Then the disciples of John came to Him, saying, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast, but Your disciples do not fast?” Jesus said to them, “No one puts a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; for the patch pulls away from the garment, and a worse tear results.” Matthew 9:14,16
Don’t mix the new with the old. This is the principle behind Jesus’ words.
An old cloth shrinks considerably over time because of repeated washings. The new cloth is something that has not yet shrunk. Cut a patch out of it and get it wet, and it will shrink, pulling and tearing the old fabric.
So what doesn’t mix, according to Jesus? Religious rituals of the past and new faith in Him. Jesus came to do something entirely new by fulfilling the Law, something we couldn’t do with a pile of good works. The Law was meant to show us that we couldn’t keep it. It was not meant to turn us into kiss-ups that try to make God happy with our rule keeping.
The Pharisees were upset because they were fasting (and keeping all the other rules) but the disciples weren’t. The Pharisees were self-impressed but Jesus is impressed by those who acknowledge their sin and look to Him to make them righteous.
The Gospel is dazzling all by itself. The message is too good to be true. Sinners are forgiven; no strings attached. They are made righteous and have to do nothing to earn it. They enter into an intimate relationship with their Savior. No more priests. No more veil. But oh, how quickly something dazzling can be dulled when we add on anything that’s not supposed to be there. We put a new patch on an old coat and disfigure what is beautiful.
As a believer in Jesus, I need to keep things simple. I am a sinner, saved by grace; a woman grateful for God’s mercy. I want to share the news of this incredible gift with others, but when I do, I want them to see the Gospel in its beauty and brilliance. As soon as I add rules and expectations, mixed with a little church tradition, the Gospel is skewed and leaves a very bad taste in their mouth. What was supposed to be good news actually repelled them. May it not be.
Am I mixing the New Covenant with the stuff of the Old? Show me. Shatter all vestiges of self-righteousness. In Jesus’ name, Amen