Today, I want us to look at a familiar parable that is told to us in Matthew, Mark and Luke. The parable refers to patching up an old garment and to putting new wine into old wineskins. For the people of that day and time, these points were very familiar. If you tore your old coat or shirt or dress you did not go buy a new one. The majority of people, especially the common and poor people which Jesus preached to the most, would just patch the one they had. Everyone understood that concept. Similarly, wine was common as a drink. Wine was probably the second most popular drink after water to everyone in that area where Jesus was talking. They did not have soda or pop as some call it. The drinking, storage, sale, and transport of wine or the fruit of the vine was very, very common. Let’s look at our focus passage for today.
Matthew 9:16-17 (NIV)
16) 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.
What was Jesus trying to tell His audience and what was it that those with eyes to see and ears to hear were to understand then and today?
Remember whom Jesus clashed with the most during His ministry. He was constantly at odds with the religious of the time, the Pharisees and Sadducees. These groups were the keepers of the “old” religion, all of the traditions of men which they had created from the Law of Moses. Jesus had come preaching something “new” and different. He was explaining the intent and purpose of the law given to Moses. The law was not about outward traditions but rather, about what is inside each person, our spirit, our true heart. Both of these parables speak of something old trying to be mixed with something new. He is saying that mixing old and new will not work. Jesus did not come to fix or patch up the old religion or the old life. He came to bring in something totally new and so much better.
There were obviously some religious leaders of that day that were opposed to Jesus because He did not come from their traditional schools. He also did not dress as them, nor many other things that they expected. There were others though that could not help but be amazed at what this roaming rabbi was teaching and of His understanding of the Word of God. This latter group, the group we may think is “okay”, hoped for some type of compromise between what they were accustomed to and had been taught for generations. There was life in what Jesus was teaching and they wanted to add this life to what they had been teaching for centuries. Jesus though, with this parable, refutes totally this concept of compromise between their old religious practices and the new He had come to earth to introduce. Jesus was not addressing those that were totally rejecting Him by sharing this parable. He was addressing these seemingly “okay”, good and interested people, who wanted to compromise or combine the old religion with the new, an old life with a new one.
Let’s explore some of the ways this parable, first told by Jesus some 2000 years ago, applies to us today in 2022.
First, when Christ comes into you, He does not come to live “on top of or in addition to” your old life and practices. He makes you new. You are to drop the old. This can happen quickly but for most of us, it takes some time (the shorter the better). The process of dropping those things you struggled with is aided by the one the Father sent after Jesus ascended back to the Father – the Holy Spirit. We also have other brothers and sisters in Christ to come along side us to help us remove our grave clothes, clothes that can often stink as though we have been dead for four days. If that were not enough, we also have Jesus Himself, still interceding for us before the Father (Romans 8:34, Hebrews 7:25, 1 John 2:1). The old sins and old way of life will not mix with this new life that Jesus came to bring to you. Mixing them will only spoil both. You will not personally experience the peace and joy God intends for you by constantly mixing your old self and new creation self. The new garment you tore a hole in will be spoiled and the old garment will continue to tear where the new cloth is sewn into it. The old wineskins have already stretched to the max with the fermentation of wine after multiple uses. The new wine will ferment causing the already stretched wineskin to split and you then lose the wine and the wineskin. Just as with the garment, both are spoiled.
In our lesson on “The Hebrews” in early October 2020, we explored the meaning of that word that first appears in our Bibles and is applied to Abraham in Genesis 14:13. The term “Hebrew” means “one who has crossed over”. Abraham crossed over the Euphrates from the land of idol worshipers and his old life and “never returned there”. His son Isaac never journeyed there either. Later the Hebrews crossed over the Red Sea, led by Moses, as they fled the idolatrous nation of Egypt where they had been enslaved for 400 years. Then they crossed over the Jordan River into God’s promised land, led by Joshua. Many kept wanting to go back. Joshua stood in front of the entire congregation of Israel and said, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord”. Joshua never went back; he did not even look back as others did. God gives us another example of where we should not go back or even look back. God sent two angels to rescue Lot, his wife, and two daughters from Sodom & Gomorrah before He destroyed those wicked cities. The angels basically drug them out of the city. Lot’s wife though, “looked back” seeing the destruction and lamenting or desiring some parts of her old life (Genesis 19:26). If you remember that story, her end was not good.
