Based on Luke 5:27-39
Today, we hear of the call of Levi/Matthew and Jesus’ encounter with the Pharisees and scribes as they challenge His understanding of the laws and commandments of Judaism.
The three traditional Lenten disciplines are almsgiving, prayer and fasting. These were traditional spiritual disciplines even in the time of Jesus, as He speaks of them in His Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 6:1-18. His problem with the exercise of these disciplines is that they are often done for show, rather than spirit. The Lord criticizes those who practice their piety before others, making a public display of giving their offerings, praying publicly so that they may be seen praying long and showy petitions, heaping up empty phrases, looking dismal while fasting that others may see and take notice of their piety. When one is keeping spiritual disciplines, according to Jesus, its aim should be internal renewal and spiritual growth, not outward recognition. We would do well to take heed to Jesus’ guidance in our Lenten observance.
What do Jesus’ words about old and new wineskins say to us about spiritual disciplines today, in our daily lives? Is Jesus dismissing fasting as a useful practice in the new Kingdom? Given Jesus’ comments, are we to lay aside almsgiving and prayer, because truly, we have the Bridegroom, Jesus, with us always, even to the close of the age? The point of Jesus’ comments is that we no longer need such practices to justify ourselves before God. The old understanding was that keeping laws, commandments and ordinances, holding to strict observances of washing, eating, prayer and fasting would make one acceptable before God. With the coming of Christ, there is new life in Him. With the coming of Christ, salvation is through faith in Him. Spiritual practices and disciplines now are a response to the gift of God’s love and mercy — freely observed and joyfully undertaken.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, give me joy and gladness in my Lenten observance. Amen.
Lenten response: In your Gospel freedom, try a day of fasting and prayer.
This year’s devotional was prepared by the Rev. Dr. David Wendel, NALC assistant to the bishop for ministry and ecumenism. To learn more about A Lenten Walk Through the Word, visit thenalc.org/lent.
Scripture quotations are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
2 Chron. 5:2–14
5:2 Then Solomon convened Israel’s elders—all the leaders of the Israelite tribes and families—in Jerusalem, so they could witness the transferal of the ark of the covenant of the Lord from the City of David (that is, Zion). 3All the men of Israel assembled before the king during the festival in the seventh month. 4When all Israel’s elders had arrived, the Levites lifted the ark. 5The priests and Levites carried the ark, the tent where God appeared to his people, and all the holy items in the tent. 6Now King Solomon and all the Israelites who had assembled with him went on ahead of the ark and sacrificed more sheep and cattle than could be counted or numbered.
7The priests brought the ark of the covenant of the Lord to its assigned place in the inner sanctuary of the temple, in the Most Holy Place under the wings of the cherubim. 8The cherubim’s wings extended over the place where the ark sat; the cherubim overshadowed the ark and its poles. 9The poles were so long their ends extending out from the ark were visible from in front of the inner sanctuary, but they could not be seen from beyond that point. They have remained there to this very day. 10There was nothing in the ark except the two tablets Moses had placed there in Horeb. (It was there that the Lord made a covenant with the Israelites after he brought them out of the land of Egypt.)
11The priests left the Holy Place. All the priests who participated had consecrated themselves, no matter which division they represented. 12All the Levites who were musicians, including Asaph, Heman, Jeduthun, and their sons and relatives, wore linen. They played cymbals and stringed instruments as they stood east of the altar. They were accompanied by 120 priests who blew trumpets. 13The trumpeters and musicians played together, praising and giving thanks to the Lord. Accompanied by trumpets, cymbals, and other instruments, they loudly praised the Lord, singing: “Certainly he is good; certainly his loyal love endures!” Then a cloud filled the Lord’s temple. 14The priests could not carry out their duties because of the cloud; the Lord’s splendor filled God’s temple.(NET Bible)
73:1 A psalm by Asaph.
Certainly God is good to Israel,
and to those whose motives are pure.
2But as for me, my feet almost slipped;
my feet almost slid out from under me.
3For I envied those who are proud,
as I observed the prosperity of the wicked.
