Old Wine, New Wine, & the Problem of Receptivity
It is natural and sensible to prefer the old to the new when it comes to wine. But this is not true when it comes to the Messiah and the Kingdom of God.
These were the cities designated for all the people of Israel and for the stranger sojourning among them, that anyone who killed a person without intent could flee there, so that he might not die by the hand of the avenger of blood, till he stood before the congregation. Joshua 20:9
And no one after drinking old wine desires new, for he says, “The old is good.” Luke 5:39
In ancient Israel, the law of Moses included strict borders for each tribe and designated cities of refuge to protect people from retaliation for involuntary manslaughter. There was law and order as there should be in any peaceful society.
In Jesus’ day, the Pharisees taught and demonstrated careful adherence to the law as they understood it. The problem was the Pharisees found it easier to stick with tradition than to consider the possibility of some new element being introduced into their world. They accused Jesus of blasphemy when He forgave a man his sins. These religious leaders grumbled when Jesus ate and drank with tax collectors and sinners. They questioned the piety of Jesus’ disciples because of their failure to fast often and offer prayers.
Jesus responded to their criticisms with explanations that showed He did not violate the law but did go beyond their traditional understanding of lawfulness. He had power to forgive sin. He came to call sinners to repentance. His presence in the world was like a wedding, not a funeral, and it changed everything.
Jesus told the scribes and Pharisees that resistance to the new is natural and comfortable, but it is not always acceptable. Law and order is good, but sometimes receptivity and flexibility is needed because God was doing a new thing in sending the Son of Man. The law had only revealed the sinfulness of Man. Jesus brought the new wine of the gospel, forgiveness of sin for all who believe in Him.
Think about it
Beware of the error of the Pharisees who extended faithfulness to the law beyond its intended limits and turned it into rigid resistance to the gospel and rejection of the Messiah, Jesus Christ. But we could also be in danger of being receptive to the latest trends of our culture that says what Jesus claimed and did is outmoded. Faithfulness to Him and His gospel is the key.