into the community, which is the purpose of the specific Torah instruction referring to the healing of skin diseases. After this, news spread concerning the miracle and as a result large numbers of people pursued and surrounded Yeshua. This is an example of a new miraculous event being promoted at the expense of the lesson Yeshua is teaching—a return to the true goal of the Torah. This resulted in the loss of the old, which is better.
Yeshua withdrew by Himself to the wilderness to converse privately with His Father (G-d).
Finally prior to the healing of the crippled man Yeshua is challenged by the thoughts of some of the religious leaders concerning the forgiveness of sins. Yeshua, knowing what they’re thinking, challenges their false understanding of forgiveness, and as proof that He has the authority to forgive sin He heals the man. This is a sign which is intended to prove the ancient teaching of forgiveness and not the other way around. The Torah principle of forgiveness is overlooked until the crowd’s gaze is redirected by the miraculous healing. The old is better than the new.
BEGINNING WITH THE SUM:
This latter portion of Luke chapter 6 begins with the goal of the teaching, the joining of the bride to the groom.
“27 After that He went out and noticed a tax collector named Levi (joining) –Mattitiyahu (Gift of YHVH)--sitting in the tax booth, and He said to him, ‘Follow Me.’ 28 And he left everything behind, and got up and began to follow Him.”
Levi the Jewish tax collector is mishmod (a traitor to the Jewish people), because he enforces Roman tax law upon his own people and likely exacts a higher fee so as to skim money for himself. This was common practise at the time and meant that tax collectors were looked upon with the same distain as prostitutes and drunkards (addicts) by the religious Jewish community.
Add to this the standard practice for rabbinical training and discipleship. The brightest Torah students from the villages and towns of Israel were called to become the talmidim (students) of the great rabbis of Jerusalem. This made Levi a non-starter, he wasn’t a devoted young Torah student; he was a tax collector, a sinner, a reject among the Jewish people. However, the greatest of rabbis called him, “Levi, follow me”. It’s no surprise then that he dropped everything and followed Yeshua.
Notice his Hebrew names: Levi (joining) and Mattitiyahu (Gift of YHVH). Yeshua is about to use a betrothal analogy alongside the symbolism of wine, in order to reveal to His hearers the purposes of G-d: sinful Israel (Levi) will return (shuvah) to the old ways and ultimate goal of the Torah (Yeshua Himself), and be joined (Levi) to the gift of G-d (Mattitiyahu), Yeshua Himself, the Mashiyach.
“29 And Levi gave a big feast of reception for Yeshua in his house; and there was a great crowd of tax collectors and other people who were reclining at the table with them. 30 The P’rushim and their scribes began grumbling at Yeshua’s talmidim (disciples), saying, ‘Why do you eat and drink with the tax collectors and sinners?’31 And Yeshua answered and said to them, ‘It is not those who are well who need a physician, but those who are sick. 32 I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.’”
Naturally, Levi’s friends were tax collectors and sinners, people who wouldn’t look down on him at the dinner table. However, it’s important to note that Yeshua’s entourage included P’rushim and scribes, and that Levi had obviously not refused them entry to the feast, despite the fact that he had every reason to hate them for looking down on him.
The additional teachings of the rabbis at the time included those instructing pious Jews not to eat with Gentiles, sinners, tax collectors and drunkards, for fear of becoming ritually unclean through contact with them. This was extended even to the point of not entering the homes of such people. I say, “Additional,” because they were not the instructions of the Torah, rather they were the rules of human beings. The same types of rules are taught by various Christian teachers and scholars today, “Don’t drink alcohol”, “Don’t watch movies”, “don’t listen to secular music”, “if you fast more often you’ll hear from G-d” and so on. The new rules of human beings.
Yeshua’s answer couldn’t be clearer. If there’s one thing a pious religious person knows, it’s how terribly sinful he is and how desperately he needs the ultimate spiritual physician (G-d). Yeshua explains that He’s come to call sinners to t’shuvah (return) to HaShem (G-d). The P’rushim and Torah Scribes know that the scripture says,
“Indeed, there is not a righteous man on earth who continually does good and who never sins.” –Ecclesiastes 7:20
Therefore Yeshua is calling everyone present to return to the Old ways of the G-d of Israel.
”33And the scribes said to Yeshua, “The talmidim (disciples) of Yochanan (John) often fast and offer prayers, the talmidim of the P’rushim also do the same, but Yours eat and drink.’”
There is only one fast commanded in the Torah, the fast of Yom Kippur (Day of Covering). There were only one or two other fasts practised by Israel prior to the development of the Pharisaic sect. These may have included the fast of Esther and a fast for the remembrance of the destruction of the Temple of Solomon. However, Biblically speaking, the only fast incumbent upon Israel was the fast of the Day of Covering.
In a zealous effort to encourage the people of Israel to return to G-d in devout observance of the Torah and it’s goal, which is G-d Himself; both the P’rushim (Pharisees) and Yochanan’s talmidim (disciples) were fasting numerous times throughout the week and offering additional prayers outside of the three traditional prayer times of the Jewish religious day. In doing so they hoped to bring about the coming of the Messiah and the redemption of Israel from oppression and subjugation to the Romans. Similar teaching exists today among both Jewish and Christian communities:
The Hassidim (Jewish sect) and others, teach Tikkun Olam (repairing the world), believing that by doing good and through devout observance of the Torah, Mishnah, Talmud and so on, that our righteous deeds will cause the coming of the Messiah.
