Patches & Wineskins

Jesus was asked by the disciples of John and of the Pharisees,

Why do the disciples of John fast often and make
prayers, and likewise those of the Pharisees, but
Yours eat and drink? (Luke 5:33)

To answer their inquiry, the Lord used three short parables. In the first, He emphasized His presence, in the latter two, He spoke of His message.

To speak of the blessing of His presence, Jesus likened Himself to a bridegroom. I can count the number of bachelor parties I’ve been to on one hand, and have four fingers to spare. But I know that men don’t gather with the bridegroom to fast. They are together to enjoy each other’s company, to recall old times, to wish him well for the future. This would be the case, whether in our modern day or in the days of antiquity. Jesus’ disciples were sharing a special time with the Lord, and thus not fasting.

Don’t lose sight of the fact that the disciples of John and of the Pharisees were fasting. They wanted to know what made Jesus’ disciples different. It was not about the disciples, but about the Teacher. He was not just any teacher, and time with Him was not like time with the Pharisees or John—this was the Son of God, God with us, He is the Messiah! It was a time to rejoice and learn. The days to fast and mourn would come, but for now, the Saviour was with them.

Things New And Old

Having emphasized the significance of His presence, the Lord now turns the hearer’s attention to His message. This cannot be separated from who He is. The Pharisees touted the old ways. Not the Law of Moses, but their failed interpretation and misuse of it. They were bound in tradition and stepped their disciples in the same. They and their disciples would be offended at Jesus’ teachings. They would find His words as appealing as a seamstress would find sewing a new piece of material onto an old garment. What could be more inappropriate?

He gives a second image which is like the first. It is no use to put new wine into an old wineskin. The end result will be spilled wine and a destroyed skin. Jesus’ teachings are represented here as the new wine; the lack of interest on the Pharisees part is the old wineskin. The two are incompatible.

The point is emphasized as He draws the parable to a close. Hear the Lord:

And no one, having drunk old wine, immediately desires
new, for he says, ‘The old is better.’ (Luke 5:39)

Their minds were not suited for His teachings, for they were stuck on the old. They perceived Jesus to be a reformer of sorts, and did not want anything to do with His reform. They were happy with how things were already—He threatened to rock the boat, yea, even to turn the world upside down. The mindset of nostalgia will seldom see the good of the present. Such was the way of the Pharisees.

Friends, may this parable not describe us. Let us not be unsuited for the teachings of Jesus Christ. His teachings bring life; nothing that we might try to cling to can do such. So, let us cast off the ways of the old man; let us turn aside the doctrinal errors that may have entrapped us. Truly, the new wine offered by the Lord is good, it is sweet, and it brings eternal life.

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