Sunday July 25, 2004 | Sandra Unger
33 They said to him, “John's disciples often fast and pray, and so do the disciples of the Pharisees, but yours go on eating and drinking."
34 Jesus answered, “Can you make the friends of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? 35 But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; in those days they will fast."
36 He told them this parable: “No one tears a piece out of a new garment to patch an old one. If they do, they will have torn the new garment, and the patch from the new will not match the old. 37 And people do not pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the new wine will burst the skins; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. 38 No, new wine must be poured into new wineskins. 39 And none of you, after drinking old wine, wants the new, for you say, 'The old is better.' “
The typical Sunday school, felt-board Jesus (often with blue eyes) does little to inspire people to change their lives much less alter their ways of thinking. The real Jesus is much bigger and more radical than that. Using the New Testament, Sandra reminded us of just how big and revolutionary Jesus was and still is.
Sandra Unger spoke this week about “The Real Jesus.” She addressed the fact that many people who were raised in the church tend to have a familiarity with Jesus that can make him seem a bit too domesticated and small. This sermon focused on how truly radical Jesus was. To best illustrate this, Sandra reminded us of some important contextual features of Jesus’ culture. The Jews expected a Messiah. God had been faithful to them to bring them up out of slavery in the past, and they believed that God would do this again through the promised Messiah. Of course, the Messiah was expected to be Jewish, one who is faithful to the laws of God found in the Torah. This included very strong distinction between what it is to be a human being and what it is to be God. Jesus just didn’t fit the mold. He didn’t free the Jews from Roman rule. He didn’t follow the Jewish laws and customs. He seemed to claim that he was God, even to the point of forgiving sins! This is not what the Jews expected. Jesus was truly something new in the world. Sandra pointed out how natural the responses of the Jews to Jesus were given their context (Luke 5:33-39).
Part of Sandra’s message was that we should not make the Jewish leaders out to be the bad guys. After all, if Jesus came today, we’d parallel the Jews and the leaders of our churches would parallel the scribes and Pharisees. Jesus was not a “comfortable fit” in the context he was in. He would fit in no better today. Sandra’s challenge to us today was that we need to see the real Jesus for who he really was so that we can more easily let go of the assumptions we have about how Jesus is involved in our lives today.
Jesus is not an addition to our otherwise “normal” lives. Jesus calls us to a radical way of being in the world that confronts our assumptions and challenges our culture. This is why Jesus told the two parables that Sandra referred to about the new patches on old clothing and the new wine in old skins. These approaches to Jesus just don’t work. The transformation that Jesus is working in us starts with the new wine, the new patch, and moves ahead into a whole new creation of who we are in Christ. Following Jesus could not possibly be more radical than it is! Sandra closed with a provocative quote from Napoleon that demonstrates a healthy respect for how radical Jesus truly is:
“Everything in Christ astonishes me. His spirit overawes me, and his will confounds me. Between him and whoever else in the world, there is no possible term of comparison. He is truly a being by himself…I search in vain in history to find the similar to Jesus Christ, or anything which can approach the gospel. Neither history, nor humanity, nor the ages, nor nature, offer me anything with which I am able to compare it or to explain it. Here everything is extraordinary.”