“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. 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.” Matthew 9:16-17
It is the newness of what Jesus has always been doing that can be difficult for people – for us – isn’t it? He has never been one to simply adjust or tweak what people have had all along. No, He comes to us bringing something entirely new that can only be embraced by those who have the “wineskins” to accept it. In the parable of the wineskins, what is the one certainty? There is new wine. The question is which kind of wineskin will receive it: used and already-stretched, or new and ready to grow? So it is with our Master Jesus. There is no question that He is bringing newness. The question for each person is whether they will be willing to receive it as the new thing that it is, or (futilely) try to force it to fit into an old model of thinking/living?
Those who try to take Jesus’ life and teaching and force it into pre-existing models of religion, philosophy, or ethics totally miss the truth of His life and teaching. They ruin the “wine” of what Jesus brings by denying its true uniqueness and power. They also ruin their “old wineskins” because trying to make a hybrid of Jesus’ ways and our old ways simply leads to the misery of trying to attain to impossibly high standards in human strength and willpower. What a mess!
The only way for Jesus’ disciples to truly thrive in a joyful life of power, confidence, and righteousness is for them to accept all that Jesus showed and told us as the entirely new things that really are: the way of an otherworldly kingdom that is invading. As those who have the Holy Spirit given to us, we are not called to just “try harder” to keep Jesus’ impossibly high ethic. That’s not the point at all. Rather, through the living Spirit who interacts and cooperates with us, we are free to have new hearts and minds (i.e. repentance) which are ready vessels for the new wine that the Master has come to bring. We are in the process of constantly being made new so that the kind of life He lived and described can become our way of life, too.
Don’t rely on old ideas and old models to help you make sense of your Master and stay true to Him, Disciple. Rely instead on the Spirit of the new way, taking risks and being bold in things you wouldn’t ever do under the old models of your own strength and willpower. You’re a part of something big, something exciting, and something new. No dull routines or lifeless rituals will ever enable us to keep up with the living Lord who is alive and doing a new thing!
Gratefully sharing with you in Jesus’ newness,