[Note: This is the “Old” version of the Grace Commentary on Luke. It will be updated to the new version soon.]
Luke 5:33-39 contains three short parables, the first in Luke’s Gospel. The parables of Jesus are some of the most difficult passages to understand in the New Testament. Much of this is due to our separation in time, language, and culture from Jesus. But even the disciples of Jesus, who did not face these contextual challenges, often had trouble understanding what Jesus meant by His parables. The confusion is natural, however, since according to what Jesus says in Luke 8:10, He intended these pointed little stories to be confusing. We will explain why in that passage, but for now, it is best to recognize that if a parable is initially confusing, we’re on the right track.
And the parables of Luke 5:33-39 are some of the most confusing. For the last eighteen hundred years, these three short parables have been almost universally interpreted in a particular way. Almost all resources, whether Bible commentary, book on the parables, or journal article, interprets this passage in a particular way (Fitzmyer 1981:597; Govett 1989:5; Jeremias 1972:118; Marshall 1978:227; Pentecost 1982:23). In the past, when I’ve taught this passage, I followed the traditional explanation.
The traditional explanation is that Jesus was starting something fresh and new, based on grace and truth. His new movement was incompatible with Judaism, especially the legalistic emphasis on the law. So in the parables, the old clothes and old wineskins are equated with Judaism, and the new clothes and new wineskins represent the new grace-filled teachings of Jesus. The teachings of the Pharisees are described as “worthless, useless, and outdated” according to the Law of Moses (Pentecost 1982:23), while those of Jesus are full of grace, truth, and love according to life in the Spirit.
One reason for the popularity of this traditional explanation is that it fits the passage (almost), and scratches an itch that we Christians have felt from almost the very beginning, namely, how to explain Christian departure from the Jewish roots of our faith. The traditional interpretation was first introduced by the heretic Marcion in the Second Century AD (cf. Eriksson nd:1). Gentiles had become the majority among Christians, and were facing persecution from both the Roman Empire and traditional Jews. The Jewish people had revolted against Rome in 67-70 AD, and as a result, Jerusalem was razed and the temple destroyed. Since Christianity had a Jewish nature and foundation, the Roman military included Christians in their attempts to quell the Jewish rebellion. So some of the early Christians tried to separate themselves from Judaism to avoid further persecution. The Jewish people, of course, saw the Christians as a heretical offshoot, and so were also trying to destroy the fledgling faith. Many Christians defended themselves by attacking Judaism, both with pen and sword.
Aside from these cultural reasons, Marcion was heavily influenced by Gnostic dualism. He believed that matter as evil and only what was spiritual was good. Therefore, the creator God in Genesis 1-2 was evil. Also, Jesus could not have come in the flesh, because flesh, being matter, was evil. As a result of this thinking, Marcion rejected the entire Old Testament as the false Scriptures of the evil creator god of Judaism. He also rejected much of the New Testament Scriptures which taught that Jesus was the Son of God come in the flesh.
These were radical changes and departures from the Jewish roots of Christianity. One of the passages which Marcion kept in his Bible, and which he heavily used to defend his ideas, was Luke 5:33-39. Based on this passage, he taught that Judaism was like old clothes and empty wineskins which needed to be discarded and ignored. Jesus had brought new clothes, new wine, and new wineskins which could not mix in any way with the old. Of course, it should be noted that verse 39 did not fit with Marcion’s interpretation, and so, as with other passages he couldn’t explain, he removed this verse from his Bible (Metzger 2002: 115).
And the church, though they eventually condemned Marcion as a heretic for many of his views, fully adopted and accepted this understanding of Luke 5:33-39, and for the most part, have not retreated from it for 1800 years. Furthermore, as the interpretation lived on, it was frequently used to justify the separation of any new group from the old, traditional group. Luther, Calvin, Zwingli and the other Reformers used Luke 5:33-39 to separate from Catholicism. In the past 500 years, almost every splinter group within Christianity has similarly used the passage in such a way to defend and explain their departure (cf. Govett 1989:6-18). Such an interpretation of the passage also explains the church’s almost total neglect—and even denial—of the Jewishness of Jesus and the apostles.
