What did Jesus mean when He said, “No one puts new wine into old wineskins”?
Of the 40 or so parables we see in the teachings of Jesus, only a handful are recorded in all three synoptic gospels. The parable of the wineskins is one of those that deserves our close attention.
This parable was given in the context of answering a question about fasting.
Matthew 9:14-17 Then the disciples of John came to Him, saying, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast often, but Your disciples do not fast?” 15 And Jesus said to them, “Can the friends of the bridegroom mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast. 16 No one puts a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; for the patch pulls away from the garment, and the tear is made worse. 17 Nor do they put new wine into old wineskins, or else the wineskins break, the wine is spilled, and the wineskins are ruined. But they put new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.”
What does fasting have to do with wineskins? I think most of us have not made the connection between this parable and the practice of fasting. We tend to read over the passage without realizing that Jesus is teaching us powerful truth about living with the fullness of the Spirit.
Here is Mark’s account.
Mark 2:18-22 The disciples of John and of the Pharisees were fasting. Then they came and said to Him, “Why do the disciples of John and of the Pharisees fast, but Your disciples do not fast?”
19 And Jesus said to them, “Can the friends of the bridegroom fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them they cannot fast. 20 But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast in those days. 21 No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; or else the new piece pulls away from the old, and the tear is made worse. 22 And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; or else the new wine bursts the wineskins, the wine is spilled, and the wineskins are ruined. But new wine must be put into new wineskins.”
Jesus is using old and new wineskins, and old and new cloth, as an analogy of our old and new natures. The old carnal nature that we are born into under Adam, and the new nature of God that we receive by the Holy Spirit at our new birth in Christ.
So, what significance does fasting have in the context of this parable? Jesus was explaining to them the purpose, and significance of fasting.
I see people fasting for many different reasons but when you boil it down, there is only one primary reason for fasting. To break through the veil of carnal flesh so the Spirit can have full expression in our lives.
We live in this incredible paradox of having two natures that are constantly battling and warring against each other. Jesus is telling us that fasting is how we fight the battle and win the war.
Fasting is not very popular to most Christians because it requires discipline and self-denial. Some fast for wrong reasons with little understanding and have little results.
Let’s look at Isaiah 58 and see what the purpose of fasting is.
Isaiah 58:6-9 “Is this not the fast that I have chosen: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, to let the oppressed go free, and that you break every yoke? 7Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out; When you see the naked, that you cover him, and not hide yourself from your own flesh? 8 Then your light shall break forth like the morning, your healing shall spring forth speedily, and your righteousness shall go before you; The glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. 9 Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; You shall cry, and He will say, ‘Here I am.’
There is much more to this chapter, and I highly recommend reading the whole thing, but the point I want to make is that biblical fasting is not just about denying our physical bodies of food, but reaching out and helping others in need as we are denying ourselves. There is something supernatural about the combination of denying ourselves while tending to the needs of others that brings powerful breakthrough in our lives. It frees us from bondage, breaks yokes of unbelief, brings healing to our bodies.
A true fast is not just denying the physical body, but the soul, mind, and will as well. Fasting should include deny every part of our being that is touched by the fall of man. Bringing whole being into subjection so our light will shine brighter and ultimately give God more glory.
We all desire to be filled with the new wine, but it is God’s mercy that withholds it. If He filled us with the fullness of the Spirit before our wineskins were made new it would destroy us.
The kind of fasting that Isaiah describes creates in us a new wineskin that is meant to contain that new wine. It increases our capacity in the Spirit and empowers us to live a sustained life of power and demonstration of the kingdom of God.
Luke 5:33-39 Then they said to Him, “Why do the disciples of John fast often and make prayers, and likewise those of the Pharisees, but Yours eat and drink?”
34 And He said to them, “Can you make the friends of the bridegroom fast while the bridegroom is with them? 35 But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them; then they will fast in those days.” 36 Then He spoke a parable to them: “No one puts a piece from a new garment on an old one; otherwise, the new makes a tear, and also the piece that was taken out of the new does not match the old. 37 And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; or else the new wine will burst the wineskins and be spilled, and the wineskins will be ruined. 38 But new wine must be put into new wineskins, and both are preserved. 39 And no one, having drunk old wine, immediately desires new; for he says, ‘The old is better.”
Look at verse 39. Luke recorded Jesus as saying, “no one, having drunk old wine, immediately desires new; for he says, ‘The old is better.’”
Jesus is telling us up front, “our flesh is going to resist this. We are not going to immediately desire to practice this.” Our flesh will always argue that the old way is better, leave things as they are, the old wine is good enough, fasting is not necessary.
This is not going to be easy for anyone, but if it was easy there would be no significant rewards. The promises we see in Isaiah 58 are absolutely mind blowing. We desire, and pray for new wine, but we are asking God to put in our old wineskin. Isn’t gonna happen!
Because of our fallen, broken nature, we seek more of God without making the necessary sacrifices. We desire the new wine, but we don’t want to release the old, craving change, yet, allowing things to remain stagnate.
In our present culture, we are inundated with the constant temptation to consume more. More food, more stuff, more entertainment, etc. Excess results in nothing but a strong, well developed carnal nature. We feed the monster that wars against our soul.
We must choose new wineskins to be filled with the new wine and become everything Christ paid for. This choice is vital to our lives, but more importantly, it is vital for His glory!
Are you satisfied with the old wine of your carnal nature? Most of the Church is satisfied with the status quo of living a carnal existence while claiming Jesus as Lord. Personally, I just don’t have the stomach for it anymore.
There is so much that our Father desires for us to be and to have, but it cannot co-exist with the old fallen nature. The old wineskin must be “put off” and the new wineskin “put on.” We either choose to be who our Creator designed us to be, or we remain the same. The choice is new life in Christ with full kingdom power and authority, or remaining distant and separate from the Father which is described as spiritual death.(Deut. 30:15-20)
Choosing life is easy. Living the life that God has provided takes a certain amount of discipline, resolve, and self denial. It will require us to maintain a new wineskin. It will require biblical fasting.
Matthew 16:24 Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.
It is impossible to follow Jesus without denying ourselves. We will not have the strength to pick up our cross without this denial of self.
We are in those days. It’s your wineskin. What are you going to do with it?
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