Last week we talked about Jesus’s answer to John the Baptist’s disciples regarding fasting. And about how freeing Jesus’s answer was.
Today I want to look at Jesus’s comments after He answers that question.
Jesus starts talking about something that at first seems totally out of place. But, of course, it’s not.
“No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch will pull away from the garment, making the tear worse. 17 Neither do people pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.” – Matthew 9:14-17
Jesus has just answered JTB’s disciples question about fasting. They were following the Jewish customs that had been handed down for centuries. Jesus was a Jew. In fact, He was the Son of God.
So you would think He would be very careful to follow all the Jewish customs.
But He wasn’t.
And what He says here is, I believe, the reason why.
Jesus talks about how you don’t use a piece of unshrunk cloth to patch an old garment (that has already been shrunk). If you do, the first time you wash it, the patch will shrink and pull away from the garment and it will be ruined.
Then He said you don’t put new wine in old wineskins. You put new wine in new wineskins so they can both expand. If you put new wine in an old wineskin, the wine will expand, but the wineskin has already expanded as far as it can go, so it will burst and the wine will be spilled.
I believe Jesus is talking here about the new covenant He’s bringing and how different it is from the old covenant that was still around at that time.
I believe He was saying that making His disciples keep all the Jewish customs (like fasting) at this particular time did not fit in with the new covenant He was ushering in.
In fact, trying to force the old structure around the essence of the new covenant would be disastrous. And combining the two covenants could create two different scenarios.
In one scenario, the new covenant would pull away from the old (like the cloth example), because it didn’t belong, it didn’t ‘fit.’
The other scenario would be like putting new wine in an old wineskin. The old wineskin (the Jewish religion structure of laws and rules and ancient customs) could never contain the new wine (the new covenant of love and mercy and grace). The old covenant had already gone as far as it could go. It couldn’t go any further. It couldn’t do any more than it already had.
Another way to look at it is the old covenant worked from the outside in. In other words, you had a list of things you did and things you didn’t do and that external structure was fairly easy to see—although not always so easy to do.
The new covenant Jesus brought does just the opposite. It works from the inside out. It can’t be seen until it has affected the believer’s behavior. So this requires an entirely different structure, a totally new paradigm.
And Jesus is saying that if you cling to the old structure of rules and regulations—and try to force that structure on people learning to follow the new covenant—you’re going to lose the new wine and the old wineskins. Because they just don’t ‘fit.’
It was time for a transition—the passing of the old and the entering of the new.
It was a total change in the way people relate to God—a change to a personal, intimate, individual relationship between each of us and our Creator.
And Jesus came to earth to show us how it’s done.
And to pay the high cost to make it accessible to us.
Thank you, Lord.
What old structures are you hanging on to?
What new wine is that preventing you from experiencing?