And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (2 Corinthians 12:9)
As Jesus continues to minister throughout Galilee, we get this string of stories. The first one is Jesus calling Matthew/Levi, the tax collector. Jesus calls Levi to follow Him, and he hosts a feast in his house for Jesus, with other tax collectors and sinful people. When the religious leaders question Jesus on this, He tells them that He came for those know they’re sinners, not those who think they’re righteous. Afterwards, the religious leaders ask Jesus why His disciples don’t fast like theirs or John’s do, to which Jesus replies that fasting while the Son of God is there with them doesn’t make sense, this is a time of joy! When He leaves them, then they will fast. After that, we see Jesus combating the religious leaders on issues of the Sabbath; whether He should allow His hungry disciples to pluck and eat grain or heal a crippled man on the Sabbath. Jesus’ response is unmistakeable: He cares more about loving people than the strict observance of religious rules. As God incarnate, He established the Sabbath Himself, and designed it to be a blessing for people, not something to hinder blessing.
Right in the middle of these four stories is a parable that ties them all together: the parable of the wineskins. In this parable, Jesus likens His new message from God to new, unfermented wine, and the old ways of Judaism to old wineskins. He says new wine (His teaching) must be placed in new wineskins (the Church; a new covenant people), because trying to put new wine into old wineskins will end in disaster! What’s He saying? The Gospel is radical, counter-religious, and unexpected. Jesus cared more about the love and righteousness of the Father than the religion of men! His message crosses borders, breaks rules, and defies expectations in a big way for the sake of helping and ministering to His beloved. If religion is being accepted and blessed because of our goodness, the Gospel is being accepted and blessed in spite of our wickedness. That’s Good news….
The Lord is our Helper, and He does so in shocking, radical ways. He bore all of our sin on Himself so that we could be forgiven and made righteous before God; He isn’t repelled by our sin and weaknesses, He’s drawn to it, because that’s where His love and grace are most needed. Paul embodies this when he says that he’s learned to boast and rejoice in his weaknesses, because only then does the power of Christ truly manifest itself in him and through him! I consistently struggle big time with lust and sexual temptation, and it can be extremely hard to follow Christ when it feels like I’m constantly failing Him and falling short of His glory. But what the Lord might be revealing to me here is that He is actually helping me in a radical way, allowing this thorn in my side to remain in order to humble me, and remind me of my desperate need of Him, as with Paul.
- Our help comes from the radical, grace-full love of God in Jesus Christ, the Lamb who takes away our sin. In our brokenness, weakness, sinfulness and desperation, He carries the weight on His own shoulders, and encourages us to continue walking with Him. His grace is sufficient, His sacrifice is sufficient, His victory is sufficient. We are healed, forgiven, loved and never alone by His stripes. Not religion, just Christ. Don’t limit Him based on your religious rules and understanding, but ask Him to show you where He may be helping and giving grace in a radical way.