New Wine, Old Skins

Jesus was known his social life.  He was often followed by hundreds and even thousands.  He went to parties and feasts for all kinds of occasions.  He spent time with the people that the religious called sinners and that society looked at with distaste.  He loved and taught those that had been forgotten.  He knew these people, spent time with them, pulled them in to what he was bringing to the world.  He met them when and where they where, without apology.  He spoke boldly, yet kindly, in ways that they would understand.  He did not expect them to be living up to the laws and traditions of the time when he encountered them, but instead he understood that the world would be living in a worldly way.  And he was compelled to meet it right in the middle of it all.

Often confronted by the elite about his whereabouts, Jesus pulled no punches.  He was on the side of those whom he loved and often could care less about the regulations that had disenfranchised so many.  In three of the gospels, Jesus tells a parable about putting new wine into old wineskins.  This has been interpreted in various ways, but if we look at the context of the conversation and the place that Jesus was when he had it, we can see that once again he was defending those he loved at the expense of those that had forgotten how to love.

“And no one pours new wine into old wineskins.  If he does, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined.  No, he pours new wine into new wineskins.” – Mark 2:22

Jesus was speaking to the pompous elite who had just questioned the integrity of his disciples.  This was early in the ministry of Jesus and immediately prior to this discourse he was confronted about eating dinner with those that where looked down upon.  Jesus knew that his people, those that he sought out and spent time with, where not living for the “show” of religion.  He knew right where their hearts where.  He did not expect new believers and potential followers to fit into the religious mold of the time.  Jesus knew that if you took “tax collectors” and “sinners” (the lost of that time) and tried to fit them into a religious mold, that it would be too much for them.  Both the mold and the man would be ruined.

There is a valuable lesson here for both the seeker and the found.  God knows where we are and only expects us to behave in a manner that in an honest representation of that place.  In the same way he also knows where everyone is and expects us to accept and love the unlovable right where they are.  We cannot go into the world to share the gospel and expect the world to act unlike the world.  Nor can we go around pretending to be something that we are not.

As we walk with the Lord and grow into relationship with him, our lives will change and mature, but in the meantime we must be honest with ourselves and all who we come into contact with.  Anything else is an affront and dishonors what Jesus is doing in our lives.  How can the world see the glory of what God can do if they can’t see where we are coming from.  We have to show the “dirty” of where we are now in order to display the “clean” of where we are going.

Honesty about where we are and about where those we love are will lead to an honest relationship with God, and that shows his glory, which changes lives.

For more information on this teaching of Jesus see Matthew 9:14-17 and Luke 5:33-39

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