33 They said to him, “John’s disciples often fast and pray, and so do the disciples of the Pharisees, but yours go on eating and drinking.”
34 Jesus answered, “Can you make the friends of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? 35 But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; in those days they will fast.”
36 He told them this parable: “No one tears a piece out of a new garment to patch an old one. Otherwise, they will have torn the new garment, and the patch from the new will not match the old.
37 And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the new wine will burst the skins; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. 38 No, new wine must be poured into new wineskins. 39 And no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for they say, ‘The old is better.’” (Luke 5:33-38)
The Pharisees were stuck in the old and could not envision the new. Under the Law (the Old Covenant), you would bring a sacrificial animal to the priest so you would have a temporary covering or patching up of your sins. But you remained conscious of your sinfulness and knew you would have to bring another animal again in order to patch things up with God. That was the pattern. This would happen over and over and over again.
The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship. 2 Otherwise, would they not have stopped being offered? For the worshipers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins. 3 But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins. 4 It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. (Heb. 10:1-3)
Jesus didn’t come to patch or cover something up. He didn’t come to fix the old, He came to bring in the new. He didn’t come to alter you or repair you, He came to totally transform you. The High Priest would come every year on the Day of Atonement to stand in the gap for us. But, Jesus is the eternal High Priest who brought eternal forgiveness, peace, and life to those who receive Him.
Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13 and since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool. 14 For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy. (Heb. 10:11-14)
This parable speaks of how people resist the new. We don’t like to change. We get stuck in our old routine and habits. The Israelites were set free from their bondage in Egypt and yet while God was leading them in the wilderness towards a new, wonderful, promise land they wanted to go back to the old, even though it truly was bondage. So then, the disciples of John and the disciples of the Pharisees could not understand why Jesus did things differently than they did. Why the change? Why the new way? There is nothing wrong with fasting. Fasting is good. But they were asking the wrong question. Jesus wasn’t coming to approve of our practices and put His stamp of approval on our works or ways, He came to bring in a new order of things. Without His perfect and eternal sacrifice, there would be no new and living way.
Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. (Heb. 10:19-23)
The focus must not be on what works we can do to patch things up with God, it must be on the One who can make all things new. We can’t get right with God by our good works. The old wineskins speak then of how we attempted to get right with God through our own works (under the Law). The first covenant was good but we did not remain faithful to God. That is why there had to be new wineskins (a new covenant) and new wine (an actual filling of our vessels with the Holy Spirit). The guilt is with us. We were trying to pour new wine into old wineskins. We are trying to do it without Jesus! So God had mercy on us.
For if there had been nothing wrong with that first covenant, no place would have been sought for another. 8 But God found fault with the people and said:
“The days are coming, declares the Lord,
when I will make a new covenant
with the people of Israel
and with the people of Judah.
9 It will not be like the covenant
I made with their ancestors
when I took them by the hand
to lead them out of Egypt,
because they did not remain faithful to my covenant,
and I turned away from them,
declares the Lord.
10 This is the covenant I will establish with the people of Israel
after that time, declares the Lord.
I will put my laws in their minds
and write them on their hearts.
I will be their God,
and they will be my people. (Heb. 8:7-10).
So now, we are new wineskins (the very temples of God), filled with new wine (the very Spirit of God). And this was all done by the sacrifice of Jesus. This is how we can serve God acceptably and know that we are truly transformed!
You can’t put new wine into old wineskins!