Mark 2:18-23 – New Wine, New Wineskins
Jesus’ new teaching would not fit into the old religious paradigms as Jewish tradition had earmarked seasons to fast for the promised rescue of Israel and for the coming Messiah and Jesus’ disciple’s did not follow the Pharisees lead. Here Jesus is telling his accusers something amazing. The Messiah has come. The Bridegroom is here now and this is the season for joy and feasting rather than for gloom and fasting. In just a few words, Jesus is revealing the promise of the whole Law in this one simple parable: The One you’ve looked for is here. The One you’ve fasted for is now among you and when he is taken away then it will be time to fast and mourn.
The cliché about old habits is true: they are hard to break – and they are even harder to let go of. New wine that is poured into used wineskins will eventually breakthrough the weakened walls of old wineskins as it becomes brittle over time. The smoke and heat from fires used to accelerate the aging process and the fermentation of the wine, as the gases stretch and expand the skin, requires a strong expandable skin.
Hearts and minds that are held captive to old paradigms and traditions will never voluntarily leave them. Such minds and hearts will never be able to hold new teaching that radically diverges and expands from the old and the new teaching threatens to burst through the walls of reason and passions of the old mind and heart. With Jesus’ message came the end of old traditions and faulty understandings over who God is and what he intended to do. For old hearts, the Gospel was simply too fantastic to grasp and hold onto. It was too explosive as its truths forced their way through the hard old cracks of brittle hearts and the rigid traditions held in aged minds until it burst through.
In the same way as old wineskins, no one sews a patch of new cloth onto an old coat. This is because when the old coat is washed the stronger new fabric will shrink and pull away from the older fabric of the coat. Eventually, the new patch will leave the damaged area worse off than before.
Jesus explained the effects of his teaching in very paradoxical terms. The Gospel makes hard hearts even harder and leaves them even more damaged than before. The Gospel fills new hearts with new wine that ages it to perfection.