“Then John’s disciples came and asked him, ‘How is it that we and the Pharisees fast often, but your disciples do not fast?’
Jesus answered, ‘How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he with them? The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast.
‘No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch will pull away from the garment, making the tear worse. 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.”
Firstly, the analogy that grabs my attention is this one:
“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
It just makes sense. Logical, practical sense. Obviously, the objective of handling wine is to preserve all that you can. And if one pours new wine into old wineskins, the wineskins made of animal skin will burst at the seam. Consequently, the wine will be lost and the precious wineskin ruined. It’s a lose-lose situation.
This wine system reminds me of a similar system we use at New Moon Café, my new place work. Now, try to follow me by visualizing this chain of events in a concrete manner (seems tricky, but it reaps a great model for us employees to follow);
Mid-day, the closing shift employee re-fills the line of vegetables, dressings, spreads, and lots of other food we serve from the salad/sandwich bar with freshly prepared food from the kitchen. With 20 new pans of fresh food that needs to be topped with the old food from the current line, your guessing game needs to be on point so that you’re not too short or not too over the fill line marking on the pans.
In short, it makes sense for the old food to be the first to be served to customers, while the new food sits at the bottom of the pan. If it were the other way around, the old food may be sitting in the pan for days before being served! Yuck! Nobody wants 5 day old chicken salad. The system simply does not make sense if it were reversed. New food is poured into new pans. Just like “they pour new wine into new wineskins” (Matthew 9:17). In this way, “both are preserved” (Matthew 9:17).
It amazes me that Jesus, whose mission is to save the world, responds to a potentially perilous question with such poise. Essentially, John’s disciples are wondering why they have to endure the agony of fasting while Jesus’ disciples are safe from it. It’s a confusing thing! Is Jesus choosing favorites? I’d imagine they are not only curious, but peeved as they ask Jesus this question. Jesus straight up tells John’s disciples who question him about fasting that the reason is logical and practical as to why Jesus’ disciples don’t fast yet– They don’t need to! His twelve disciples are constantly filled with Jesus’ presence and teachings. They are sustained by Jesus by physically interacting with him daily. Why would they see reason to mourn with such fulfilling conditions?
What’s comforting to know is that God knows what it looks like. He knows every implication about the commission of fasting and the wavering confusion that comes with it. And still, He carries out His plan through His Son. His perfect plan that will not fail. Because this mission is greater than confusion and strikes far deeper than jealousy. Jesus’ practicality in his response to the question about fasting surely doesn’t scream, “MY LOVE FOR YOU IS WIDE, LONG, HIGH, AND DEEP” (though it is; Ephesians 3:18). God is patient with responding while grace is woven in His words to us. So, too, is Jesus in responding to John’s disciples. If it were not this way, how could we make any sense of who Jesus is?! It is out of gracious, patient, and enduring love that Jesus responds to this question, “How is it that we [John’s disciples] and the Pharisees fast often, but your disciples do not fast?” Matthew 9:14.
What I’d like to end this entry with is this: One does not simply pour new wine into old wineskins. And Jesus’ love for us is real. Duh.