New Wine in Old Wineskins - An image of red wine being poured into a glass
Spiritual Growth - Living a Life of Faith

New Wine in Old Wineskins – Eating With “Lowly” Sinners

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Many of us have read in the Gospel about Jesus’ run in with the Pharisees over the subject of His disciples not fasting. Jesus responds with a story of patches on garments and new wine in old wineskins. What was Jesus referring to when he gave these responses to the criticism of the religious elite?

An image of a pink wine bottle with a gold band around it and a pink powder coated wineglass and text that says New Wine and Old Wineskins - Eating With "Lowly Sinners"

Eating With Sinners

Jesus was a guest at dinner. He was eating at a tax collector named Levi’s home, surrounded by other tax collectors and sinners, as well as His disciples. 

The Pharisees were astonished at this and questioned why this Rabbi would eat with lowly sinners. 

Yes, Yeshua was a Jewish Rabbi and, like many Rabbis, he had disciples or students. John the Baptist also had disciples as did many of the Pharisees. Hillel and Shammai being two examples (I will say more about them later).

These Rabbis would serve as an example for their students, who would often live with them and serve them much as an apprentice does. 

So these Pharisees were likely questioning why this Rabbi Yeshua would teach his students to do such things.

Mark 2:15-17

“Now it happens that Yeshua was reclining at the table in Levi’s house, and many tax collectors and sinners were reclining with Yeshua and His disciples. For there were many, and they were following Him.  

When the Torah scholars of the Pharisees saw Him eating with sinners and tax collectors, they began to say to His disciples, “With tax collectors and sinners He eats?”

And when He heard this, Yeshua said to them, “Those who are healthy have no need for a doctor, but those who are sick do. I did not come to call the righteous, but the sinful.” TLV

These Pharisees do not represent ALL Pharisees. The Pharisees were good, learned men. These Pharisees were of the House of Shammai, which tended to be more confrontative and less “graceful” in their interactions, such as the House of Hillel which it often was at odds with (Hillel usually won out on matters of interpretation of the law).

But this was not enough to send the critics of Jesus on their way. Once Jesus shuts down this argument, the people move on to another.

The People Question Jesus on Fasting

They ask Jesus why it is that the Pharisees’ followers fast and John’s followers fast and yet Jesus’ do not.

Mark 2:19-20 says

“And Yeshua said to them, “The guests of the bridegroom cannot fast while the bridegroom is with them, can they?

As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. But the days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in that day.”TLV

New Wine in Old Wineskins - a likeness of Jesus' feet walking through the sand with a quote from Mark 2

New Patches on Old Garments & New Wine in Old Wineskins

Then Jesus continues, in Mark 2:21-22

“No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. Otherwise the patch pulls away from the old, and a worse tear happens.

And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the wine will burst the skins; and the wine is lost, also the skins. But one puts new wine into fresh wineskins.” TLV

What did Jesus mean when He referred to new wine in old wineskins?

Let’s take a look and see!

New Wine in Old Wineskins

Many people think this refers to the New Covenant replacing the Old Covenant and grace replacing law or Christianity replacing Judaism. But that is not the case. Why?

Well the first and most obvious reason is Jesus was a Jew. He did not come to form a new religion. His followers were all Jews. There was no “conversion” to Christianity. In fact there WAS no Christianity at that time! 

That’s right! Yeshua’s talmidim, his disciples, were Torah observant Jews! 

So this was not about a new way replacing the old! Yeshua kept Torah all his life!

This idea of Christianity replacing Judaism or the New Covenant replacing the Old as opposed to joining with it is a tenet of Replacement Theology that has no place in the church. 

The other issue lies in Luke’s account. Jesus ends, in Luke 5:39:

“Besides that, after drinking old wine, people don’t want new; because they say, ‘The old is good enough.’” CJB

So Jesus is stating here that the old is good! He is saying after having the old no one desires the new! So Jesus’ own words eliminate that theory of it being either the law or Judaism He is referring to.

