What did Jesus mean when He said, “No one puts new wine into old wineskins”?
Of the 40 or so parables we see in the teachings of Jesus, only a handful are recorded in all three synoptic gospels. The parable of the wineskins is one of those and deserves our close attention.
This parable was given in the context of answering a question about fasting.
Matthew 9:14-17 (NKJV) Then the disciples of John came to Him, saying, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast often, but Your disciples do not fast?” 15 And Jesus said to them, “Can the friends of the bridegroom mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast. 16 No one puts a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; for the patch pulls away from the garment, and the tear is made worse. 17 Nor do they put new wine into old wineskins, or else the wineskins break, the wine is spilled, and the wineskins are ruined. But they put new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.”
What does fasting have to do with wineskins? I think most of us have not made the connection between this parable and the practice of fasting. We tend to read over the passage without realizing that Jesus is teaching us a powerful truth about living with the fullness of the Spirit.
Here is Mark’s account.
Mark 2:18-22 (NKJV) The disciples of John and of the Pharisees were fasting. Then they came and said to Him, “Why do the disciples of John and of the Pharisees fast, but Your disciples do not fast?”
19 And Jesus said to them, “Can the friends of the bridegroom fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them they cannot fast. 20 But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast in those days. 21 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. 22 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.”
Jesus is using old and new wineskins, and old and new cloth, as an analogy of our old and new natures. We are born into the old carnal nature under Adam, and born again with the new nature of God, received by the Holy Spirit at our new birth in Christ.
So, what significance does fasting have in the context of this parable? Jesus was explaining to them the purpose and importance of fasting.
I see people fasting for many different reasons. Still, when you boil it down, there is only one primary reason for fasting. To break through the veil of carnal flesh so the Spirit can find its highest expression in our lives.
We live in this incredible paradox of having two natures constantly warring against each other. Jesus tells us that fasting is how we fight and win the war.
Fasting is not very popular among Christians because it requires discipline and self-denial. Some fast for the wrong reasons with little understanding and have little results.
Let’s look at Isaiah 58 and see the purpose of fasting.
Isaiah 58:6-9 (NKJV)“Is this not the fast that I have chosen: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, to let the oppressed go free, and that you break every yoke? 7Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out; When you see the naked, that you cover him, and not hide yourself from your own flesh? 8 Then your light shall break forth like the morning, your healing shall spring forth speedily, and your righteousness shall go before you; The glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. 9 Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; You shall cry, and He will say, ‘Here I am.’
There is much more to this chapter, and I highly recommend reading the whole thing. Still, the point is that biblical fasting is not just about denying our physical bodies food but reaching out and helping others while denying ourselves.
There is something supernatural about the combination of denying ourselves while tending to the needs of others that brings powerful breakthroughs in our lives. It frees us from bondage, breaks yokes of unbelief, brings healing to our bodies, and sets us free from things holding us back in our relationship with the Lord.
A biblical fast is not just denying the physical body but the soul, mind, and will. Fasting should include denying every part of our being that is touched by the fall of man. Bringing our whole being into subjection, so our light shines brighter and ultimately gives God more glory.
We all desire to be filled with the new wine, but God’s mercy withholds it. If He filled us with the fullness of the Spirit with our old wineskin, it would destroy us.
The fasting that Isaiah describes creates a new wineskin to contain that new wine. It increases our capacity in the Spirit and empowers us to live a sustained life of power and demonstration of the kingdom of God.
Let’s look at Luke’s account because he brings out a fascinating point that Matthew and Mark do not address.
Luke 5:33-39 (NKJV) Then they said to Him, “Why do the disciples of John fast often and make prayers, and likewise those of the Pharisees, but Yours eat and drink?”
34 And He said to them, “Can you make the friends of the bridegroom fast while the bridegroom is with them? 35 But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them; then they will fast in those days.” 36 Then He spoke a parable to them: “No one puts a piece from a new garment on an old one; otherwise, the new makes a tear, and also the piece that was taken out of the new does not match the old. 37 And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; or else the new wine will burst the wineskins and be spilled, and the wineskins will be ruined. 38 But new wine must be put into new wineskins, and both are preserved. 39 And no one, having drunk old wine, immediately desires new; for he says, ‘The old is better.”
Look at verse 39. Luke recorded Jesus as saying, “no one, having drunk old wine, immediately desires new; for he says, ‘The old is better.’”
Jesus tells us that our flesh will resist the required change brought about by fasting. We are not going to desire to live by the Spirit immediately. Our flesh will always argue that the old way is better, leave things as they are, the old wine is good enough, and fasting is unnecessary.
When things didn’t always go smoothly for the Israelites, they started complaining and desired to return to Egypt. Even after seeing the daily provision of manna, a pillar of cloud by day, and a pillar of fire by night, they still desired the old way, the way of bondage, the old wine.
Fasting will not be easy for anyone, but there would be no significant rewards if it were easy. The promises we see in Isaiah 58 are mind-blowing. We desire and pray for new wine, but we ask God to put it in our old wineskin. It isn’t going to happen! He loves us too much!
Because of our fallen, broken nature, we seek more of God without making the necessary sacrifices to receive more. We desire the new wine but don’t want to release the old. We are craving change, yet allowing things to remain and stagnate.
In our present culture, we are inundated with the constant temptation to consume more. More food, more stuff, more entertainment, etc. Excess results in nothing but a strong, well-developed carnal nature. We feed the monster of flesh that wars against our soul.
We must choose God if we want new wineskins with new wine. It will require the new wine to become everything Christ redeemed. New wine is vital to our lives, but more importantly, it is essential for His glory! We must choose to believe.
Are you satisfied with the old wine of your sensual nature? Most churches are pleased with the status quo of living a carnal existence while claiming Jesus as Lord. I don’t have the stomach for it anymore.
There is so much that our Father desires for us to be and to have, but it cannot co-exist with the old fallen nature. The old wineskin must be put off, and the new wineskin put on. We either choose to be who our Creator designed us to be or remain the same. The choice is new life in Christ with full kingdom power and authority or remaining distant and separate from the Father, which is described as spiritual death. (Deut. 30:15-20)
Choosing life is easy. Living the life that God has provided takes a certain amount of discipline, resolve, and self-denial. It will require us to maintain a new wineskin. It will require biblical fasting. It will require dying to self.
Matthew 16:24 (NKJV) Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.
It is impossible to follow Jesus without denying ourselves. Without this self-denial, we will not have the strength to pick up our cross.
Jesus said, “But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them; then they will fast in those days.” We are in those days.
It’s not our wineskin anymore. Jesus purchased it with His blood. Who are we to deny Him the right to change us?
Thank you for visiting Truth Pressure Ministries. I hope this has been a blessing to you.