The Parable of Patchwork and New Wineskins
Dr. Terry Cheek
Matthew, Mark, and Luke all give us an account of this parable. A parable used to illustrate fasting for the coming Kingdom of God. For our study we’re going to use Luke 5:33-39, specifically looking at verses 36-39 to gain insight into the Lord’s teaching.
The practice of fasting was widely used in Israel and its history reveals the practice while an individual was in mourning. The Pharisee’s had adopted it and perverted it to be an act of piety used by the religious elite as a tool to impress one another in front of the common man.
John the Baptist was using the fast to illustrate the nation’s mourning for their sin. The fast of John and his disciples was a confession of their need for forgiveness of sin and spiritual cleansing.
The Pharisees were very observant of Jesus and how He taught His disciples in contrast to their practice and the practices of John the Baptist. The Pharisees were appalled when neither Jesus nor His disciples practiced fasting. It didn’t take long for the Pharisee’s to confront the Lord about His neglect of their practice.
To answer their confrontation Jesus used the illustration of marriage. After the bride was presented to the bridegroom there was a massive feast. This was a time of joy and rejoicing. Christ depicted Himself as the bridegroom and that generation as those invited to the wedding. Those who accepted would attend the festivities with joy celebrating with the bridegroom. Christ was inviting them to share in His joy, thus there was no mourning and no reason for a fast. The purpose of this part of our study was to present the Kingdom of God was at hand. Both, John and Jesus were making this presentation, but for what purpose?
Jesus begins His parable to reveal the answer to our question. First, the Lord begins with the story of patchwork. There was an old worn-out garment one that was useless in its present condition. Certainly, it could be patched and made to last a little while longer. To do so would require sewing in a new piece of cloth. During the Lords day, the new woven cloth was not dressed, in other words, they would shrink with the first wash. To patch the old garment would mean the work would only last until the first washing, at that time the shrinkage would tear the old garment and destroy the old garment.
To further illustrate the presentation of the Kingdom of God Jesus spoke of the wine and new wineskins. I sure know that new wineskins were very elastic. They would expand for the fermentation process as grape juice became wine. However, once a wineskin became old it was no longer elastic. They could be used as water bottles or other containers but not successfully as wineskins. To attempt this would cause the old wineskin to burst as the new wine fermented causing it to be ruined.
The two-fold illustration given by Jesus showed the Pharisees their old system of perverted religion was worthless, useless and outdated. It was impossible to patch it up or introduce the Kingdom of God through their old rigid packaging. The Kingdom of God had to be introduced through unspoiled doctrine. We find two kinds of people surrounded the Lord that day. Those who welcomed unspoiled doctrine like new cloth or wineskins. And, those who like the Pharisees were content with the old cloth, wineskins and religious rituals that were misused and destined to fail the men and women putting them to use.
Folks this parable speaks to the church also. As born-again Christians, we are born again with life. Paul tells us old things are passed away and all things become new. Don’t try to repackage a new life inside of an old you. Put the old you away and follow Hebrew’s 12:1 KJV Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us.
Until we meet again, either in print or in person, may God richly bless you.
Terry is the Executive Director and broadcaster of The Inspiring Word media ministry. You can contact Terry by email at email@example.com.
Or by visiting www.theinspiringword.org