How Jesus viewed “change”

Luke 5:36-39 follows on the heels of a discussion that Jesus and the religious leaders of the day were having (Read verses 27-35). I’ve often wondered, “What do these verses mean?” Recently, I spent some time there and have a few thoughts to share.

There are three “pictures” in these verses:

Picture #1 “No one tears a patch from a new garment and sews it on an old one. If he does, he will have torn the new garment, and the patch from the new will not match the old.  Picture #2 37 And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the new wine will burst the skins, the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined.  38 No, new wine must be poured into new wineskins.  Picture #3 39 And no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for he says, ‘The old is better.'”

Now take a minute and read this commentary from the IVP New Testament Commentary (I’ve bolded some key thoughts):

Picture #1 Jesus is like a new piece of cloth. No seamstress worth her salt would take a new piece of cloth and patch it onto an old garment. Such a match produces two problems. The new cloth will tear the old, and the pieces of material will not match. There is irony here: the patch that is supposed to fix the garment would end up ruining both. This new era Jesus brings simply cannot be wed to the old practices. It is new and requires new ways.

Picture #2 The second picture involves wine and wineskins. Again, the result of putting new wine into old skins would be disaster, a tragic waste of wine. The new wine would ferment and cause the old wineskins to burst–the new wine would then be lost and the wineskin rendered useless.

There can be no syncretism between what Jesus brings and the old tradition of Judaism. If it were tried, both would be destroyed. Jesus brings a new era and a fresh approach to God that cannot be mixed with the old traditions.

So new wine must be poured into new wineskins. Jesus’ presence requires a new way, new forms and a new spirit.

Picture #3 Next Jesus faces the possibility of rejection. His third picture involves someone satisfied with the old wine: “No one after drinking old wine wants the new, for he says, `The old is better.’ “ This is probably a warning and an explanation. Jesus knows that some, especially among the Pharisees, will not come to him, because they are satisfied with the wine they have. Nothing will change their mind. Rejection by some is inevitable. Jesus’ presence means a choice between him and the old style of Judaism. With Jesus’ presence things are different. New times require fresh ways.

Some thoughts:

Often we try to make changes by slowly integrating the new with the old. Over time what happens is that the “new” is watered down and the “old” is muddied up so that neither is desirable! In many cases, it is better to either leave the old or implement the new completely, or in large chunks at a minimum.

There are two schools of thought on change.

  • School #1 = new leaders often hear this advice, “Don’t make any changes for the first year you’re there.” In other words, “Go slow.”
  • School #2 = new leaders are sometimes counseled to move fast receiving counsel like this, “People are expecting change so go ahead and implement change when it’s expected.”

In most contexts, I have an inclination towards the “change when people are expecting it” way of thinking. One thing I have learned though is that we need to EXPLAIN and GIVE A HEAD’S UP before/while implementing change! (This often happens in “the meeting before the meeting”.) No one wants to be surprised by change! They may not like the change but at least they know what and when it’s coming!

Leader, if you have a clear vision, there is no doubt you will need to lead/implement change. Typically “what is” when you arrive is not what you hope “will be.” The only way to move from “what is” to what “will be” is change. You can play in the mud (i.e. attempt to integrate new with old) and go slowly or you can move graciously and decisively to implement change.

HOWEVER, know this, when you make decisive change, not everyone will like it. Some will drink the old wine and say, “I like it better than the new wine.” Remember what Jesus said, “No one after drinking old wine wants the new, for he says, `The old is better.’ ”

As a Christian leader, my desire is that when changes have been/are being implemented there will be an environment of grace and truth. I pray that we will love one another enough to speak the truth and offer grace to each other as we transition from “what is” to “what will be.” I pray that even if we disagree to the point of separation we can do so in a manner that is gracious and kind. In other words, I don’t want to have to duck if I see you in Wal-Mart! 😉 and I don’t want you to have to avoid me either! 😉

Change is inevitable. You can do it slow, or you can just do it. Be aware of the context and lead your team, church, family, business, etc. towards the vision that God has called you towards!

(If you haven’t checked out you really need too! There are great resources on this site, including the commentary I referenced above. Check out their free resources here.)

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