Jesus’ simultaneously attacked the religious authorities’ misconceptions of Scripture while explaining his disciple’s behavior. Fasting is by no means evil, yet like everything, there is an appropriate time and place for it. With Jesus alive and at work among them, now was not the time for mourning. Now was the time to learn and understand the true meaning of fasting – what it should point to and what it represented. There would plenty of time for the disciples to fast following Jesus’ departure and there would be plenty to mourn.
The old paradigm that the religious elites operated under was not based on Scripture but the world. The world follows a work, earn, reward system, but Jesus’ system is to rest, receive and enjoy.
Jesus’ way was a complete shift away from the old traditions and faulty perceptions of salvation through the Law. And with him came clarity and understanding. He revealed that the way of salvation was through him – by faith in his name. And more importantly, Jesus warned these religious hypocrites that their paradigm was holding them hostage, holding them back from truly seeing the goodness and greatness of God.
Old wineskins become hard and brittle with age. Over time, a wineskin becomes warped as the once new wine expands and ferments and causes the skin to stretch. The old wineskins cannot accept new wine anymore than old and hardened hearts can accept Jesus’ new teaching.
Jesus’ teaching threatened everything. It threatened the religious professional’s understanding of old traditions that enabled them to control the people and exert influence over their Roman captors. It threatened their lifelong understandings of Scripture that saw them as the ushers of a new kingdom and leaders of new military superpower. Jesus’ teaching demanded humility and kindness, even before one’s enemies. It commanded love and respect even to Gentiles. It demands that deep seated hatreds not just set aside but removed – no matter the cost or inconvenience.
If we would ever become new wineskins, we will need new hearts to receive Christ’s new perspective. This counter-cultural, other worldly view on life, can not be held with a heart that is conditioned to love the world. In order to have eternal life, we will need the ability to believe the truth of who Jesus really is and what he has done for us. So the warning to us is simple and plain: Our old ways will not earn or bring us salvation because salvation cannot be earned. Only through Jesus can a new, fresh way be embraced, which is to learn from him and to depend on him for everything.