In recent decades, as scholars and pastors have rediscovered the Jewish roots of Christianity, questions have been raised about Marcion’s explanation of these parables. This challenge has come, in part, because the traditional understanding never really had an adequate way of explaining verse 39 where Jesus says, “And no one, having drunk old wine, immediately desires new; for he says, ‘The old is better.’” If Jesus was really teaching that He was separating from Judaism, how could He apparently agree with the consensus that “The old is better”? Though tradition is nearly unanimous on 5:33-38, there are numerous explanations and interpretations of verse 39. There is even evidence of some early tampering of original Greek manuscripts to help make sense of the verse in light of the traditional explanation. Some of the possible explanations will be presented in verse 39.
So with all of this in mind, the explanation below will provide two things. First, the traditional explanation will be summarized. Then an attempt will be made to explain what Jesus was really teaching with these parables.
5:33. The parables of Jesus in 5:34-39 are in response to a question that He is asked in verse 33. The parallel text in Matthew 9:14 indicates that it is the disciples of John the Baptist who ask the question. They want to know why the disciples of John fast often and make prayers, and likewise those of the Pharisees, but the disciples of Jesus eat and drink.
The Jewish people had numerous laws and customs for fasting. Aside from the yearly fast days, many religious leaders would also fast every Monday and Thursday, and would whiten their faces with ash so everyone could see that they were fasting (Matt 6:16-18; cf. Wenham 1989:27; Radmacher 1999:1260). It is not impossible that this feast with Levi was on one of these fast days (Shepard 1939:148). Daily prayers were said promptly at noon, three, and six, no matter where they were or what they were doing. If they were in a marketplace or on a street corner, they would pray there (Matt 6:5).
Jesus fasted and prayed (cf. Luke 4:2), and taught His disciples to do the same (Matt 6:6-18). However, there is no written record of the disciples fasting (cf. Mark 2:18). Instead, they seem to spend more time eating and drinking with Jesus. At one point, Jesus is even accused of being a glutton and a drunkard (Luke 7:34). At issue here is not the annual fasts which follow the Jewish calendar, but the daily prayers and weekly fasts which were part of the traditional disciplemaking methods of John and the Pharisees (Culbertson 1995:261).
But the issue of fasting and praying is only the topical question for a deeper issue. The real issue is why Jesus trains them the way He does. Jesus has already been challenged about His choice of Levi as a disciple (Luke 5:27-31), and now He is being asked about His training methods. As with everything in Judaism, there were set forms and guidelines for who a Rabbi should choose as his disciples, and how he should train them. The Pharisees followed this pattern, as did John the Baptist. Jesus, however, did not.
So both the Pharisees and the disciples of John were a little confused at the discipleship methods of Jesus. When they ask Jesus the questions of 5:30, 33, there is no animosity toward Jesus or criticism of His methods; just confusion and curiosity as to why Jesus was operating outside normal Jewish customs.
5:34. Jesus answers the question by speaking of a wedding feast. He asks if the friends of the bridegroom will fast while the bridegroom is with them. Jesus is identifying Himself as the groom, and His disciples as the friends. The question is rhetorical, as everybody knows that a wedding celebration is a time for feasting, not fasting. One who fasts at a wedding feast insults the bride and groom, especially if they are friends.
Jesus is not opposed to fasting in general, but fasting for his disciples at the present time. Fasting is a sign that a person is dissatisfied with the way their life and world is headed. It is a way of signifying an eschatological hope that God will restore righteousness and justice on the earth, and from a Jewish perspective, send the Messiah to do so (Green 1997:249). But for the disciples of Jesus, that which is hoped for in fasting—the Messiah—is already there. So there is no need for them to fast.
5:35. Jesus indicates that a time will come when the bridegroom will be taken away. Since Jesus is referring to Himself as the groom, many believe this is the first reference by Jesus to His future death and departure. Jesus says that when that day comes, then His disciples will fast.
This verse has been used by some to argue that Christians should not fast, and by others, to say we should. Those who argue against fasting say that the days of fasting which Jesus referred to when the bridegroom is taken away refer only to the three days between the death of Jesus and His resurrection. Now that He has risen from the dead, Jesus, the groom, is with us always, and so fasting is not proper for the Christian (Matt 28:20; cf. Morgan 1943:31).
The other position holds that although Jesus is with us spiritually, He is not with us physically, and fasting should be practiced until Jesus returns. The main strength of this position is the fact that the disciples did fast after Jesus had risen from the dead (cf. Acts 13:2; 14:23; 1 Cor 7:5).
