Skip to main content

New Wine into New Wineskins

Matthew 9:14-17

The disciples of John came to Jesus, saying, "Why do we and the Pharisees fast often, but your disciples do not fast?" And Jesus said to them, "The wedding guests cannot mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them, can they? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast. No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old cloak, for the patch pulls away from the cloak, and a worse tear is made. Neither is new wine put into old wineskins; otherwise, the skins burst, and the wine is spilled, and the skins are destroyed; but new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved."

After Jesus called Matthew the tax collector to follow him, Matthew threw a party for all of his friends. Matthew’s party raised questions, not only for the Pharisees, but for the disciples of John the Baptist. They came to Jesus and asked, “How is that we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not.” The disciples of John had just witnessed Jesus enjoying himself at a party where there was plenty of food and the wine was flowing freely. They probably resented the fact that they were going without while Jesus was living it up.

Jesus, in turn, asks the disciples of John a question: How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them?

Jewish weddings in Jesus’ day consisted of a week-long open house. Weddings were great parties full of rollicking laughter, dancing, plenty of food and drink. These were milestone events—times of celebration that rarely came along for the kind of poor people Jesus hung out with. These wedding parties were paid for by the bridegroom’s family and were open to everyone from the village.

What a description this is of the kingdom Jesus came to usher in. The kingdom of God is like a great wedding party. Jesus has paid the price for all of us to enter into the Father’s joy.

And there is a clear prediction in this same saying of Jesus—a clear prediction of the price he would pay for us to enter into his kingdom joy. “The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast.” Jesus was talking about the time of his crucifixion. The price he paid for us to be able to enter into the wedding feast was his own death. Then would be a time of mourning and fasting, Jesus says. But right now is a time for rejoicing.

One thing is clear: the kingdom that Jesus ushers in is something brand new, not to be mixed with the old. Just as you can’t put new wine in an old wineskin, or an unshrunk patch on an old garment, so too Jesus’ kingdom joy just doesn’t mix with old time religion.

I was born in the 1960’s. It was a time when revolution was in the air. Martin Luther King, Jr. was marching for civil rights. College students were protesting the Vietnam War. It was a time when a new generation wanted to make everything different. Bob Dylan summed it up well when he sang, “The times they are a changing.”

Next year will be another presidential election year. People running for president often promise change. The question is: will it really happen? I’m not so sure it will.

But 2000 years ago when Jesus said the times were changing, they really were. Questions bubbled to the surface when people didn’t see in Jesus and his followers the kind of kingdom movement they expected. Jesus’ answer was, “Look, everything is different now.”

The question for us is: Are we living in that new world ourselves? Or do we keep sidling back to that old world where we feel more comfortable? Are we content with religion that is merely a bunch of rules and regulations? If we are, then some time we have to face the fact that all we are really doing is rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. We may have a better view as we go down, but that is all.

Perhaps we identify with Wilbur Rees who wrote, 
I would like to buy $3 worth of God, please, not enough to explode my soul or disturb my sleep, but just enough to equal a cup of warm milk or a snooze in the sunshine. I don’t want enough of Him to make me love a black man or pick beets with a migrant. I want ecstasy, not transformation; I want the warmth of the womb, not a new birth. I want a pound of the Eternal in a paper sack. I would like to buy $3 worth of God, please.
The alternative to buying $3 worth of God is to get on board with Jesus’ kingdom movement. Allow him to change us from the inside out, fully realizing that he may move us and lead us to do some uncomfortable things—like attending a party with tax collectors and “sinners”. Jesus may call us to give up our jobs to follow him, leaving it all behind. But what we will gain will be worth so much more than what we will lose. Yes, we may lose our comfortable lives, but we will be on an adventure, one that will never end.

Lloyd Ogilvie once wrote, 
The people around us can always read our hearts by our faces. The inner things we live with will always show up on our faces. The soul is dyed with the color of our commitment. Our task is not to argue, philosophize, speculate, cajole, but to live a life that demands an explanation. Is there anything about us that would force people to say, ‘Now that’s living! That’s the way I wish I could live!’ A joy-filled life will always demand an explanation—but too often we want Life without having to change our life-style.
Is there something about our life that demands an explanation? There will be, if Jesus is living in us.


Popular posts from this blog

C. S. Lewis on Homosexuality

Arthur Greeves
In light of recent developments in the United States on the issue of gay marriage, I thought it would be interesting to revisit what C. S. Lewis thought about homosexuality. Lewis, who died in 1963, never wrote about same-sex marriage, but he did write, occasionally, about the topic of homosexuality in general. In the following I am quoting from my book, Mere Theology: A Guide to the Thought of C. S. Lewis. For detailed references and footnotes, you may obtain a copy from Amazon, your local library, or by clicking on the book cover at the right....
In Surprised by Joy, Lewis claimed that homosexuality was a vice to which he was never tempted and that he found opaque to the imagination. For this reason he refused to say anything too strongly against the pederasty that he encountered at Malvern College, where he attended school from the age of fifteen to sixteen. Lewis did not rate pederasty as the greatest evil of the school because he felt the cruelty displayed at Malver…

A Prayer at Ground Zero

Christmas Day Thought from Henri Nouwen

"I keep thinking about the Christmas scene that Anthony arranged under the altar. This probably is the most meaningful "crib" I have ever seen. Three small woodcarved figures made in India: a poor woman, a poor man, and a small child between them. The carving is simple, nearly primitive. No eyes, no ears, no mouths, just the contours of the faces. The figures are smaller than a human hand - nearly too small to attract attention at all.
"But then - a beam of light shines on the three figures and projects large shadows on the wall of the sanctuary. That says it all. The light thrown on the smallness of Mary, Joseph, and the Child projects them as large, hopeful shadows against the walls of our life and our world.
"While looking at the intimate scene we already see the first outlines of the majesty and glory they represent. While witnessing the most human of human events, I see the majesty of God appearing on the horizon of my existence. While being moved by the ge…

Sheldon Vanauken Remembered

A good crowd gathered at the White Hart Cafe in Lynchburg, Virginia on Saturday, February 7 for a powerpoint presentation I gave on the life and work of Sheldon Vanauken. Van, as he was known to family and friends, was best known as the author of A Severe Mercy, the autobiography of his love relationship with his wife Jean "Davy" Palmer Davis.

