People Ask about Going
(Mark 2.18-22; Luke 5.33-39)
14Some followers of John the Baptist came and asked Jesus, “Why do we and the Pharisees often go without eating, while your disciples never do?”
The friends of a bridegroom aren't sad while he is still with them. But the time will come when he will be taken from them. Then they will go without eating.
16No one uses a new piece of cloth to patch old clothes. The patch would shrink and tear a bigger hole.
17No one pours new wine into old wineskins. The wine would swell and burst the old skins. Then the wine would be lost, and the skins would be ruined. New wine must be put into new wineskins. Both the skins and the wine will then be safe.
In today’s reading, the followers of John were concerned that he taught them a life of self-denial, including going without eating as an act of self-discipline, while Jesus didn’t demand this of his disciples.
Jesus’ answer included three metaphors. The first was taken from their wedding traditions. The announcement of an engagement was a time of feasting and celebrating. Only when the bridegroom would leave to prepare a home for his bride did the party end and normal routines resume.
The second metaphor had to do with patching clothes. Jesus reminded them that applying a new patch to old clothes would make things worse when the patch shrank and made the hole bigger. The third brought to their attention the need for new, flexible wineskins to contain wine which was still fermenting. New wine in old, already stretched, wineskins would end with the loss of both.
With his answer, Jesus communicated important truth to them. At that time, the Jewish religion had deteriorated and had holes in it (like an old worn garment) and was stiff and inflexible (like last year’s wineskin). Jesus came to bring in a new way of relating to God through grace based on his own personal sacrifice. He had not come to patch up the old Jewish system, but to bring the new wine of the Spirit which called for a new container.
We live in the era of new wine that Jesus introduced – a time when our behaviour is guided, not by external laws, but by the inner working of the Holy Spirit in our lives. May we respond to this reality in the holistic way Jesus intended. He didn’t come to help us patch up our old life, but to give us a new one.
Father God, today I rejoice in the new wine of your Spirit at work in my life. I commit myself not to just trying to live a better version of my old life, but to entering fully into the new one you’ve given me through Jesus, as I pray in his name, Amen.