The best approach seems to be that the verse should not be used to defend either position. Jesus is not trying to give guidelines for Christian piety (Wenham 1989:30). He is describing the kingdom and defending His discipleship methods, and is simply saying that while there will be a time for His disciples to fast, but that time is not now. When they do fast in the future, it should not be to reveal how holy and obedient they are to God, but in order to perform acts of justice and mercy (cf. 3:7-9; Isa 58:3-9; Jer 14:12; Zech 7:5-6; Joel 2:12-13). This type of fasting reveals the understanding that we wait for the final and complete inauguration of the Kingdom of God on earth by living according to Kingdom principles of justice and mercy here and now.
5:36. Having answered the questions from the Pharisees and John’s disciples with the two images of a doctor healing the sick and friends not fasting a groom’s wedding, Jesus further explains His answers with three parables. It is crucial to recognize that the parables are told not just in relation to the question of how Jesus makes disciples (vv 33-35), but also the earlier questions of who Jesus chooses to be His disciples (vv 30-32), and how Jesus can offer forgiveness of sins (v 21).
Though verse 36 says He spoke a parable, the repeated phrase no one (vv 36, 37, 39) indicates that this parable contains three pictures with one common message or theme. In attempting to understand the pictures, one must remember that they are not just illustrations. Parables are stories that use shock, surprise, and humor to challenge the listener’s thinking, values, and point of view. Parables are the seeds of a paradigm shift in the minds of those who hear and understand. The pictures within this parable use humor to show why Jesus chooses sinners and societal rejects to be His disciples, and why He trains them through eating and drinking at parties. First Century hearers would have laughed when they heard the folly of the first two pictures (cf. Trueblood 1964:94-98; Eriksson nd:9).
The first humorous picture concerns patching an old garment. This fits with the image of a wedding feast. Handing out clothes is something that bridegrooms did during wedding celebrations (cf. Judg 14:12-19; Rev 3:5; Isa 61:10).
Jesus says that no one puts a piece from a new garment on an old one. The picture is humorous because no one would be so foolish as to destroy a new garment just to fortify, strengthen, or patch an old garment (cf. Bock 1994:519). The new garment is made of unshrunk cloth, and so when a piece of it is sewn onto an old garment, and then washed, it makes a tear in the old garment, so that both old and new are destroyed.
Aside from destroying both garments, the new does not match the old. It is nearly impossible to find a piece of new cloth that perfectly matches the old in color and appearance. Such a patch would be embarrassingly visible to all. For such reasons, old garments were generally not patched at all. It was better, they thought, to leave a small hole or rip in a garment, then to bring attention to it by trying to cover it over with a piece of cloth that did not match is color, texture, or style, thus bringing even more attention to the damaged clothing.
The way this parable is typically taught is that the Pharisees have an old garment with holes in it and Jesus is bringing a new garment. A Jesus is not going to destroy His new way of doing things just to patch up the old way. That would destroy both. Instead, He is going to discard the old, and teach and practice the new way.
However, in the cultural context, Jesus is not stating that the old ways should be discarded. He is not even saying the old ways should be patched. Today, when an article of clothing develops a hole, it is typically discarded. But this was not the case in biblical times. Old garments were much too valuable to be thrown out. They were hardly “worthless and useless” (Pentecost 1982:23). If a piece of clothing developed a hole, the person would first try to repair or patch the garment. If that was not possible, the garment would be saved for some other purpose, possibly to mend some future garment.
Therefore, Jesus is not saying anything negative about the old garment, that is, the ways of the Pharisees. Nor is He saying that His new way is superior. Rather, Jesus is saying is that He has a new way, which is similar to the old, but still different enough that the two will not mix well.
This first parabolic picture of Jesus is in answer to the question of verse 33, and explains why Jesus teaches and trains His disciples the way He does. Jesus has a new way of making disciples which is not focused on fasting, but feasting. He wants people to see that life with God is full of joy and celebration. While there will be times for somber fasting, a life lived with Jesus is a life lived to the full (John 10:10).
