Good news for non-religious people

th-1Jesus once warned against trying to patch an old garment with new cloth or put new wine into old wineskins. In the case of the garment, the new unshrunk piece of cloth will tear away from the rest when the clothing is first washed. And in the case of the wineskins, the new wine will be too acidic for the old skins and they will burst. New wine and new skins need to grow old together.

I used to wonder about exactly what this meant. I’d heard it taught as being related to new methods of sharing the Gospel and pretty much left it at that. Recently I found something new. I found out that Jesus told this story right after being criticized for hanging around tax collectors and sinners at Matthew’s  house.

When the religious leaders (Pharisees) questioned Jesus as to his choice of friends, he promptly replied, “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matthew 9:13) Which translated meant, I didn’t come for you; I came for them. And shortly after that is when Jesus is suddenly discussing garment repair and proper wine storage.

Here’s what I think. I think these metaphors were meant for the Pharisees. They were meant to announce to them that God was now going to usher in a new thing entirely.

Jesus did not come just to fix religion. He did not come to patch up the Old Covenant. Nor did He come to pour new life into it. He came to do something entirely new. He came to topple an old system and establish something new. And in order to “get it” you can’t come in through the existing door. The standard framework of thinking about God and religion will forever prevent us from being able to understand and partake in what Jesus came to establish. Therefore, Jesus is pleased to start with people who have no preconceptions of God and how to please Him; they just know they’re messed up. That’s all Jesus wants. He doesn’t want the religious sacrifices of “good” people. He wants the entire lives of people who know they are sinners and failures so he can begin something entirely new with them — new clothes… new wine… new skins… new person.

Now all this should come as terribly good news to anyone who knows he or she is not a good person, as well as someone who doesn’t want to have anything to do with religion. That’s precisely the point. Jesus didn’t come for good people; He came for sinners. Jesus has established a new thing entirely. It’s not about religion; it’s about a radical new way to know God and be changed.

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7 Responses to Good news for non-religious people

  1. Sue Berger says:

    As it ferments, new wine requires a new wine-skin that will stretch. Old skins no longer stretch. There’s a whole other sermon in that………………

  2. Interestingly, that’s one of the reasons why the “ABC” philosophies — Anything But Christ — don’t really work for people. Christ implies that one must be born again — turned into the new wineskin — but the ABCs try to fix what’s there by slapping a new patch on the old garment. You’ve also hit on one of the reasons why I find the message of Christ more readily accepted on Vancouver’s Downtown East Side — Skid Row — than in the West End, where I live. Many of my neighbours figure they’re “born OK the first time”; but the people on the DTES KNOW they need renewal and that Jesus is the only way to get it. Sadly, there is a lot of The World pulling them back, reminding them of how unworthy they are, and that makes the challenge huge for some people.

  3. Mark Seguin says:

    I LOVE this: “Jesus didn’t come for good people; He came for sinners. Jesus has established a new thing entirely. It’s not about religion; it’s about a radical new way to know God and be changed.” and will be happy to add an Amen to it!

  4. Pingback: Being Seen the Same by Him and by You « Resting in His Grace

  5. Pingback: What is the Gospel? That’s a Good Question! | Our Life On The Border

  6. This is EXCELLENT. I came here from a link on Mike Sweat’s blog. He and I are blogging pals. I like this so much I’d like to re-blog this on my blog. You can find me at And now I’m following you as well. Thank you.

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