At the beginning of Mark’s Gospel, Jesus tells us he will teach in parables and explains why.

So that, “‘ they may be ever seeing but never perceiving, and ever hearing but never understanding; otherwise they might turn and be forgiven!'”

Mark 4:12 (NIV)

I discuss here why Jesus taught in parables, so I’m not covering that again. However, I’ve learned that just because we know Jesus teaches in parables, those parables aren’t always easy to spot. At least, not for me. For example, in the Gospel of Matthew, we read an exchange between John’s disciples and Jesus.

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 is 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.”

Matthew 9:14-17 (NIV)

For years, I read about the new patch on an old garment and new wine in old wineskins and was like, “Ugh, what?” While I understood that Jesus was the bridegroom and the guests were his disciples, I didn’t quite get the rest. Whenever I tried thinking about Jesus’ answer, it made my head hurt, so today, I’m going to break down verses 16 and 17 and explain what is what.

However, I need to explain some things first. When you get a hole in your favorite hoodie, it has been worn a lot and gone through the washer and dryer to the point where it’s nice and comfortable. This means it has shrunk. If you take a brand new piece of perfectly matching cloth and use it to patch the hole, it will look great until you wash and dry it. Once it goes through the dryer that first time, the patch will shrink and tear your hoodie even more.

As for wine, wine ferments; this means that gasses expand from it, stretching any wineskin it has been poured into. Like your comfortable hoodie, there’s no room for an old wineskin to expand with new wine (or a new patch). Therefore, when the old wineskin is filled with new wine, it will burst when the new wine expands.

The Old Covenant, with the traditions of men, added to it, is the old garment and the old wineskins. The new patch and new wineskins represent the New Covenant.

The issue at hand is fasting, designed for mourning and seeking the Lord. However, the Pharisaic tradition turned fasting into a self-righteous act designed to bring attention to one’s piety and righteousness. Jesus spoke about fasting in Matthew 6.

“When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.”

Matthew 6:16 (NIV)

We see evidence of this self-righteousness right from the “horse’s mouth” in Luke’s case of the tax collector and Pharisee.

I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.

Luke 18:12 (NIV)

Such traditions have no place in the New Covenant. Even other teachings, like circumcision, have no place in the New Covenant. Just like trying to use a new patch on old cloth or putting new wine into old wineskins, the two don’t mix. As for the tearing of cloth or the bursting of the wineskin, this is what could happen to someone trying to follow old teaching. We see this articulated in Acts.

Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear?

Acts 15:10 (NIV)

Thus, anyone trying to walk in the path of the New Covenant but also trying to follow the ways of the Old Covenant, or even worse, the false teaching brought about by the Pharisees and teachers of the law, could stumble and fall “tearing” or “bursting” their salvation.

Do you know God? God knows you, and he loves you. He sees you as significant because you are. No one is insignificant to Him. He’s with you today, and he wants you to know him. Jesus died for your sins and mine so we could be free of guilt, freed from death, and live eternally with him. Eternal salvation is just a prayer away.

Pray this prayer with me to accept the gift of salvation:

Lord Jesus, forgive me for all my sins. I repent from my ways. Wash me in your blood and cleanse me from all unrighteousness. I believe that you died on the cross, were buried, and on the third day, God the Father raised you from the dead. Right now, Lord Jesus, I open the door to my heart and receive you into my heart as my Lord and personal Savior. Amen.

If you prayed that prayer, then congratulations! You are on the first step of a brand new life. Allow me to be the first to welcome you to my family, the family of God. There are abundant resources available online for new Christians. You can visit here for more information on what to do next. You can also leave me a comment, and I’ll do my best to help you on the next step of this incredible journey.