New Wine needs a New Wineskin
23rd August 2019
Last week we started to look at Jesus's response to this complaint:
He gave them three explanations. The first was:
And the second was:
We studied those last time. Jesus's third explanation was:
In those days, wine was kept in animal skins. You'd take the skin of a small animal, scrape off the fur, turn the skin inside out, sew it up, and pour the wine through the neck. Over time, a wineskin would become hard and brittle, but new wine continues to ferment, releasing gas. If you pour new wine into a wineskin, the wineskin will need to stretch, to expand, to contain this gas. A new wineskin could expand, but an old wineskin would break. So you didn't put new wine in old wineskins.
Jesus was saying you can't pour New Covenant life – New Testament life – Christian life – into Judaism. Judaism can't contain it. To try to contain Christianity within Judaism would result in Judaism being destroyed and Christianity being wasted.
And today, we can't pour Christian life, Biblical truth, godly ethics, spiritual power, revelation and discernment, into a non-Christian lifestyle.
You can try to live much the same way you did before you met Jesus. And, sadly, many Christians do, but it just makes you unhappy. Your non-Christian friends see you as unauthentic; you're not an authentic non-Christian, and you're not living like an authentic Christian. And the tension inside your own heart becomes unbearable. You're new wine in an old wineskin. The Holy Spirit within you puts a strain on the old way of talking and thinking and living, until one day it will burst.
You have two choices. You can suppress the Holy Spirit, stop reading your Bible, stop going to church meetings, stop praying (except in emergency, perhaps) to reduce the pressure. Or you can give up on your old lifestyle. You can accept that you were crucified with Christ, and live the rest of your life for Him, and know real peace, real joy, real fulfilment, real purpose, real relationship with God.
What's more important, the new wine, or the old wineskin?
Let go of the old way of thinking. Yield every thought, every idea, every desire, every ambition you've ever had, to Jesus Christ. And find true happiness.
While we're on the subject of new ideas, given by Jesus, let's think about this one:
God's new wine, God's new suit of clothes for you, includes living for God, of course. It also includes loving one another in the same way that Jesus loved us. Jesus gave His life for us, and we should be devoted to one another. This is the new life Jesus offers us – living in a church that's a community of believers, brothers and sisters in Christ, who accept each other, and serve and pray for each another. Is that better than our old way of living? Oh yes!
But Jesus warns us:
This applies to new Christians, but it also applies to those of us who've been Christians for a long time. We get used to the way we do things. We can become hard and brittle like an old wineskin. God wants to pour new wine into us, so we must be flexible. We must pray, "Lord, let me stay like a new wineskin. Don't let me become hard. Don't let me get set in my ways and resistant to change."
Does God want to do a new thing in your life, and in your church? If so, then both you and your church need to be flexible, to be willing to change. Does God want to pour new wine into your life and your church's life? Then you and your church need to be like new wineskins – flexible, soft, and able to expand to hold the new wine.
William Barclay's commentary on this passage, written in 1953, says:
"Don't," says Jesus, "let your mind become like an old wineskin. People say of wine,
'The old is better.' It may be at the moment, but they forget that it is a mistake to
despise the new wine, for the day will come when it has matured and it will be best of all."
The whole passage is Jesus' condemnation of the shut mind and a plea that men should not
reject new ideas.
Let's pray that God makes us open-minded, flexible, adaptable, so that we can handle the new thing He wants to do.
And one day, Jesus will make everything new:
So how are we going to live now? And how are we going to live for all eternity? It's our choice.