The Parable of the New Wine

The Parable of the New Wine

The Parable of the New Wine.

“No one puts new wine into old wineskins. For the new wine would burst the wineskins, spilling the wine and ruining the skins. New wine must be stored in new wineskins. But no one who drinks the old wine seems to want the new wine. ‘The old is fine,’ they say.” (Luke 5:37-39).

Back in 1st century Israel, of course, there were no glass bottles to store wine. Wine was kept in goatskins that were sewed around the edges to form watertight bags. Winemakers were well aware of the fact that new wine would expand as it fermented, which in turn would stretch the goatskin bag. By the time the wine had aged, the goatskin would have become rigid and stretched to the limit. Old wineskins were not pliable or flexible enough to keep new wine, and would burst if new wine were poured into it. New wineskins, though, were stretchable and pliable and would always be the safe choice if needing to store new wine.

Jesus’ little parable about new wine and old wineskins seem to suggest that Jesus was about to pour new wine, something brand new about to be produced, and that the old will not be able to contain it. What was Jesus trying to say with this parable?

Old Wine. The outdated teachings of Moses. Mosaic Law was good for its time, but were always meant to be temporary. The Law was limited to that particular time in Israel’s history. It reflected and involved a more hidden work of the Holy Spirit, and was waiting on tip-toes for the appearance of the Son of God to fully reveal the full Godhead in all His wonder and glory. The spirit of the Law needed to be fulfilled in the Spirit of Jesus. The teachings of Moses were aimed at external obedience and legal cleansing and ceremonial righteousness. The old wine of legalism could never make someone righteous at the heart level. With the coming of Christ, the teachings of Moses were no longer sufficient. The old wine was past its prime.

Old Wineskins. The old covenant, the worn-out traditions that needed to be fulfilled. The old covenant was too rigid, not pliable enough to contain the new wine of Jesus. The old system of animal sacrifice, ceremony and legal forgiveness was not able to contain the fresh movement of the Holy Spirit. Time has run out for the old covenant, the old wineskins could no longer be used. With the coming of Jesus it is now time to fulfill the prophecy of Jeremiah: “The day is coming,” says the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and Judah. This covenant will not be like the one I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand and brought them out of the land of Egypt. They broke that covenant, though I loved them as a husband loves his wife.” says the Lord. ” (Jeremiah 31:31-32). “If the first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no need for a second covenant to replace it.” (Hebrews 8:7).

New Wine. The teachings of Jesus Christ, with the fresh movement of the Holy Spirit. In the fulness of time, Jesus fulfilled Moses. This new spiritual movement reveals the Good News of forgiveness that is free from a external dependence on ceremony; a redemption free from animal sacrifice; a reconciliation with God free from reliance on a physical building. Yesterday’s good news of Moses is now completed in the brand new Good News of Jesus. Moses and the Law were not ends in themselves, they were a holy shadow that pointed to the reality of Jesus. “I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. And I will put my spirit in you so that you will follow my decrees and be careful to obey my regulations.” (Ezekiel 36:26-27). ” Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the Law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No. I came to accomplish their purpose.” (Matthew 5:17).

New Wineskins. The new covenant that contains the new wine of Jesus’ teachings and the work of the Holy Spirit. This is the “law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2) completing the law of Moses. This is the new, revised Faith that contains the eternal promises of God in Christ. This new life in Christ which produces a new kind of righteousness that doesn’t depend on external ceremony but on the internal work of the Spirit. The new life in Jesus involves a transformed heart, not mere legal compliance. The new wineskin is pliable enough to contain the new movement of God, the new righteousness, the new life in Christ. The new completes and fulfills the old. This new wine must be put into the new wineskin of Christ. “This is the new covenant I will make with the people of Israel in those days,” says the Lord. “I will put my instructions deep within them, and I will write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.” (Jeremiah 31:35).

New Creature. “But no one who drinks the old wine seems to want the new wine. ‘The old is just fine,’ they say.” (Luke 5:39). Jesus anticipated the stiff resistance of the legalistic Pharisees, and by extension all of us, and our experience when confronted with the new kind of righteousness, the new  movement of the Holy Spirit. Many will find it difficult to accept the new covenant in Christ. Many are not looking for a replacement of the old. Many will resist being transformed into a new creature. Many will not want to give up the Old Self, the sinful life of the Old Self. Many find comfort in what has been experienced, in the old way of doing things. The human heart is stubborn and resistent to anything new, especially if it costs something, if it means changing something about yourself. But if the old is obsolete and incomplete, it makes sense to take a deep breath and accept the new life in Christ, who sitting on the throne says, “Behold, I make all things new. Consider this! I am making everything to be new and fresh. In fact, I will be making the whole of creation new!” (Revelation 21:5).

Going Further:

  1. How can one determine if something new is actually a good thing?
  2. The teachings of Moses were meant to be temporary, completed by the teachings of Jesus. Do you think Moses and Jesus talked about that on the mount of Transfiguration? (Mark 9:4).
  3. Have you ever been guilty of missing out on something new and good because you were stuck with the old and more comfortable with the familiar? It’s easy to do, isn’t it?
  4. The Holy Spirit transforms the heart, which is something the old covenant could never do. Is the idea of your heart undergoing change a scary thought? Is it good news or bad news?