While living in Oxford, England in the early 1950's, Van and Davy came to faith in Christ through the influence of C. S. Lewis. Van was a professor of history and English literature at Lynchburg College from 1948 until his retirement around 1980. A Severe Mercy tells the story of Davy's death from a mysterious liver ailment in 1955 and Van's subsequent dealing with grief. Van himself died from cancer in 1996.

It was my privilege to know Van for a brief period of time during the last year of his life. However, present at the White Hart on February 7 were some who knew Van far better than I did--Floyd Newman, one of Van's…

Fact, Faith, Feeling

"Now Faith, in the sense in which I am here using the word, is the art of holding on to things your reason has once accepted, in spite of your changing moods. For moods will change, whatever view your reason takes. I know that by experience. Now that I am a Christian I do have moods in which the whole thing looks very improbable: but when I was an atheist I had moods in which Christianity looked terribly probable. This rebellion of your moods against your real self is going to come anyway. That is why Faith is such a necessary virtue: unless you teach your moods 'where to get off', you can never be either a sound Christian or even a sound atheist, but just a creature dithering to and fro, with its beliefs really dependent on the weather and the state of its digestion. Consequently one must train the habit of Faith." Mere Christianity

Many years ago, when I was a young Christian, I remember seeing the graphic illustration above of what C. S. Lewis has, here, so eloquen…

C. S. Lewis Tour--London

The final two days of our C. S. Lewis Tour of Ireland & England were spent in London. Upon our arrival we enjoyed a panoramic tour of the city that included Westminster Abbey. A number of our tour participants chose to tour the inside of the Abbey where they were able to view the new C. S. Lewis plaque in Poets' Corner.

Though London was not one of Lewis' favorite places to visit, there are a number of locations associated with him. One which I have noted in my new book, In the Footsteps of C. S. Lewis, is Endsleigh Palace Hospital (25 Gordon Street, London) where Lewis recovered from his wounds received during the First World War....

Not too far away from this location is King's College, part of the University of London, located on the Strand, just off the River Thames. This is the location where Lewis gave the annual commemoration oration entitled The Inner Ring on 14 December 1944....

C. S. Lewis occasionally attended theatrical events in London. One of his favorites w…

C. S. Lewis on Church Attendance

A friend's blog written yesterday ( got me thinking about C. S. Lewis's experience of the church. I wrote this in a comment on Wes Robert's blog:
It is interesting to note that C. S. Lewis attended the same small church for over thirty years. The experience was nothing spectacular on a weekly basis. For most of those years Lewis didn't care much for the sermons; he even sat behind a pillar so that the priest would not see the expression on his face. He attended the service without music because he so disliked hymns. And he left right after holy communion was served probably because he didn't like to engage in small talk with other parishioners after the service. But that life-long obedience in the same direction shaped Lewis in a way that nothing else could.
Lewis was once asked, "Is attendance at a place of worship or membership with a Christian community necessary to a Christian way of life?"
His answer was as follows: &q…

C. S. Lewis's Parish Church

The first time I visited Oxford, in 1982, the porter at Magdalen College didn't even recognize the name--C. S. Lewis. I had asked him if he could give me directions to Lewis's former home in Headington Quarry. Obviously, he could not and did not. (Directions to Lewis's former home are now much easier to obtain. Just click here for directions and to arrange a tour: The Kilns.)
Things have changed a lot since 1982. Now Lewis is remembered all around Oxford. At the pub where the Inklings met, at Magdalen College, and not least--at his parish church--Holy Trinity Headington Quarry. The first time I visited the church I only saw the outside and Lewis's grave, shared with his brother Warnie.
Since that first visit I have returned to Holy Trinity a number of times and worshiped there. Father Tom Honey is a real gem. Under his leadership the congregation has grown and now includes a number of young families. I was overwhelmed by the number of children who came into the sanctuary…

A Christmas Psalm

Psalm 110
The Lord says to my Lord:
"Sit at my right hand
until I make your enemies
a footstool for your feet."

The Lord will extend your mighty scepter from Zion;
you will rule in the midst of your enemies.
Your troops will be willing on your day of battle.
Arrayed in holy majesty,
from the womb of the dawn
you will receive the dew of your youth.

The Lord has sworn
and will not change his mind:
"You are a priest forever,
in the order of Melchizedek."

The Lord is at your right hand;
he will crush kings on the day of his wrath.
He will judge the nations, heaping up the dead
and crushing the rulers of the whole earth.
He will drink from a brook beside the way;
therefore he will lift up his head.

C. S. Lewis, Reflections on the Psalms,
Chapter XII, paragraphs 4 & 5:

"We find in our Prayer Books that Psalm 110 is one of those appointed for Christmas Day. We may at first be surprised by this. There is nothing in it about peace and good-will, nothing remotely sugg…