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Weekly Devotionals

Old or New?

36 He told them this parable: “No one tears a piece out of a new garment to patch an old one. Otherwise, they will have torn the new garment, and the patch from the new will not match the old. 37 And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the new wine will burst the skins; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. 38 No, new wine must be poured into new wineskins. 39 And no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for they say, ‘The old is better.’” – Luke 5: 36-39

As we come to the end of 2021, this is the time where we look to the past of all that has transpired this year and look forward to all the new things coming in 2022. Will Covid finally start to wane away and become a thing of old? Can we finally get life heading towards normal – whether it’s our desire to go back to the old way of life before the pandemic or a new fresh start?

Old vs. new makes me think of Jesus teaching on wine and wineskins. The idea is that if you put new wine in old wineskins, then the fermentation process will cause the old wineskins to burst b/c those old wineskins have already been stretched as far as it can go. So instead, you put new wine into new wineskins so that as the wine ferments the skins expand together.

Naturally and traditionally, the interpretation is the new wine represents Jesus (and or the Spirit that he releases). The old wineskins represents the traditions and religiosity of Judaism and the Pharisees, unable to handle the new ministry of Jesus and the Spirit. The new wineskins is supposed to be the Church, the organic body of Christ led by the Spirit and not contained or defined by the spirit of religiosity.

All this is fairly understandable. However, in the last verse, Jesus says something interesting: “…no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for they say, ‘The old is better.’” But I thought we were supposed to want the new wine of Jesus and the Spirit? Isn’t Jesus doing a new thing? How can the old religion of Judaism be better than the new ministry of Jesus? Perhaps what Jesus is saying is that the new ministry that he is bringing and doing in the power of the Spirit is the ancient and original way. His ministry is new because no one has seen it done like this, but perhaps this is the way it was always meant to be. And in that sense, the old is indeed better!

What then does this mean for us? Following the ministry of Jesus in the  power of the Spirit requires us not try to be inventive in the ways of the world. Anything we do following human systems and innovations can very easily become as extinct as Phariseeism. The Jesus way will always seem new to the world, but like old wine, it cheers and refreshes the soul. The key is to follow the Spirit in prayerful relationship with the Father…like Jesus did during his time on earth. He will guide your every step so that life can be released through you wherever you go.