Jesus is the original sommelier. Or at least He is in my mind. While many of us are familiar with the first miracle Jesus performs in his ministry, turning water into wine, there’s another parable on wine that I’d like to focus on today—old vs. new wineskins.
“Neither do people pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.” Matthew 9:17
Now, I may or may not know anything about wine, but I do know the science behind this teaching of Jesus. When a new wine is produced, it goes through a fermentation or maturing process. As it does this, it needs a container that will allow for the expansion of the liquid as it undergoes the chemical reactions required of fermentation. In Jesus’ day, wineskins were often made from the tanned hides of animals such as goats. The containers or vessels that held the new wine essentially grew with the wine. If new wine was put into an old wineskin, the new wine’s growth processes would burst the old skin. The skin would be too brittle—and unable to exercise flexibility—and it would break.
The parable of the wineskins can be found in both Matthew 9 and Luke 5. There, in Jesus’ teachings about fasting, He was engaged in conversation with the Pharisees about old versus new laws. Jesus was preaching against the mixing of beliefs. When we accept Christ as Lord of our lives, then we must adhere to His way of life and His doctrines. We, in essence, become the vessel and Jesus is the new wine. This new wine needs a new wineskin as He expands and matures us. We cannot simply pour the new wine into our old wineskins. By becoming new, yielded vessels in Christ, both the believer and the beliefs are preserved.
Friends, during this season of seclusion, I sense the Lord creating some fresh wine within us all. When the quarantine is over and life begins to resume some level of normalcy, we will undoubtedly enter into a changed society. Let’s dare to enter into it as changed Christians—Christ followers who love more deeply, who prioritize connection, who serve wholeheartedly, and who embolden the Gospel in ways the world hasn’t seen in recent years. In many ways we will need to exercise the flexibility of a new wineskin to adapt to all that is changing around us. As we wait, we have been given the beautiful opportunity to let Jesus ripen and mature all that is within us too.
Dr. Nichole Huff is the Director of Children and Family Ministries at NUMC.