Summary: Traditions and the word of God. Can traditions justify us before God.

The parable of the new cloth and new wine

Matthew 9:14-17; Mark 2:18-22; Luke 5:33-39

A tradition is a long-established custom or belief passed on from one generation to another (Oxford). Because of that, many traditions are good and necessary. Paul speaks several times of some traditions in such a positive manner. For example, Paul states in 1 Corinthians 11:2, Now I praise you because you remember me in everything and hold firmly to the traditions, just as I delivered them to you. Paul commends them for remaining steadfast regarding certain traditional beliefs and practices that he had taught them.

In 2 Thessalonians 2:15 Paul tells the brethren to stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or letter from us. In 2 Thessalonians 3:6 Paul is even stronger telling them to keep away from every brother who leads an unruly life and not according to the tradition which you received from us. Traditions that keep you focused on the word of God and help you to walk properly with the Lord are good.

However, even good traditions can lose their meaning. The reasons for them are often forgotten and lost so they are followed blindly simply because it is what is expected.

The tradition can end up replacing the word of God In Isaiah 29:13 the Lord rebuked the people because their worship had become rote tradition without meaning.

Jesus and His disciples continually confronted traditions that hindered and even blocked the true worship of God. Jesus rebuked the Pharisees and scribes because they often would neglect, or set aside and even invalidate the commandments of God by their man made traditions (Mark 7:3-13). In this study we will look into one the conflicts Jesus and His disciples had with traditions and how Jesus dealt with them.

In John 1:11, we read that the Word—the Creator God—came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. The gospel accounts provide ample evidence of this in Jesus’ frequent encounters with the Pharisees and other religious authorities of the day. In a well-worn pattern, the Pharisees question Him on every point possible, trying to find a fault.

One such exchange between Jesus and the Pharisees resulted in what is commonly called the Parable of the Cloth and the Wineskins. While found in all three synoptic gospels (Matthew 9:16-17; Mark 2:21-22; Luke 5:34-39), Luke’s version is the fullest:

Then He spoke a parable to them: “ “You can’t make the wedding guests fast while the groom is with them, can you? But the time will come when the groom will be taken away from them — then they will fast in those days.” He also told them a parable No one puts a piece from a new garment on an old one; otherwise the new makes a tear, and also the piece that was taken out of the new does not match the old. And no one puts new wine into old wine skins; or else the new wine will burst the wine skins and be spilled, and the wine skins will be ruined. But new wine must be put into new wine skins, and both are preserved. And no one, having drunk old wine, immediately desires new; for he says, ‘The old is better.’” Luke 5: 34-39.

While these examples are valuable in their own right, they do not stand on their own. If we were to begin here, it would be like coming in on the last part of a conversation; without understanding what led up to this, our comprehension will be spotty at best. Matthew, Mark, and Luke all put this parable at the end of a fairly lengthy record of Christ’s actions and the Pharisees’ objections (Matthew 9:1-17; Mark 2:1-22; Luke 5:17-39). His words here, then, are the summation and capstone of a much longer interaction.

His example of the bridegroom is clear enough on its own, except that a well-known Messianic prophecy speaks of Israel’s God as her Bridegroom (Isaiah 62:5) Jesus was already on the Pharisees’ bad list for telling a man that his sins were forgiven (Luke 5:23) and now He follows that up by referring to Himself as the Bridegroom!

Luke 5:35 is pivotal when it comes to understanding the parable that follows: “But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them; then they will fast in those days.” And Jesus replies to the question of the “people” in Luke 5: 33 in a series of contrasts between new and old. The parables Jesus expounds contains new and old clothing, new and old wineskins, and new and old wine. Christ as the “bridegroom” being taken away makes the “newness” possible, and once that “newness” is available, it is wholly incompatible with the old.

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