When Conventional Wisdom Reaches it’s Expiration Date

“Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest” (John 4:35).

There’s a powerful lesson and warning to the church in this passage I’ve never noticed until today. It seems as though Jesus is confronting a popular belief or nugget of conventional wisdom embraced by the people of his day including his disciples here, and then turns it on its head and offers a new, game-changing reality.  “Do you not have a saying…?”  Or, we might say, “Don’t most people generally believe that…?” or “You’re accustomed to thinking that….?”

In this case, Jesus’ identifies a popular farming saying or proverb about waiting for harvest time, just to say “Open your eyes!”, that time is now here. As if to say, “If you cling to that old saying, it will hinder you from embracing the new reality now facing you.”

The lesson or principle I see here for the church is this: Do we have our own popularly held customs, traditions, beliefs, or conventional wisdom at work in our churches or individual lives that, although accepted by us for years as common sense, may actually be preventing us from getting on with the new task Jesus has set before us? 

Certainly, we can all imagine someone proposing a new idea or a new course of action at a church council meeting only to be met with the all-too-common, “But don’t we have a policy in place that says….?” or “Haven’t we always done it this other way….?” or “But everyone knows that it’s common sense that….?”

Every church or organization needs those prophetic voices who, like Jesus, have the boldness to speak to the board of elders, “Open your eyes and look….!”  ….Look at things in a new way!  Trying seeing things from a different perspective!  Can’t you see that it’s a new day, and new circumstances often demand a new approach!

Of course, I’m merely saying exactly what Jesus said elsewhere more vividly:

“No one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, 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” (Luke 5:37-38).

One final note on Jesus’ challenge here: The new reality Jesus reveals to the disciples goes against common sense understanding.  In the physical world, what Jesus says is complete ludicrous!  He’s declaring that his coming has already ushered in the end-time harvest in which sowing and reaping paradoxically coincide! The seed he’s sowing — his Kingdom announcement! — is bearing immediate fruit, and doesn’t need four months to grow.

Thus, the warning here is not only to remain open to new wine that may burst old wineskins; that new wine (or proposed idea) may actually make you seem drunk to those who would call themselves more sober minded!

If Jesus were among us today, he would be a complete menace to many church leadership boards. Meek and mild, yes, but still a menace.

Keep being revolutionary!  Keep following Jesus.

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