Now John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting. And people came and said to him, “Why do John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in that day. No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. If he does, the patch tears away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear is made. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins—and the wine is destroyed, and so are the skins. But new wine is for fresh wineskins.”- Mark 2: 18-22 ESV
Context is always important when reading, studying, and applying the Bible. Taking verses out of context leads to all kinds of error and misunderstanding. Understanding context begins with certain principles: we need to understand the literal meaning- What was said, who it was said to and what did it mean at that time. We also need to look at the specific wording, how it was said, and why it was said. What was the topic of the conversation that this came up in. Lastly, what does this mean to us today? Taking phrases and verses out of context always leads to misunderstanding, misapplication, and misuse. It is interesting that this Phrase, New wine in old wine skins, is in the context of Fasting. However it is more about applying rules, in the wrong way and at the wrong time. It is also interesting that in the Gospel of Matthew the recollection of this specific event is almost verbatim, word for word in the 2 gospels, which is rare. So undoubtedly it made a point to the Apostles, Peter, and Matthew. In the 9th chapter of Matthew we read similarly under the heading; A question about Fasting: Then the disciples of John came to him, saying, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast. No one puts a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch tears away from the garment, and a worse tear is made. Neither is new wine put into old wineskins. If it is, the skins burst and the wine is spilled and the skins are destroyed. But new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved.” (Matthew 9:14-17)
Leader, this section of scripture is about applying old principles, old rules onto something new, something different- a New Covenant, has new rules and new ways- but if we are stuck in our old ways, our old sins, our old patterns- then incongruence is the outcome and we will miss the mark. Hear the Word of the Lord: This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! (2 Corinthians 5:17) The Prophet Isaiah put it this way: “Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. (Isaiah 43:18-19) Jesus’ disciples were not fasting along with the Pharisees and John’s disciples because they were now under the new covenant of grace and faith in Christ. Jesus fulfilled the law; therefore, there is no longer any need to continue with the old rituals. The Pharisees were doing the same thing that many Christians do today, mixing the law of grace and the law of Moses. Jesus cannot be added to a works-based religion. In the case of the Pharisees, they were consumed with their own self-righteousness, and faith in Jesus cannot be combined with self-righteous rituals. This was the same issue with Paul and the Judaizers. The Judaizers were willing to believe that Jesus was the Messiah, but they still believed you had to follow the LAW and be circumcised. We must remember Jesus + nothing= salvation. Hear the Word of the Lord: But some men came down from Judea and were teaching the brothers, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” The apostles and the elders were gathered together to consider this matter. And after there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, “Brothers, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us, and he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith. Now, therefore, why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.” (Acts 15:1,6-11)
Conduit, the two parables about the patch and new wine are making the point. You don’t put NEW THINGS in old patterns. The first parable says you don’t put a new patch on an old garment, and the second says you don’t put new wine into an old wineskin. In the first parable, if you put a new patch on an old garment, when the new patch shrinks due to washing, it will tear away from the older garment, making the tear worse. Similarly, new wine needs a new wineskin because as the new wine expands during the fermentation process, it stretches the wineskin. An old wineskin will burst under the pressure of new wine. These two parables illustrate the fact that you can’t mix old religious rituals with new faith in Jesus. Putting something NEW into something OLD can get us stuck in what God did in the past. WE can have a tendency to assume that the old method is the method moving forward and will always be his way moving forward. This is the message of Isaiah 43:18-19, I am doing A NEW THING. It is hard for God to do a NEW THING, when we are stuck IN OLD WAYS, old patterns, old belief systems, our limiting belief systems, our limited CON-SCIENCE. If God is doing something NEW and you are STUCK IN OLD patterns, methods, ways, habits….then it will bust open the wine skin…..the new wine is freshly fermented, its active….new wine skins soak in some of that active ingredients…they are made of animal skin, they can absorb…but after a while they start to dry out, the sun, the fermentation….makes them brittle and less amiable, rigid….so when the NEW WINE, that is active is into the old, dry, rigid skin…when it starts to expand…it cracks and leaks and is not able to be used as a cistern or a conduit! We become unusable! This is why the Wisdom of Solomon tells us to; Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths. (Proverbs 3:5-6) For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Let God and Let God do some NEW THINGS in you and for you!