Our NEW LIFE in CHRIST cannot coexist with our OLD LIFESTYLE: “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. 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.” (Mark 2:21-22)
The Gospel of Mark records only four of Jesus’ parables in total, out of which two of them are included in the above scripture devotional passage. Bible scholars have offered many interpretations to these two parables, which convey a unified message. However, before we delve into the interpretations of these two parables, it will beneficial to understand the context for our Lord Jesus Christ to speak these parables.
The disciples of John the Baptist and the Pharisees practiced fasting rigorously as a religious exercise. In fact, the Pharisees fasted twice weekly (Luke 18:12), and in the Old Testament, fasting was instituted as an expression of deep sorrow. However, it had lost much of its meaning during the time of Jesus and had become a routine ritual that was followed by some religiously. It is not surprising that these ‘religious’ Jews quickly noticed that the disciples of Jesus did not fast, and even occasionally broke the laws of Sabbath by eating on that sacred day of the week.
In His reply, Jesus likened Himself to a Bridegroom (Jer. 3:1–14; Ezek. 16:1–62) and compared His disciples to companions of the Bridegroom. As long as He was with them, there was no occasion for any outward demonstration of sorrow. But the days were coming when He would be rejected, crucified and thereafter ascend to heaven (see Acts 13:2-3; 14:23); then they would have occasions to mourn and fast.
After giving this profound explanation, Jesus added two parables to announce the arrival of a New Era which was incompatible with the previous one. The first parable involved a new patch made of unshrunk cloth that would tear the older cloth on which the patch is sewed. God never intended the gospel of Christ (the unshrunk cloth) to patch up Judaism with its law and traditions (the older cloth). What this means is that the old faith of Judaism and the new Christian faith cannot be mixed, nor can the practices or traditions of Judaism be forced on Christianity!
The second parable involved pouring new wine into old wineskins that had lost their power to stretch. If new wine was put into them, the pressure built up by the fermentation would burst the skins. The new wine typifies the joy and power of the Christian faith. The old wineskins depict the forms and rituals of Judaism. So, new wine needs new wineskins as containers so that both would expand/stretch together. The old covenant had to depart completely to give way to the new covenant that Jesus established through His own blood on the cross of Calvary. Law and grace are opposing principles and are therefore incompatible!
Jesus Christ did not come to repair an old system but to create a new one. In fact, the Old Testament was an advance preparation for the New Testament (Gal. 3:19–25). We know that Adam and Eve tried to cover their sins with garments that they made from fig leaves (Gen. 3:7), but God instead clothed them with skins (Gen. 3:21) for which an innocent animal's blood had to be shed (Heb. 9:22). In the similar manner, Jesus shed His own blood on the cross so that our sins are totally cleansed away (1 John 1:9). He did not come to do a patchwork job on our lives; rather, He came to make us new creations in Him: "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new" (2 Cor. 5:17).