How do we maintain security in a changing world? According to Tevye, the Jewish Milkman in the famous musical, Fiddler on the Roof, the answer is “tradition, tradition, tradition”.
I think there was a time when I thought Christianity was protected by tradition, and that the traditions of Christianity could protect me from the evils of the world. My post today is another in my “Amazing Meetings” series. It’s an interview with someone who puts a different slant on tradition in the amazing meeting he had with Jesus.
As you read this interview, please share your thoughts in the comments box, and refer this blog to your friends.
Hello. You’re described in Matthew’s Gospel as a disciple of John. Who is John and how did this meeting with Jesus develop?
Hi, John is actually Jesus’s cousin. But his mission in the early days was to prepare people for the coming of the Messiah. He was what you may call a hippy. He lived in the desert, didn’t shave or cut his hair, wore alternative clothing and had a diet that was something else. There were a group of us who became his followers. We got into the alternative stuff like him and we were very serious about all the Jewish laws. Especially fasting.
Why was that?
Well, John believed that if we were serious about our religion we should follow the law right down to the last jot.
So why did you go to see Jesus?
Well, that’s the thing. John was really strong on keeping the law, but we watched Jesus and his disciples and they seemed to be the very opposite. They didn’t fast, and in fact they kept going to these parties with people like Levi and his slimy mates.
So a couple of us went to see Jesus’ and ask him what was going on. We wanted to know why John expected us to follow the law in everything, but Jesus didn’t seem to have the same constraints on his disciples.
So what did he say?
It was a fascinating answer. He basically told three short stories. First of all he said, how can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while is with them. Then he talked about putting a new patch on a piece of old clothing, and how the new patch is likely to stretch and pull away from the clothing. Then his third illustration was about not pouring new wine into old wineskins.
So was he talking about himself when referred to the first story?
Yes, I think so. As I watched his disciples I could see that being with Jesus was so good, that the religious traditions actually didn’t make any sense. He wasn’t bound by the law at all – really free – but he didn’t do anything wrong. He maintained a lifestyle that was enjoyable, but there was nothing about it that was offensive, or destructive, or selfish.
So what do you think he meant about the patch on the clothing and the wineskins?
What I thought he was saying was that the Jewish law wasn’t to be thrown out; the traditions of the past had their place. But if you’re introducing something new, it had to be brand new, and not influenced by the past.
The new movement that Jesus was introducing – he called it the Kingdom of Heaven – was so radically different and new that it wouldn’t be effective if it was tied down by traditional thinking and legalities.
Does that mean we should throw out all the old traditions?
No, Jesus was really showing that his teaching should interpet the traditions and old laws and not the other way around. If you pour new wine into old wineskins the old wineskins will burst and you’ll lose all the wine. If Jesus new teaching was made to fit the old traditions and laws, it would irreparably damage all that was good in the past.
Instead, Jesus preserved the past as a way of preparing for the future, and implemented a whole new way of thinking about life.
Thanks for that insight. I’m looking forward to finding out more about the new ways of Jesus.