Some Christian pastors teach that unless a congregation fasts regularly and works hard to do righteous acts and battle spiritual powers that they will fail to bring about revival to the Christian community, and, in extreme cases, failure to do so is thought to result in the lose of an individual’s salvation.
What utter nonsense! No, it’s worse still, it’s anti-Christ. Why? Because “all our deeds are like used menstrual rags!” How dare we think that our efforts can save us, or force the return of the Messiah. It’s arrogant idolatrous filth that has nothing to do with the Gospel of Yeshua Mashiyach!
“For all of us have become like one who is unclean,
And all our righteous deeds are like filthy menstrual rags;
And all of us wither like a leaf,
And our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.” –Yeshaiyahu/Isaiah 64:6
We are saved by the chesed (grace, mercy) of G-d, spoken about in the Torah, the old teachings of our people and not in the new teachings of human effort.
“In all their affliction He was afflicted,
And the angel of His presence saved them;
In His love and in His chesed (mercy) He redeemed them,
And He lifted them and carried them all the days of old.” –Yeshaiyahu/Isaiah 63:9
“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of G-d; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” –Ephesians 2:8-9
”34And Yeshua said to them, ‘Can you make the children of the chuppah fast while the bridegroom is with them? 35 But the days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, then they will fast in those days.’”
In order to understand this saying we must understand the ancient Jewish betrothal practice. A practice in which two bridal chamber or chuppah ceremonies are conducted (please see the previous blog on the Ancient Jewish Betrothal customs).
Yeshua is speaking here of the first chuppah (bridal chamber) engagement ceremony and the subsequent going away of the groom to prepare a family home for His new bride. The groom goes away for a period of approximately one year before returning to take His bride as a wife to dwell together in the new home He has prepared for her.
While the groom is away, the bride is to prepare herself for His return. She learns to be a devout wife and partner to her groom. She purifies herself and creates new garments for her wedding day. She prepares herself in anticipation of her grooms return. This practice is new for her and she will take time to mature in her new position, thus becoming an old hand at bridal preparation.
Yeshua is explaining that the time to purify themselves and prepare for their joining to Him is in the period of waiting following the first chuppah ceremony of betrothal that is the ceremony where they accept His bride price, His death and resurrection, as seen in the symbols of the Passover wine and matzot. Following this betrothal the talmidim of Yeshua will fast, not out of obligation or in order to force His return, but out of love and in preparation for His return and their joining to Him. Looking forward to a future day when they will again feast with their beloved.
He is hinting at the fact that there is a right time for new wine/garments, but that time is not now, that time is coming following His ressurection.
It’s not additional fasting that’s needed now, but a return to the ancient practices of the Torah, the old ways of repentance and reconciliation to G-d. Why? So that the P’rushim and the disciples of Yochanan might see that the Torah points to Yeshua as its goal. Only in shuvah (returning) to the old will they ever experience the new.
” 36 And He also told them a mashal (parable): ‘No one tears a piece of cloth from a new garment and puts it on an old garment; otherwise when the new cloth shrinks in the wash both the old and new cloth tear, also the piece from the new will not match the old.
The message is clear. The new cloth at this point in time (that is prior to His ressurection) represents the new teachings concerning fasting. If this teaching is used as a means of repairing the holes in Israel’s Torah observance it will result in, not only a failure to observe the new teachings, which were intended to cause Israel to return to the old teachings, but also in a failure to return to G-d through the old teaching of the Torah. Both the old garment and the new patch are torn.
“’37And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the new wine will burst the skins and it will be spilled out, and the skins will be ruined.’”
Don’t try to add new teachings to the old system of belief found in the Torah until the time is right for new teachings to mature within the Messianic community of believers. If you do you will cloud the Torah's meaning and detract from its goal. “You place heavy burdens on people that they can’t carry and you yourselves don’t lift a finger to help them.” If you do this you’ll ruin the people you are claiming to help.
”’ 38 But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins, and both are preserved.’”
Simply put. Enjoy the old wine of the Torah, return to it and put the new wine into new wine skins when the time is right, so that it can mature and become old wine. That is, train newly repentant people up at the appropriate speed with the appropriate teaching so that they can come to observe the goal of the Torah, which is Messiah Yeshua Himself.
The purpose of traditionally made new wine is for it to become mature. This means cellaring it until it becomes old wine. The new Ecclesia that emerges from Messiah’s death and resurrection will take time to find their way and become mature wine.
The point is not to say that new wine or Old wine are inherently good or bad in and of themselves, but to say that if new wine is mixed improperly with Old skins it will prove untimely and disasterous, where as if it is preserved properly it will become mature Old wine. It is the intention of the new teachings that are called into question, rather than the new teachings themselves.
A new hammer can be used by a murderer as a murder weapon or it can be used by a righteous man as a tool for building houses for the poor. The hammer is neither morally good or evil, it's the intention of the user that makes it a vehicle for one or the other.
”’ 39 And no one, after drinking old wine wishes for new; for he says, ‘The old is better.’”
Old wine is better. The chesed and reconciliation of the Torah and its goal, as seen through the sacrificial death of Messiah Yeshua; is the reason that Israel needs to return to the old wine of the Torah and observe the simple truth of G-d rather than add untimely new rules that only cause confusion.
There will be a right time for new wine, but even then, the new wine will be left to mature, ready for the bridegroom's return, thus the new too will become old and delight the tastebuds of the groom.
As Yeshua Himself quotes, “The old wine is better!”
© 2015 Yaakov Brown
Founder of the Beth Melekh International Messiah Following Jewish Community,