33 And they said to him, “The disciples of John fast often and offer prayers, and so do the disciples of the Pharisees, but yours eat and drink.”34 And Jesus said to them, “Can you make wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? 35 The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in those days.” 36 He also told them a parable: “No one tears a piece from a new garment and puts it on an old garment. If he does, he will tear the new, and the piece from the new will not match the old. 37 And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the new wine will burst the skins and it will be spilled, and the skins will be destroyed. 38 But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins. 39 And no one after drinking old wine desires new, for he says, ‘The old is good.’” On a Sabbath, while he was going through the grainfields, his disciples plucked and ate some ears of corn, rubbing them in their hands. 2 But some of the Pharisees said, “Why are you doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath?” 3 And Jesus answered them, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, he and those who were with him: 4 how he entered the house of God and took and ate the bread of the Presence,which is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and also gave it to those with him?” 5 And he said to them, “The Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.”
A wineskin needs to change and adapt. To accommodate the fermenting of the grapes that it holds, it needs to change and adapt. Wineskins that had dried out and ceased to be pliable would split and burst with new wine. Jesus brings teaching that is not about performance and rule-keeping, it is about love and relationship. As he interprets the laws of the Old Testament he communicates that their purpose was not to wrap people up in rules so they could be sure they had God placated, the rules were made to define sanctification: a holiness where God sets people apart for life-giving relationship.
In our society there are still those in churches who are driven by fear and a desire to control. They are not free in the way they approach God an each other. They have established patterns that are calcified. For years they have numbed the soul into submission and they can not bear the pain of opening up a heart that has frozen itself for survival and preservation. Can such a faith hold the life that Jesus brings? Can a faith that never walks into change be a genuine faith? We come to God with an unclean heart and we are given a new one. The new heart informs all that we do and begins to change our approach to self, family, friends and work. Someone who resists God, hides from God, and secretly hates God can not be successful in receiving the grace and the growth that God brings.
Open yourself to God’s grace but be willing for painful changes as you expand to develop the capacity to contain the love of God.
There are places I don’t know how to be flexible. I have patterns of pain and isolation that are calcified. I can blame others or I can let you fill me. Make me a new wineskin and show me how to hold new wine.
- Over which issues were the Pharisees rigid?
- What was their motivation for being inflexible?
- How does Jesus’ response challenge them?
- Over what issues are you stuck or unwilling to change?
- How does Jesus challenge you to be a new wineskin?