17 “And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the skins burst, the wine spills out, and the skins are ruined. No, they put new wine into fresh wineskins, and both are preserved.” – Matthew 9:17 CSB)
22 “And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and the wine is lost as well as the skins. No, new wine is put into fresh wineskins.” -Mark 2:22 (CSB)
37 “And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the new wine will burst the skins, it will spill, and the skins will be ruined. 38 No, new wine is put into fresh wineskins. 39 And no one, after drinking old wine, wants new, because he says, ‘The old is better.’” – Luke 5:37-39 (CSB)
This is the second parable Jesus used to answer the question that John the Baptist’s disciples brought up. Yesterday we looked at the new patch sewn on an old garment. Today we look at the new wine in old wineskins. The same basic idea is presented with a slight twist at the end of Luke’s account. We have to understand that both parables are using ideas common to the original audience. Jesus is trying to help them see that he is offering something greater and better than the old way of doing things. Unlike many religious leaders, he wasn’t trying to reform, restructure, or rebrand the existing system. What Jesus did was introduce something new. He wasn’t simply replacing the Old Covenant, he was fulfilling its purpose and establishing the New Covenant that God had promised.
As wine ferments it releases carbon dioxide in the form of a gas. Old wineskins (made from animal hides) had already gone through this process. They had already been stretched to their limit. If you would put new wine into one of them it would continue to ferment and release carbon dioxide until the old wineskin would literally bust open. Both the wine and the wineskin would be ruined. John the Baptist preached that the Messiah had arrived and that God’s Kingdom was finally at hand. Many of his disciples left to follow Jesus and be a part of this new thing God was doing. However, many of them continued to follow John and be content with the old way of thinking. The religious leaders of the day were the same. All of them wanted Jesus to play by the established rules and when he didn’t, they turned on him.
Luke brings up that point in his account. Jesus acknowledged that many people prefer the old over the new. They like the way it tastes. They like the familiarity. They want nothing to do with the new. In the beginning Jesus attracted multitudes of followers. They went everywhere that he went. They were excited by the things he said and did. They fully expected him to be their Messiah. However, the crowds began to quickly diminish once they realized Jesus wasn’t just giving their religion a quick jump start. When he began to talk about laying down your life and loving your enemies they realized that this was not what they had signed up for. They abandoned the new and went back to the old.
The apostle Paul would continue to struggle with those who could not see that the new wine of the gospel was superior to the old wine of the law. Even those who had initially followed Jesus could not completely let go of the old way. Today we struggle with letting go of our old way of living. We have difficulty living by the Spirit instead of by the flesh. Many people decide to become disciples of Jesus only to discover that they prefer the old way or that the new way is just too hard. The truth is: it is hard to consistently follow Jesus. We are broken individuals who wrestle with our own sinful thoughts on a daily basis. The old way tells us to either quit fighting or too fight even harder. Both of those end in defeat. The new way tells us that Jesus has already won that fight if we just follow him. When we believe that he is the Messiah, confess that we’re sinners, change our way of thinking, and are baptized in his name; we are forgiven of our sins and given the Spirit. We become part of something new and eternal. May God give us the strength to follow Jesus even if everyone else is clamoring for the old way.
Grace and peace