4For they suffer no pain;
their bodies are strong and well fed.
5They are immune to the trouble common to men;
they do not suffer as other men do.
6Arrogance is their necklace,
and violence covers them like clothing.
7Their prosperity causes them to do wrong;
their thoughts are sinful.
8They mock and say evil things;
they proudly threaten violence.
9They speak as if they rule in heaven,
and lay claim to the earth.
10Therefore they have more than enough food to eat
and even suck up the water of the sea.
11They say, “How does God know what we do?
Is the Most High aware of what goes on?”
12Take a good look. This is what the wicked are like,
those who always have it so easy and get richer and richer.
13I concluded, “Surely in vain I have kept my motives pure
and maintained a pure lifestyle.
14I suffer all day long
and am punished every morning.”
15If I had publicized these thoughts,
I would have betrayed your people.
16When I tried to make sense of this,
it was troubling to me.
17Then I entered the precincts of God’s temple
and understood the destiny of the wicked.
18Surely you put them in slippery places;
you bring them down to ruin.
19How desolate they become in a mere moment.
Terrifying judgments make their demise complete.
20They are like a dream after one wakes up.
O Lord, when you awake you will despise them.
21Yes, my spirit was bitter,
and my insides felt sharp pain.
22I was ignorant and lacked insight;
I was as senseless as an animal before you.
23But I am continually with you;
you hold my right hand.
24You guide me by your wise advice,
and then you will lead me to a position of honor.
25Whom do I have in heaven but you?
On earth there is no one I desire but you.
26My flesh and my heart may grow weak,
but God always protects my heart and gives me stability.
27Yes, look! Those far from you die;
you destroy everyone who is unfaithful to you.
28But as for me, God’s presence is all I need.
I have made the Sovereign Lord my shelter,
as I declare all the things you have done.(NET Bible)
5:27 After this, Jesus went out and saw a tax collector named Levi sitting at the tax booth. “Follow me,” he said to him. 28And he got up and followed him, leaving everything behind.
29Then Levi gave a great banquet in his house for Jesus, and there was a large crowd of tax collectors and others sitting at the table with them. 30But the Pharisees and their experts in the law complained to his disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” 31Jesus answered them, “Those who are well don’t need a physician, but those who are sick do. 32I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”
33Then they said to him, “John’s disciples frequently fast and pray, and so do the disciples of the Pharisees, but yours continue to eat and drink.” 34So Jesus said to them, “You cannot make the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them, can you? 35But those days are coming, and when the bridegroom is taken from them, at that time they will fast.” 36He also told them a parable: “No one tears a patch from a new garment and sews it on an old garment. If he does, he will have torn the new, and the piece from the new will not match the old. 37And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the new wine will burst the skins and will be spilled, and the skins will be destroyed. 38Instead new wine must be poured into new wineskins. 39 No one after drinking old wine wants the new, for he says, ‘The old is good enough.’”(NET Bible)
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016.
In [Luther’s] writing, Concerning the Papacy at Rome against the most famous Romanist at Leipzig, which appeared toward the end of June , we read: “I merely contend for two things, the rst, I will not permit men to posit new articles of faith and scold, defame, and judge all other Christians as heretics, renegades, in dels only because they do not submit to the Pope. It is enough that we let the Pope be Pope (in which sense this is to be understood he clearly states in the foregoing) … . The other, everything that the Pope claims, makes, and does will I receive in this wise that I will first examine it according to the Holy Scripture. It must remain under Christ and be judged by Scripture.” (18)
–Johann Michael Reu, Luther on the Scriptures
This daily Bible reading guide, Reading the Word of God, was conceived and prepared as a result of the ongoing discussions between representatives of three church bodies: Lutheran Church—Canada (LCC), The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) and the North American Lutheran Church (NALC). The following individuals have represented their church bodies and approved this introduction and the reading guide: LCC: President Robert Bugbee; NALC: Bishop John Bradosky, Revs. Mark Chavez, James Nestingen, and David Wendel; LCMS: Revs. Albert Collver, Joel Lehenbauer, John Pless, and Larry Vogel.