5:37. The second picture is that of wine and wineskins. As with the garments, wine is a picture of festivity and celebration, and is often equated with the joy of a wedding feast (cf. John 2:1-10). In this picture, Jesus humorously points out that no one puts new wine into old wineskins. There were numerous types of vessels that carried wine, but the most common were made from the skin of sheep or goats. After the animals were slaughtered, the hides were cleaned, and sewn closed where the legs had been. The spout of the wineskin was where the neck used to be (cf. Bock 1997:520).
Newly pressed wine, or grape juice and other ingredients needed to make wine, was poured into the fresh wineskin through the neck, and when it was full, the neck was tied shut to make the skin airtight. Over time, the juice would ferment. The fermentation process would produce gas. And this gas would cause the goatskin to expand. A wineskin could be used several times before it lost its elasticity (Pentecost 1982:23). Eventually, however, the skin would lose its ability to flex, and would no longer be suitable for making wine.
If someone tried to use a wineskin that had lost its elasticity for making more wine, the fermentation process would cause the old wineskin to stretch beyond its limit, and the new wine will burst the wineskins and be spilled, and the wineskins will be ruined. Both would be destroyed. Jesus retains the touch of irony in this second parable as well (Bock 1997:520). Nobody would be foolish enough to put new wine into old wineskins.
5:38. The proper way to make wine is that new wine must be put into new wineskins. The new wineskins are supple, so when the new wine ferments in the skins, the skins expand, and both are preserved.
The traditional explanation of this second picture is like the first. Jesus was bringing new teaching and new ideas which could not be contained in the old ways of the Jewish Law. Therefore, the old ways should be abandoned for the way of Jesus. Typically, the way of Jesus is equated with grace, and the way of the Jews with law and legalism.
As a result of this traditional interpretation, numerous groups throughout church history have used this image to justify their own departure from other groups. Reformers used it to defend their departure from the traditions of Catholicism. Mostly newly formed denominations use the passage to explain their new forms of church. Charismatic groups use the passage to defend their view of the new work of the Holy Spirit.
All of these uses are based on an improper understanding of the imagery. First, the interpretation is based on bad theology. The idea that Jesus brought grace to replace the legalistic Jewish Law is false. Jesus was Jewish and intended to affirm the Law and fulfill it; not abolish and destroy it (Matt 5:17-18). The Law was good and gracious, and this parable must not be thought to say anything different.
A proper understanding of the imagery helps support the Jewish Laws and traditions. Like the old clothes of verse 36, old wineskins were quite valuable. Nobody would throw out old clothes, and nobody would dream of discarding old wineskins. To the contrary, old wineskins were often more valuable than new. They were often coated on the inside with pitch or tar, which made them watertight containers for storing almost anything. There is evidence of old wineskins being used to store and transport water, oil, grain, important documents, and even more old wine (Young 1995:157). Just because new wine does not get put into old wineskins, does not mean that the old wineskins are worthless and should be discarded. Rather, Jesus affirms the value of both old and new wineskins, and points out that each has its proper function. Using an old wineskin in a way it should not be used (to ferment new wine) will destroy the valuable wineskin and the ruin the wine.
Old garments were the finished products of a long process and old wineskins were prized for their ability to protect the wine from the air. For the original hearers…their cultural values were age, ancestry, and lineage and these values were directly tied to the material conditions of limited goods (Eriksson nd:11).
Used in this way, Jesus is once again affirming the traditional method of making disciples by the Pharisees and John, and the types of disciples they gather around them. He is not saying their way should be discarded. In fact, He is actually praising their ways and disciples by equating them to the valuable and useful old wineskins. Why does Jesus need new wineskins? Because He has new wine (discussed in v 39). The new wine is like the new clothes. Jesus has a new way of training disciples. Since this is so, Jesus cannot use the old type wineskin, that is, the old type of disciple that fits the traditional discipleship pattern. Jesus needs a new type of disciple to fill with His new discipleship methods.
If the first picture of this parable is in response to the question of verse 33 about why Jesus trains His disciples the way He does, this second picture of the parable is in response to the question in verse 30 about who Jesus has chosen as His disciples. Since Jesus has a new way of training disciples (v 36), Jesus needs new vessels to start with. He cannot use the traditional type of disciple, the educated, morally upright, respected individual—as valuable and as wonderful as such people are—they would not be able to wrap their minds around what Jesus was trying to do. The first picture showed that the way of Jesus is full of joy and celebration. This second picture includes that idea, but also shows that this way of Jesus is open and available to all people, even those other Rabbis would reject.
