Luke 5; 33-39 (ESV)
And they said to him, “The disciples of John fast often and offer prayers, and so do the disciples of the Pharisees, but yours eat and drink.” And Jesus said to them, “Can you make wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in those days.” He also told them a parable: “No one tears a piece from a new garment and puts it on an old garment. If he does, he will tear the new, and the piece from the new will not match the old. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the new wine will burst the skins and it will be spilled, and the skins will be destroyed. But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins. And no one after drinking old wine desires new, for he says, ‘The old is good.’”
I understand about shrinkage and fermentation. Trying to fix old things with new methods is by no means always going to work. You need to start all over again and make a garment with the same or similar materials or the shrinking of the new patch will tear it out of the old material; the new wine has to be given time to mature. Jesus was the new wine, a gift from God, and his teaching wouldn’t fit into the old wineskin of a religion of prayer and fasting – a religion of achieving merit not of receiving the gift of forgiveness.
They would fast in those days when the bridegroom, presumably himself, has gone. Does this mean that he will have no effect and people will return to a religion of earning merit? This idea seems to be strengthened by the final phrase about people liking to drink old rather than new wine. But that doesn’t fit into what seems to be the thrust of Jesus’ teaching. He has been offering healthiness in every aspect of life and has been calling people in repentance to leave their old ways and live a rich forgiven life.
Am I meant to get a taste for the old wine (religious system) but after it is renewed with a remade, not patched, understanding of what religion was meant to be? I would then have a fresh understanding of fasting and praying and a new taste for it. It could become building a relationship with God rather than an everlasting treadmill of trying to become good enough. The legalism and nit-picking of Pharisaical Judaism was to be ‘remade’ by a true understanding (new dress) of what their history, the provision of God and the promises made to Abraham and repeated in various places really meant. A new understanding (wine skin) to receive the new wine (his message) which would become richer and better than the old production. But it needed time to be understood and ‘mature’ – at least it needed to pass beyond Calvary, the Resurrection and the sending of the Holy Spirit before its flavour would have reached its best.
Prayer: Open my eyes to understand your meaning, please Jesus.