Most who have read and studied the Bible at all know that the parable of the new wine into old wineskins is Jesus’ teaching on the coming of the New Covenant and the necessity of the Old Covenant being abolished. Because of the radically new nature of the New Covenant (even though there is remarkable continuity as well), the New Covenant manifests itself in new ways that the Old Covenant was not capable of containing. Most importantly, the coming of God in the flesh and all of the cosmic implications of the ministry of Christ meant that the fulfillment of the Old Covenant had come.
This much we know. But if you’re like me, sometimes when reading a portion of the Scripture that has a particular historical fulfillment, I feel as if the passage seems somewhat remote from me. It would be possible and appropriate to meditate on this passage in light of the surpassing excellence of the New Covenant. We could, for example, go down a list of reasons to rejoice because the true High Priest, Temple, Sacrifice, etc. are here. And such a meditation would be fruitful for the soul.
But I want to meditate today on the new wine in the old wineskins in my life and yours. Of course such an application would not be possible without first understanding the coming of the New Covenant, but often I find that I need a more immediate application of God’s grace. After all, the Kingdom of God is at hand in my life, as I sit here writing this in December of 2006.
The sad fact is that I often feel like (and actually am) an old wineskin. I don’t just mean that the body is losing its war of attrition against time: I mean that many days I wake up and I am the same old person. With the new day I seem to clothe myself in heaviness and to pick up the heavy load I left by the side of my bed the night before. I dutifully saddle my back with it and go out into the world, and another day passes much as the days before.
It’s a comfortable arrangement, this old wine in old wineskins. I’ve hardly even noticed that the wine is kind of sour and gritty. I drink it to drink it, because it’s there, and because I’m supposed to. It’s really become a part of me, and at least with the old wine in old wineskins I know what I’m getting today.
But praise God that He offers me a source of new wine! I do get tired of the old wine, now that I think about it and see an alternative. By comparison with this explosive new wine, the old is flat and vinegary and dirty. When I seek God again, He pours for me His new wine. Maybe it’s that I’m stirred by reading His Word or hearing it in a sermon. Maybe it’s the wise counsel of a brother or sister in Christ, or the brightness of the sun on a winter day, or the child resting in my arms, or the whispering of the Holy Spirit through my conscience. There are many ways God offers His new wine, though all come through Christ.
We’ve all experienced the bite of the first taste of the new wine coming. But too often, we are in a hurry to get on with our “lives,” and all we do is sip the new wine. We leave, satisfied for an exciting new experience that cheers up our day temporarily and adjusts our attitude so we can continue in our old ways again for the rest of the day.
But what God really wants and what we really need is not to sip and run but to sit down and eat and drink with the Lord. We need to relish His good gifts to us and savor them and to linger in His company, intoxicated again with His glory and power and love.
What I want is for the new wine to flow freely and not to have a sip once a month or so. Therefore, what I need to do is to sit down and spend some time with God, finishing the first cup He gives me and asking for more, if He so pleases.
But I do not desire this new wine the way I should. Somehow I’m “too busy” or have “more important” things to do. And I wonder why my old life is still full of vinegar and sets my teeth on edge! The problem is that I am trying to put God’s new wine into my old wineskin. I’m trying, in the flesh, to continue in the flesh while enacting a “drive-by-sipping” of God’s new wine.
What I need is for God to make a new skin for me, as He did with Adam and Eve in the Garden. I need Him to cover me with the flesh and blood of Jesus Christ that the new wine of the Holy Spirit may fill me again. To do this, I must be willing to trade in my old wineskin, that is, the flesh and its ways. To put on the new wineskin that is Jesus Christ and sanctification, I must also take off the old man through the process of mortification.
I need to fervently ask Him to give me this new wine and to make me willing to get rid of my old wineskins. I’d better be ready, because for God to transform me and clothe me with the new wineskin of His Son means that I will have to change. I will have to give up my old ways, my old skin that cannot contain the Holy Spirit. I will need to ask God to make me a fit vessel for His grace and then to freely partake of this grace when it’s offered to me.
If I attempt to accept God’s new wine of the Holy Spirit in me, I’d better accept the flesh and blood of Jesus Christ first. Otherwise, what will happen is that the grace that God so freely pours into my life will expand and split my old wineskin, and the new wine will be wasted.
The new wine of the Holy Spirit has come to fill the new wineskin of the Body of Christ, the Church. And we are called to be made new.
Now that I think about it, I am kind of tired of this old wineskin, and the wine has been upsetting my stomach and making me pout a lot. I think I’ll go immediately and seek the new wine and the new wineskin.
Resolution: I resolve today to set aside some time to seek God with a renewed spirit.
Prayer: Father, thank You for sending us the new wine of Your Holy Spirit and for making us Your new wineskin through our Lord Jesus Christ. Fill me with Your Spirit today, and help me to take off the Old Man that the New Man Jesus Christ may live in me. I know that You have been offering Your grace to me many times each day and I have ignored or refused it. Please help me to see You and accept You however You choose to come to me today. Amen.
Points for Resolution:
- Meditate on a time in your life when God’s new wine in your life was sweet – and give thanks.
- If you are still storing old wine in old wineskins, consider one way in which God has brought You His new wine in the past. Then seek Him in that way today.
- Make a petition for God’s new wine in your life part of your daily prayer life.
© 2014 Fr. Charles Erlandson