Summary: Jesus came to initiate a New Covenant, not to improve the Old Covenant. Jesus comes to give us new life, not to change our old life.
The first summer we were here (which was 2002) we were driving a 1987 Subaru wagon with about 175,000 miles on it. It started having some problems, and we realized that it needed more money to repair it than the car was worth – so we started to talking to a car dealer friend in Oregon about trading it in – which we ended up doing and getting a car 10 years newer, which we are still driving happily today.
I don’t know much about engines, but I know that with my old Subaru wagon I could put the pedal to the metal and it would slowly gain speed. The 1996 wagon had a whole new type of engine in it, and it immediately surprised me with it’s responsiveness and ability to get moving from a stop or climb a hill and stay at the speed limit!
I COULD have just had the mechanic keep working on that old Subaru wagon, tinkering with the engine to try and get better performance out of it – but the truth is it NEVER would have matched the performance of the new style engine and the improved technology it included.
The same principle holds true in computers. An old computer can do certain things well, but when new technology is available you can’t make it work on the old one – what you need is a new system to take advantage of the new technology.
As we continue interacting with the parables of Jesus, today we’re going to hear him talking about this same principle. He’s going to tell us that what we need from him is not some tinkering with the “technology” of our selves, what we need is a brand new life. And he’ll use a couple of very interesting metaphors – that of cloth and wineskins.
Luke 5:33-39 (NLT)
33 One day some people said to Jesus, “John the Baptist’s disciples fast and pray regularly, and so do the disciples of the Pharisees. Why are your disciples always eating and drinking?”
34 Jesus responded, “Do wedding guests fast while celebrating with the groom? Of course not. 35 But someday the groom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast.”
What’s going on here? Jesus was being criticized because his followers were not following the traditional ways of Judaism in the discipline of fasting. The religious Jews thought the followers of Jesus, and Jesus himself, were not paying enough attention to the traditions of Judaism, and decided to find out what he would say.
First he says “fasting is for sad times” – “while I’m here it is not a time for fasting!” But then he moves on from that simple response to teach them (and us) something a bit more profound.
Luke 5:36-39 (NLT)
Then Jesus gave them this illustration: “No one tears a piece of cloth from a new garment and uses it to patch an old garment. For then the new garment would be ruined, and the new patch wouldn’t even match the old garment.
37 “And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. For the new wine would burst the wineskins, spilling the wine and ruining the skins. 38 New wine must be stored in new wineskins. 39 But no one who drinks the old wine seems to want the new wine. ‘The old is just fine,’ they say.”
What is Jesus talking about here?
The metaphor about the cloth is not too difficult for us to understand. When Ryan goes around on his knees and he rips holes in the knees of his pants, occasionally we need to put a patch on it so we can avoid buying new jeans so quickly. We usually get an iron on deal – but imagine if we just took a brand new piece of denim and carefully sewed it on around the hole. After a few washings that patch would get all scrunched up as it shrank, causing the jeans to rip even more as Ryan played in them.
The metaphor of the wineskins, is very foreign to us, however, since today we make wine in barrels. So let me give you a quick lesson on wine making in Ancient Palestine, because it will help us understand better what Jesus was talking about.
The image of wineskins that Jesus uses in his parable is foreign to our culture. The only leather wine container we can imagine is the tear-shaped leather bota that Spaniards use to carry wine and squirt it into their mouth. But that is very unlike the wineskin Jesus refers to.
Wine was made by treading barefoot on the grapes in a wine press, a square or circular pit hewn out of the rock, or dug out and lined with rocks and sealed with plaster. The juice then flowed through a channel into a lower vessel, a winevat which functioned as a collecting and fermenting container for the grape juice.