Bible · Following Jesus

New Wine In Old Wineskins ?

So today I wanted to try out an app I hadn’t come across before – Pray As You Go. I have been using Lection 365 for a while and wanted to see what else is out there. Pray As You Go seems to be Ignatian in style, inviting you to imagine being in the situation … today it was the Pharisees and their scribes criticising Jesus’ disciples for their eating and drinking. Before we think about the passage, just a thought about the app.

The way the app worked was very simple …
A song to listen to at the start; then the bible passage, and the invitation to imagine how you would feel if you were there, and heard what the Pharisees and their scribes said.

I felt cross with them for their attitude, but also wondered if I might agree with them ?

Then there was a short thought on the passage before another reading of the verses.

There was an invitation to imagine Jesus with you and what you might say to him.

Here’s the passage

33 Then thePharisees and their scribes said to him, ‘John’s disciples, like the disciples of the Pharisees, frequently fast and pray, but your disciples eat and drink.’ 34 Jesus said to them, ‘You cannot make wedding-guests fast while the bridegroom is with them, can you? 35 The days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast in those days.’ 36 He also told them a parable: ‘No one tears a piece from a new garment and sews it on an old garment; otherwise the new will be torn, and the piece from the new will not match the old. 37 And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the new wine will burst the skins and will be spilled, and the skins will be destroyed. 38 But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins. 39 And no one after drinking old wine desires new wine, but says, “The old is good.”’
Luke 5:33-39

My reflection on the passage

I was struck by the last verse … No one after drinking old wine desires new wine, but says, “The old is good.”

So what should we desire if the old wine is good ? The old wine or the new wine ?

A reasonably short rabbit hole

I thought I would look at some commentaries … You may have heard this passage preached on and heard the interpretation as follows.

The old wine is the Law, legalism, Old Covenant etc. The new wine is Jesus, grace, the Church … That is creating a clear break between Jesus and what went before.
The view that – The New Covenant Gospel of the Church Kingdom would be wasted if it was poured into the Old Covenant, Mosaic, legalistic religion of Judaism.

However, that doesn’t fit at all with verse 39 !

I fairly quickly came across this article, from Beth Immanuel Messianic Synagogue, which looked at the passage in a way I had not thought of before. Please check out the longer article there, which I will try and summarise now.

To understand this passage we need to look at it in the context of what is going on at this point in the Gospel. Jesus has just called the fishermen, and then Levi the tax collector, to follow him. Then in chapter 6, he will choose 12 apostles.

So we need to understand the incident in 5:33-39 in that light.

When the Pharisees and their scribes are critical of Jesus’ followers, they are not being critical of Jesus’ behaviour, only in his choice of followers.
In a sense, they are asking Jesus ‘Why did you pick this bunch of no-hopers, degenerates and collaborators?’

And what Jesus is saying to the Pharisees and their scribes is along the lines of:
‘If I had l called you to follow me, you wouldn’t have understood it. You are so steeped in the details of your Judaism that you would have resisted what I’m saying. The ones I have called aren’t like you. They are surely God fearing people, and many of them know the scriptures, but they’re not like you, they are open to what I’m teaching. They get it.’

It’s like this – You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.

You’re not able to hear what I’m saying because you love your traditions and your fixed way of doing things. The ones I’m calling are hungry to know God and to see God’s kingdom come, as I know many of you (Pharisees and scribes) are … but they are responding to my way of doing things and you just can’t see it … maybe one day you will.

I think we have to see these verses in the context of Jesus calling the disciples and why he chooses the ones he does. In chapter 6, when he chooses the apostles, it seems like that selection period is over and he has decided on the 12 who will take the message forward.

Old Wineskins – Those who can’t hear Jesus’ message.
Old Wine – Their ways of doing things

New Wine – Jesus’ teaching
New wineskins – Jesus’ disciples

let me know what you think …

Grace and Peace



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