When God delivers us from our old way of life through salvation, He expects us to cross over from our old way of life into a new. His saving grace has delivered you. We are not to straddle the river. We are not to jump back and forth. We are not to even look back. We are to live totally in this new land which He has placed us in, enjoying the new life He has gifted us with. Your old and new will not mix. Trying to do so will only frustrate you and keep you from living the joyous and fulfilled life He has in store for you as one of His children. Salvation is not a patching up of your old life. Salvation and the subsequent Christian life are wearing an entirely new robe of righteousness (Isaiah 61:10 and 2 Corinthians 5:21). You are literally a new creation, reconciled unto the Father Himself through Christ.
Second, Jesus is once and for all refuting any notion of a compromising religion. Many people down through the centuries and still today, want us to combine what is considered the best of our religion with the religion of others to make a larger, more open religion that is appealing to all. Those that teach this and plead for this may have sincere hearts and may be doing their best to be peacemakers but they miss a key point of the Gospel. Some say that Christianity is “inclusive” and open to all. Others say it is “exclusive”. When Jesus Himself proclaimed that, “no man cometh unto the Father except by Me” (John 14:6), and when He said that, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day”(John 6:44), was He being inclusive or exclusive? When Peter preached as recorded for us in Acts 4:12 and stated, “there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved,” does that sound inclusive or exclusive? We know Jesus also said, “come unto Me all ye that labor and I will give you rest”, but if you look at that verse closely, it is really stating you must first come to Jesus and then, through Him alone, you will receive that rest. Jesus did call us to be peacemakers but He did not call us to compromise His Word or His message – “the Gospel of Jesus Christ which alone is the power unto salvation” (Romans 1:16). We can still allow people to first “belong”, coming alongside them to help them, loving them and sharing Christ with them while the Spirit leads them to “belief in the Son”, but we cannot and must not compromise the heart of the Word of God, Jesus Christ.
This new religion Jesus brought was to be written on people’s hearts. The Spirit of God would never again dwell in the glorious temple in Jerusalem as the Jewish Pharisees Jesus is talking to desired. The Spirit of God would now dwell in the hearts of the believers, those that follow Him as their Lord. The temple in Jerusalem, along with the practice of blood sacrifices, was totally destroyed in AD70 as Jesus had prophesied in Matthew 24. Jesus saw to it that those old practices could never be mixed with this new work He had commissioned and began by dying on the cross. He had all of it destroyed, even the genealogical records for the people of Israel. Those records were critical because you had to be certified as from the tribe of Levi to be a priest. Those records are forever gone. We have only one priest, the one who is a priest forever referring back to the three verses stated earlier (Romans 8:34, Hebrews 7:25, 1 John 2:1). That priest is Jesus Christ. His Spirit dwells in each and every believer. This Spirit came to bring “new life”, “abundant life”.
You may feel like your Christian life is a funeral or a famine. If so, ask yourself whether you are looking back, whether you are trying to go back. I am not saying we won’t feel down at times such as going through the loss of a loved one. Those times are not what I am referring to. God will bring you out of those back to the joyous life He desires you to live. Your Christian life is supposed to be a feast or banquet. The only one who can make that kind of difference in your life is Jesus Christ.
Praise Him today and thank Him for the glorious riches He has bestowed upon you. Stick with Him. Drop the old. Don’t mix old and new. Don’t straddle the creek or river. Don’t jump back and forth. Don’t live on one side on Sunday but the other side Monday through Saturday. Don’t live on one side during the day and the other side at night. Dwell on the right side, the side where Jesus dwells, every day. Dwell in the land of promise, not the land of death and destruction. Dwell with Him!
Next week – The Gardener.