Posted by: richard | 16 November, 2008

Being irreligious

This week we’ll be looking at Mark 2.  Focusing probably on verses 18 and onwards, but given there is no trace on the blog of us studying the first half of the chapter we might well look at that too.

A couple of questions to think about:

v21-22: “No-one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. If he does, the new piece will pull away from the old, making the tear worse. And no-one pours new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, he pours new wine into new wineskins.” I never really know what this means.  Ideas?

v24: “The Pharisees said to him, Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?”  In what ways might we be letting religion or tradition get in the way of following Christ?

Please feel free to read and blog on the passage, especially those who can’t be there tomorrow…



  1. Old/new wineskins: I suppose the most obvious thing that comes to mind is an OT/NT comparison. But that can’t really be right, since Jesus came to fulfil the law, not abolish it. So what could it be that we must put behind us? In the context of the passage, I guess it’s slavish adherence to rabbinic tradition: to be appropriately interpreted for today! But it’s clearly a call to be able to separate the wine from the wineskins … or the godliness from the religious to use the vocabulary in the post.

    When do I do this? Good question. Maybe you can tell me 😉

    (By the way, I heard a French politician quoting verse 27 in support of extending opening hours on Sunday!)

  2. Verse 27 in support of opening hours: outrageous – may as well have said “the man is not made for the sabbath, but the sabbath is made for mammon”! Too harsh?

    We reviewed the whole of chapter 2 on Monday and saw how Mark’s story is unfolding. Chapter 1 saw the excited commentary of the action-packed arrival of Jesus, and the demonstration of his power – all whilst remaining low-profile. Chapter 2 is blam! blam! blam! blam! – four conflicts with the authorities and traditions of the day, throwing up very clearly “who is this Jesus”:

    – the one who forgives sins
    – the one who hangs out with tax-collectors
    – the bride-groom with whom we feast not fast
    – the Son of Man and Lord of even the Sabbath

    One question we raised last night was: are we meant to be feasting or fasting? We landed on the side of celebration (Jesus is with us now, after all!) but noted there is also the fasting side (until he comes again). So another of those “both/and” tensions!

  3. And the wineskins?

  4. Since I’m the sort of person who reads the end of a book first, I went on a bit into Mark 3 and for me, the verses 1-6, about Jesus healing the man with the withered hand, helped to put “the Sabbath is made for man” into perspective. Intuitively, it would be wrong to refuse to help or heal someone in need because it “a day of rest”. It also occurred to me that “to save life or to kill” is not an exaggeration because, without Social Security, a man with a useless hand couldn’t work and therefore couldn’t feed himself and his family. On the other hand, is it really necessary ot have all kinds of shops open on Sunday, even when we are behind with our Christmas shopping?

  5. This is my first post, so hello everyone.
    About the Sabbath rule (and others), I have sometimes thought that, historically, our relation to God (or rather His to us) is like a parent / child one: when your children are very small, and know nothing about he world around them you just make them obey the rules – for their good: brushing teeth, early bedtime, not running with scissors in your hand… As they grow up you help them understand what is good for them, so they can choose to do the right thing (or not) by themselves.
    Could it be that humanity in its infancy needed simple “how and when to” guidelines, but that as we matured Jesus explained to us the meaning, the sense behind the guidelines, so that we could follow the sense of the law, rather that just the letter?
    That would mean praying from the hart instead of reciting prayers, and making a balanced judgement on resting / doing necessary work on Sundays, etc.
    It would also mean that now, God trusts us to do the right thing by ourselves, and for the right reasons that we have thought out….

  6. Hi Izzy! Interesting points… though I’m not sure humanity has grown up from its infancy (look at the horrors of the last century and the mess the world is in to see what I mean).

    I think you make valid points about the need to take responsiblity for our actions and reflect at more than a surface level. Though I would perhaps emphasise the angle that it’s not just about us making reasoned decisions all by ourselves but about us living a life turned towards God, so that our decisions come as a result of our prayerful interactions with God through the Spirit.

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