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The Parable of the New Cloth and New Wine

He told them this parable: “No one tears a piece out of a new garment to patch an old one. Otherwise, they will have torn the new garment, and the patch from the new will not match the old. And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the new wine will burst the skins; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, new wine must be poured into new wineskins. And no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for they say, ‘The old is better.’”

Luke 5:36-39

Jesus told this parable as a response to his disciples asking him why the disciples of the Pharisees often fast and pray, as do John’s disciples but we go on eating and drinking” (vs. 33). This refers back to Levi holding a great banquet for Jesus at his house. Jesus was the honoured guest. He was the new in the old house, but that old house has changed because of Jesus.

Thus in Jesus reply, “Can you make the guests of the bridegroom fast when he is with them?” The answer is no. There should be eating and drinking to celebrate the presence of the bridegroom, not sadness. In verse 35, Jesus does say that one day, the guests will fast when the bridegroom is taken away from them. I think this refers to the forthcoming crucifixion.

If I am not mistaken, the point is that the bridegroom, Jesus, is present. His presence changes everything. The new faith cannot mix with the old.

Thus it would be foolish for a person to put the new with the old. The old cloth, old wine skin, and the old wine was good enough in the past, but the new can’t be added to that. If a person is used to the old, he will reject the new. The new can’t fit into the old. There has to be a separation.

Jesus is the dividing point between the old and the new. The friends of Levi have come to meet Jesus. They can’t live between two worlds just as Levi can’t be a cheating tax collector and yet follow Jesus. The disciples of John can’t continue to fast when the bridegroom is present. They have to stop because the bridegroom is present. The Pharisees must stop their prayers and fasting for there is one who can cleanse even them from their sins.

Jesus may be indicating that the Pharisees love the old and do not want the new wine that he can give to them. They love the Law and adhere to it so much that there is no room for new wine. They have lost their taste of new wine and are used to the old wine. Is there an implication that the old wine and wine skin, and even the old cloth is the Law? I believe so, but the following context of the Sabbath would argue for it. “Why are you doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?” To which Jesus said, “The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”

For me, the point is that Jesus is the source of new life. He is the new cloth, the new wine, and the new wine skin that can change our lives.

(Acknowledgement: Kingston Tang is the meaning of Luke 39)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you that you love us, and that through your son we can have a new life with you. Help us to honour you every day. Amen

Action: Remember that Jesus died so our sins can be forgiven and thank him today.


This Thought for the day was written by Pat Welsh