Matt 9:14-16, Mk 2:18-22, Lk 5:33-39.
These past few weeks we’ve known God is speaking to us about becoming “new wineskins” so that we’re ready and available for his NEW. We don’t want the purposeful work he is doing in the earth during this time to just pass us by! We know we can’t do this transformational work that’s needed ourselves, it’s only God who can do it! And so we are asking, seeking, knocking and waiting.
In the days of Matthew, Mark and Luke, wine wasn’t kept in glass bottles. It was carried around in wineskins made from animal hide. (These days, in some countries animal hide, mainly goat, is still used for storing and carrying wine, oils or water).
Old wine can be re-poured again and again into old wineskins. It’s already been fully fermented and so it won’t break, burst and destroy the old hide. An old wineskin will keep surviving and being very useful for old wine to be poured into it.
But Jesus’ point in Matthew, Mark and Luke is all about the NEW. Luke tells the story a little more fully than the other two by including an extra sentence (v 39): “Nobody who’s been drinking the old straightaway wants the new, because he says the old is better.” (“You want to stay with the old and familiar; you like it and so you immediately don’t want to even consider the new way I’ve come to bring.”)
Jesus said these words to the Jews’ religious leaders of the day who believed they were upholding the truth, the right way. Now, Jesus had come to them personally as The Truth, the only way, but the epiphany passed them by completely because their mind was so set on the old, the familiar.
Jesus has come and given us Himself as the new way. If we stay close to him, be with him as his disciples were, agree to becoming a new wineskin, he will be giving us the NEW wine. If we stand apart, watch from a distance, hold to the old, we won’t be able to receive the new.
The old way the religious leaders were holding to was all about following God’s laws legislatively and strictly observing the many laws and traditions they themselves had added down through the centuries. We so easily fall back into this old way of thinking! We feel more secure in it if we don’t know the new way well. The new way Jesus was talking about is having God’s ways (which were presented originally to his people as commandments or laws), written into our hearts.
The old way was about obeying a task master. The new way is about following a bridegroom. The old adheres to laws. The new adheres to love.
The old way led to strict observances that satisfied self-righteousness. The new way takes us close to the One who continually shows us the purpose and meaning of the observances he originally commanded: that we must love him and love one another genuinely, with our whole being.
The old way didn’t grasp or follow God’s heart for people and the whole of his creation. The new way understands that his heart is for us, not against us.
We need to have spiritual ears and eyes that are open to what Jesus is saying: “taste and drink the new that I have for you”.
But a question hangs over all of this! What does the “new” mean for me, and us all, now? Is this a new, different Gospel? (Oh no, not at all!). Just as when Jesus first spoke about it, now for us the NEW begins with His Word being spoken to us, revealed to us. Our challenge is to be there listening, available and ready to hear it. His Word, whether soft or loud, like a small voice in the stillness or trumpeted, is always RELEVANT, CREATIVE, POWERFUL, ABLE TO DYNAMICALLY CHANGE situations and answer people’s needs. If we are listening, we will hear him telling us about it!
We so need to be hearing him, so that his Kingdom will come and his will is done in the world, as in Heaven.
The “new wine” Jesus was speaking about is ever-flowing, always continually being poured out, always available. Our part is to be containers that are always being made new, so that we are prepared and able to CARRY THE NEW he has for us, in whatever time and place we find ourselves.
For all of us the NEW is mostly spiritual. For some, it might mean big changes in our practical lives that require a lot of faith and wisdom. Some of us are more or less flexible or curious than others because of our nature or life experiences or spiritual giftings, or even our age. God understands the way we are. We just need to all be receiving his Spirit’s work within us to the degree that we can, allowing him to fashion us into the new wineskin he knows we need to become. And, we need to be understanding of each other. Some of us are walking new paths together. Some of us are branching out into totally new things, needing others to be there alongside, becoming new wineskins and tasting the new wine with us.
We are the beautiful, powerful Church of Jesus, his expression in the world. In this season the world is now in and coming into, we are its salt, its light; we’re Jesus’ hands and feet, heart and mind in the now. We need to try and get to know very well his new wine that’s been prepared for us… for the new things ahead that he’s been nudging or whispering to us about, or trumpeting into our spirits and souls.
And so we need this container of ours, this wineskin we are, to be a NEW one. For his glory, so that his will is done in the earth, as in Heaven, today and in this next season to come!