New Wine in Old Wineskins - An image of red wine being poured into a glass

Old Wine in New Wineskins – You Can’t Teach an Old Dog New Tricks

We have all heard the saying that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. 

It is this same theory that Jesus is speaking of.

You see, what Jesus is saying is related to what was going on prior to this whole engagement. This same chapter speaks about Jesus calling his disciples.

He called Peter and He called Levi in this same chapter. Peter, a fisherman. Levi a tax collector.

These were not learned men of the day. They likely had some minimal education in Torah growing up as most young Jewish boys did, but they certainly were not educated like the Pharisees and Sadducees. 

You see, they were teachable!

They could embrace this idea of grace! They weren’t sitting in the Temple courts waiting for a Messiah who would free them from Roman rule and govern with the religious elite by his side!

They weren’t jaded by the idea that their Messiah could possibly be born in a stable, coming lowly, riding on a donkey as prophesied.

You see Yeshua could pour new wine into this new wineskin because it wasn’t worn and torn by religion. It wasn’t stagnant with the idea of what the elite taught the Messiah would be.

Have you ever had a parent tell you as a child that you were too smart for your own good? That’s old wineskins.

And the old is good!

They wanted to hang onto their ideals. They liked their IDEA of their Messiah better than the one in front of them. It was good. And when we hold onto something good so hard we are often reluctant to receive something better.

And while the old IS good, they hung everything onto it so that they couldn’t see the Messiah when He stood right in front of them. They (the religious elite) rejected Yeshua because he didn’t fit what they expected. THEY would be the ones to determine the Messiah after all.

New Wine in Old Wineskins – A New Teaching 

Jesus brought a new teaching! It was a radical teaching and one the religious men of the day were not ready to embrace! 

They knew the Shema!

Shema Yisrael! Adonai Eloheinu, Adonai echad!

Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is ONE!

How could a God who is one be enthroned in Heaven and yet also walk the earth in dusty sandals?

Only new wineskins can hold new wine!

The Pharisees thought themselves so smart, so educated, that their opinions of what God should look like and what Mashiach would look like was held in higher regard than even the Word of God!

Luke 24:25-27:

“He said to them, “Foolish people! So unwilling to put your trust in everything the prophets spoke!

Didn’t the Messiah have to die like this before entering his glory?”

Then, starting with Moshe and all the prophets, he explained to them the things that can be found throughout the Tanakh concerning himself.” ESV

Jesus brought a new wine that the old wineskins could not contain. The old was good! But the Messiah brought about a concept of atoning grace.

This new way meant all are called…the righteous AND the “lowly” sinner! He didn’t choose the high and mighty to be his followers, but the plain and ordinary.

He didn’t choose the Pharisees. He didn’t choose the Sadducees. He chose a foul mouthed fisherman. He chose a tax collector.

It was the new that upset the status quo of the old. They could not let go to receive this most wonderful of gifts…grace!

Have you ever been so attached to the good that you failed to let go to receive better? Share in the comments!

 

CJB – Taken from the Complete Jewish Bible by David H. Stern. Copyright © 1998. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Messianic Jewish Publishers, 6120 Day Long Lane, Clarksville, MD 21029. www.messianicjewish.net.

Tree of Life (TLV) – Scripture taken from the Holy Scriptures, Tree of Life Version*. Copyright © 2014,2016 by the Tree of Life Bible Society.  Used by permission of the Tree of Life Bible Society.

16 Comments

  1. “And when we hold onto something good so hard we are often reluctant to receive something better.” Good point, Diane. May I be willing to let go of the good that I know to reach out for the best in Christ!

  2. Diane,
    Thank you for the clarification on the old/new wine skins. Oh that I would always have a teachable heart and not want to just settle for “good” when I can have the “best.” Thanks that Jesus came so that we could have life and have it abundantly.
    Advent blessings,
    Bev xx

  3. I love stopping by here and learning more about God’s word. Thank you. Yes, I have hung on many times to what is good and missed what is better. I might be doing that right now. Heading to God in prayer. Maree

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