New Wine New Skins

Jesus went back again to the shore of Lake Galilee. A crowd came to him, and he started teaching them. 14 As he walked along, he saw a tax collector, Levi son of Alphaeus, sitting in his office. Jesus said to him, “Follow me.” Levi got up and followed him.

15 Later on Jesus was having a meal in Levi’s house. A large number of tax collectors and other outcasts was following Jesus, and many of them joined him and his disciples at the table. 16 Some teachers of the Law, who were Pharisees, saw that Jesus was eating with these outcasts and tax collectors, so they asked his disciples, “Why does he eat with such people?”

17 Jesus heard them and answered, “People who are well do not need a doctor, but only those who are sick. I have not come to call respectable people, but outcasts.”

18 On one occasion the followers of John the Baptist and the Pharisees were fasting. Some people came to Jesus and asked him, “Why is it that the disciples of John the Baptist and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but yours do not?”

19 Jesus answered, “Do you expect the guests at a wedding party to go without food? Of course not! As long as the bridegroom is with them, they will not do that. 20 But the day will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast.

21 “No one uses a piece of new cloth to patch up an old coat, because the new patch will shrink and tear off some of the old cloth, making an even bigger hole. 22 Nor does anyone pour new wine into used wineskins, because the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the skins will be ruined. Instead, new wine must be poured into fresh wineskins.” – Mark 2:13-22

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Sunset Over the Vineyard | Paso Robles, California | June 2010

On vacation this week, we have enjoyed family, sightseeing, Gulf shoring, Swimming pool cooling, cooking and eating, and an occasional glass of wine. The other afternoon, a fellow guest saw me with my plastic wine glass and commented, “Ah…a glass of wine. I had my glass of wine and now I’m going for a walk.”

Foolishly, I began to brag about our current challenge from our gym: walking a marathon over a period of two weeks. It amounts to 2 miles a day. And we had walked 2.25 miles that morning. “We walked 2-1/4 miles this morning.”

“I walked 55 miles last week. I walk down to Pleasure Pier and back after a 30 minute warm-up.”

“Wow. How far a is that?”

“It’s 7 or 8 miles down there.”

Silly me: bragging on 2.25 miles. I decided I was out of his league, but still enjoyed my glass of wine. There is little real pleasure in bragging about walking 2.25 miles. There is great pleasure in a glass of good wine.

Jesus was very familiar with wine and the skins in which it was stored. New wine would expand over time and wineskins would lose their elasticity over time. Store new wine in old wineskins and they will burst as the new wine ages and ferments. New wine requires new wine skins.

I cannot remember a time when I didn’t believe in Jesus. My earliest memories are of getting ready for Sunday school and singing Jesus Loves Me, as I stood on my parents’ bed. Those like me who are for all practical purposes lifelong Christians may not realize just how radical the transition is from unbeliever to Jesus Follower. But if Jesus changes a life, it’s a major change and not to be underestimated.

Andy Stanley says, “Time in erodes awareness of.” The longer we are in any particular setting or mode of life, the less aware we become of our surroundings and the uniqueness of it. The longer we are Jesus followers, the less aware we become of what that means. It becomes second nature. It also becomes something we take for granted. Old wine. Old wineskins. It can stifle new expressions of faith and love. 

But if we become more intentional about living a redeemed life, and more aware of the incredible rescue he has provided for us, the more the old wineskins will cramp our style. 

I don’t think that means we must jetisone every cherished tradition or sacred custom. But it will certainly mean we are more aware of other’s lack of appreciation for these treasured practices. It will mean that we don’t expect those who don’t follow Jesus, or who are new to the faith to appreciate how precious these ways are to us – or even how truly edifying they may be. We might also be a bit less dismissive of new follower’s zeal. Even new wine ages over time and new wineskins will allow that to happen in a decidedly delightful way.

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