New wine in old wineskins

At Morning Prayer in St Bartholomew’s (on Thursday 19 May) we read Luke 5:27-end and I challenged those present to search Bible Commentaries, to see if we could understand the parable of the new patch on an old cloak, and the new wine in the old wineskins.

Having read a few commentaries myself, I was left feeling slightly disappointed that some commentators leave this as a pithy clever observation. Everyone likes old wine – it is more expensive and tastes better… perhaps this is why we struggle with change. Those types of observations.

I turn again to NT Wright, who puts everything into the scandalous context that Jesus is redefining the boundaries of the God’s Kingdom of Heaven. The original question that prompted Jesus’ answer about patches of new material on old cloaks, and about new wine in old wineskins was a question about fasting. “Why do your disciples not fast like we do?”

Why are your followers not doing things the way we do?
Something new is coming, says Jesus. And it will tear the old in pieces.
Something new is coming: and it will tear the old in pieces.

Within the nation of Israel at the time was the firm belief that they are the chosen of God, the children of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. That God will dwell with them and that all the other nations will pass away. Jesus, in everything that he has done, has redefined who the “children of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob” are… and as a result of this we today can understand ourselves as God’s children too. We would not fit neatly into the Jewish understanding of the Kingdom of Heaven.

Our presence in the Kingdom of Heaven tears the original Jewish understanding into pieces. We become the new wine. What joy: to be that special that God rewrites the rules to give us the grace to enter God’s presence.

As always, Jesus’ words are like a two edge sword – cutting both ways. As we ‘mature’, do we become more like a fine wine… and risk being spilt everywhere when the next generation of new wine comes? The answer is sacrificial – as with most Christian answers. As we reach out to those in our community who do not yet know God, we are reaching out to those who will be the next new wine.

God bless you