The Pharisees and Their Annoying Little Song
Last night, we watched a recording of the Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert that was aired Easter night. I noticed this time that the Pharisees essentially have one song. Every time it comes back to them, they sing the same tune. And pretty much the same lyrical theme, too, just reworded.
This immediately struck me as symbolic of their attitude and paradigm. They can’t change. They can’t see anything differently. They are stuck in this same repetitive song. They are old wineskins. In Matthew 9:17, Jesus says, “Neither do men pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst, the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined.” Wineskins are initially pliable and can be stretched into a shape. But after they age, they harden. If you poor fresh grape juice into the old wineskin, as the wine ferments and expands, it will burst the brittle skin. So you’ve got to use new wineskins to hold new wine.
Jesus was new wine. His teachings were new wine. But the Pharisees, and to some extent John the Baptist’s disciples, were trying to make them fit the old Jewish paradigm. And by the time Jesus has amassed a following and challenges their rigidity, the Pharisees are about to bust. But they can’t change. In Jesus Christ Superstar, that repetitive Pharisee song is pretty much literally “same song, second verse.” They’re playing an old tune, everybody’s heard it before, and it’s lost its power. Jesus, on the other hand, sings a new song, and everybody’s singing with him.
Sometimes we can be Pharisaical. We get attached to our old ways and don’t want to change. But Jesus is always new wine. And he is always pushing and expanding and maturing us. If we insist on sticking with our old wineskins (like our ways of doing worship or evangelism, our understanding of God, how to minister to people, even our ideas of what “church” looks like), then we will crack and be useless, also. Only the work of the Holy Spirit can keep us open and pliable and teachable. So let’s pray today for the ability to sing a new song about Jesus.