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

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?

New Wine in Old Wineskins - An image of rose wine in a glass on a tray with a peach background

 

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. 

Mark 2:15-17

While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?”

On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” NIV

 

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

Jesus answered, “How can the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? They cannot, so long as they have him with them. But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them, and on that day they will fast. NIV

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 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.” ESV

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!

 

 

This 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:

And no one after drinking old wine desires new, for he says, ‘The old is good’. ESV

 

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 hadn’t had years and years of Torah law to overcome to 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 was born in a stable, came lowly, riding on a donkey, and became the Passover sacrifice once and for all for their sins.

 

You see Jesus could pour new wine into this new wineskin because it wasn’t worn and torn by religion. It wasn’t eroded by the idea of atonement for one’s own sins by sacrifice year after year. And 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.

 

Yes new wine in old wineskins would cause the destruction of the old way of a sacrificial system!

 

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! It was the idea that God Himself would put on flesh and dwell among people!

 

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 was held in higher regard than even the Word of God!

Luke 24:25-27:

And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. ESV

 

Jesus brought new wine that the old wineskins could not contain. The old was good! But Jesus brought the new way! He WAS the new way!

 

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. 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!

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Some other posts like ‘New Wine in Old Wineskins’ you might enjoy:

GRAFTED IN MEANING – JEW AND GENTILE, ONE IN MESSIAH

THE FOUR CUPS OF PASSOVER – LEARNING ABOUT THE JEWISH ROOTS

FAITHFUL OBEDIENCE TO GOD – LECH LECHA AND TRUSTING IN GOD

 

Scripture quotations are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Scriptures taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™

 

 

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

  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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