11th February 2019

Old and New Cloth and Wineskins

“But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear.”
Matthew 13:16 (NRSV)

In these days of non-shrink fabrics and glass bottles, the illustration about cloth and wineskins that Jesus used in Matthew 9:14-17 might be a bit confusing. The people of Judea in the first century AD did not have pre-shrunk cloth for their clothing, and they kept liquids, especially wine, in skins. These were made of goatskins, sewn up with the hair on the outside, unfortunately these containers would, over a period of time grow old, brittle and in need of replacing.

As you read this section of Matthew’s gospel you’ll see that Jesus was answering a question from the disciples of John the Baptist (verse 14), who asked—“Why do we and the Pharisees fast often, but your disciples do not fast?” So, he gave two illustrations; telling them, “If a woman sewed a patch of new cloth on an old garment, the next time it was washed the patch would shrink and ruin the patch and the garment. Similarly, if new wine was stored in old wineskins which are brittle and dry, the pressure of the gas from the fermentation would burst the skin and the new wine would be lost!”

In other words, you can’t mix the old and the new. He didn’t come to patch up the old, rigid Jewish religion. He came to fulfil it in his life, teaching, death and resurrection; He transformed the old by fulfilling it in the new. And so he tells them; “Put new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved!” And for why? Because new wineskins are flexible and supple and can easily cope with the new wine as it ferments and expands their minds. He is, of course talking about two groups of people, one group cannot comprehend this new teaching because their minds are rigid and inflexible, the other group accept this new truth gladly and their lives are changed.

Jesus came to do things and teach in a new and dynamic way. He was a Transformer and brought good news; the news that people—all people—could come to the Father, through himself. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life! The trouble with the Pharisees, and I guess the disciples of John the Baptist, was that their minds were so inflexible, that they could not accept the “new wine” that Jesus preached—they simply couldn’t adjust to new ideas. It’s been said that our minds are like parachutes, they function better when they’re open! Jesus does not just come to patch up our lives but to completely transform them from within—are you up for that? I hope so.

Thank you, Father, for eyes that see and ears that hear your Good News.

Study by Cliff Neill


About the Author:
Cliff Neill is an Elder in Grace Communion Church Luton.

Local Congregation:
Grace Communion Church Luton
Farley Hill Methodist Church
North Drift Way
Farley Hill

Meeting Time:
Saturday 10:30am

Local Congregational Contact:
Harry Sullivan
Phone: 01908-582222
Email: harry_sullivan@wcg.org.uk

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