They said to him, “John’s disciples often fast and pray, and so do the disciples of the Pharisees, but yours go on eating and drinking.” Jesus answered, “Can you make the friends of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; in those days they will fast.”
Fasting was only required on the Day of Atonement, but the extremely religious would fast on other days as well. You could usually pick out the ones who were fasting. They made a really big deal out of it so that people would know they were fasting. If that is the kind of fasting you are doing, whose approval are you seeking?
He told them this parable: “No one tears a piece out of a new garment to patch an old one. Otherwise, they will have torn the new garment, and the patch from the new will not match the old.
If you use a patch from a new garment for the old one that has ripped, you ruin the new garment and the old garment. Think of a pair of jeans that has a big hole in it. Back when it used to not be okay to have holes in your jeans, you'd go to the store and get a patch kit. You could easily identify it. The color was always that new blue jean color and almost never matched the color of the jeans with the hole in it. Once you patched that hole, the jeans were ruined. They didn't look right at all.
And no one pours new wine into old wine-skins. Otherwise, the new wine will burst the skins; the wine will run out and the wine-skins will be ruined. No, new wine must be poured into new wine-skins. And no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for they say, ‘The old is better.’”
There is truth in what Jesus is saying here. If you pour new wine into old wine skins, when wine ferments, gases are let off and it expands. The old wine skin doesn't have room to expand. It is already as stretched out as it can go. Instead, it will crack and/or burst. The wine skin will be ruined and the new wine is lost. If you pour the new wine into the wine skin, it will expand with the wine as it ferments.
So, why is Jesus giving us a lesson on wine-making? You need to re-read this passage if that's all you think this is. This is a parable. That means the story teaches a lesson. So what is the lesson? Before Jesus tells the parable, he is saying that his disciples are not supposed to fast yet because He is still with them.
So, if we put the two concepts together, I believe there are two things to observe here.
1. If a new Christian suddenly has all these spiritual disciplines thrust on him (like fasting, devotionals, life groups, etc.), he will be overwhelmed. He may not feel like this new life is worth all the work. He will think that his old lifestyle wasn't so bad and he will return to it. In the context of the parable, he is still the old wine skin. All those spiritual disciplines are good, but they are the new wine. When you shove all those into the old wine skin, it bursts. The new Christian is overwhelmed by the yoke of all the things he should be doing. Instead of allowing the Holy Spirit to transform and recreate him, he abandons Christianity before he has understood what it means to be a new creation. Similarly, the disciples are not carrying the weight of these extra spiritual observances. They do not fully understand what they mean yet, but they will. Then doing these things will be acts of worship and joy and not acts of obligation.
2. People prefer to drink old wine. They just do. I have never really understood it myself, but it is not for me to judge. Suffice it to say, people love the aged wine. The newest wine is not looked on favorably. The same is true for the people of Jesus' time. The same is true of the religion of the time. People would rather follow the laws and the rules of the time than hear what Jesus has to say and to follow him. Nothing has changed today. They would much rather follow older religious ways. The question is why?
So what's the take-away from today's Scriptures?
Spiritual disciplines can be a great thing. Through prayer, fasting, devotionals, daily readings, and more, we can learn more about God. We can develop a better relationship with our Lord and Savior. For a new believer, this new lifestyle can be overwhelming, but it shouldn't be. People tried to force the yoke on new believers in the times of the apostles by saying they should be circumcised because that was tradition. Today, we should not require new believers to take on all these spiritual disciplines until they are ready for it.
You wouldn't give a toothless baby a steak, so why would you expect a baby Christian to chew on the substantial parts of the faith? No! They have to mature and grow into these things. The Spirit has to work a transformation in them. They have to desire these things. They have to be acts of worship so that they are worthy of God. Don't let these things just be acts of obligation. God deserves better from us than that.
Worship because He is worthy.
Worship because He did something in your life.