5:39. The third picture in this parable has proven the most difficult to fit into the traditional understanding of this passage. The first picture was about the new clothes, and the second about new wineskins. This third picture is about new wine. Jesus says that no one, having drunk old wine, immediately desires new; for he says, “The old is better.” This verse is confusing at first because it is true that the old wine tastes better. Everybody knows that wine gets better with age, and this was true in Jesus’ day, as it is in ours. Ecclesiasticus 9:10b reads, “As new wine, so is a new friend; if it becomes old, thou shalt drink it with gladness.” Of course, at that time, wine was considered old after three years (Lightfoot 1989:78).
The reason for the confusion is because of the traditional understanding of verses 38-38. If Jesus is bringing superior clothes and superior wineskins, then shouldn’t He also have superior wine? But since old wine is better, does this mean that the new wine of Jesus in inferior?
Some commentators correctly note that wine is often a picture for the Jewish teaching about the Torah. The Torah itself is compared to water, the Mishnah to wine, and the Talmud to spiced wine (Culbertson 1995:276; Young 1995:158). So based on this image, it seems that Jesus is bringing new wine, or a new teaching about the Torah. This idea fits well with what Jesus said in verses 36-38, but does not seem to fit with verse 39, where He seems to agree with the universal consensus that when it comes to wine, the old is better.
There have been numerous ways of explaining how to understand this verse. Below are several possibilities that have been proposed over the years, ordered (in my opinion) by increasing probability. First, some, like Marcion, have simply removed the verse since it seemed to disagree with what they thought the passage was saying. Marcion also cut out of his Bible much of the Old Testament and many of the other difficult parables of Jesus (Metzger 2002:115; Mead 1988:234). So the first solution is simply to ignore or reject the verse. There are, however, other less drastic solutions.
The second solution focuses in on the word old (Gk. palaios) and retranslates it as “former,” then draws a parallel between this passage and the first miracle of Jesus in John 2:1-10 where He turns water in wine. There, when the steward tastes the wine that came from water, he exclaims that while most people serve the best wine first, Jesus has saved the best wine for last. Seeing a similar idea here, verse 39 is understood as saying that the wine Jesus brings is superior, even though it follows the older, or former, wine (cf. Wenham 1989:35).
Third, some focus in the word drunk (Gk. piōn) and understand the verse as saying that once a person has become drunk on old wine, they don’t really want more (“new”) wine, for they are already drunk. The old is good enough, and it accomplished its purpose. They’ll stick with what has worked. This imagery fits with the fact that Jesus is at a party where some of the participants may well have become drunk.
Fourth, in comparison to Acts 2:13 where the work of the Spirit at Pentecost makes others think that the disciples are drunk, some have taught that old wine, since it was more valuable, was drunk in moderation, and often even diluted with water. New wine, however, since it was cheaper, was drunk more liberally, and without dilution. Old wine was intended for refined, moderated drinking; new wine was used for drunken parties (cf. Hos 4:11; 7:14). Therefore, Jesus is thought to be saying that those who follow His teachings of the Kingdom should drink deeply of them. “We should give up the old, cautious ways, which are like sipping old wine, duly watered, with decorous moderation, and plunge into the kingdom, as though into a Bacchic revel” (Mead 1988:234; cf. also Kendall 2004:92). Other passages do seem to indicate that the Messianic age is compared to a party (Zech 9:17), and that early Christians may have taken Jesus’ words here too literally (1 Cor 11:21; Eph 5:18).
Fifth, one popular suggestion is to hear irony in the statement of Jesus. Everybody has encountered individuals who don’t want to try anything new, even though the new way may be better than the old way. Read in this way, the wine that Jesus brings, though “new” in time (Gk. neos), may be superior in taste and quality, and in fact, may even be “older” since it is what God originally intended (cf. Blomberg 1990:125; Schweizer 1984:112; Wenham 1989:33).
Finally, there are several textual variants in the verse, which may indicate that from very early on, scholars have tried to make sense of this verse. Depending on which Greek manuscript is used will determine how the text is understood. There are two main variants in verse 39 which affect the meaning The first is the word eutheōs, which is translated immediately (cf. NKJV). By including this word, the verse indicates that people stick with what they are used to. They have developed a taste for a particular type of wine, and when they taste something different, they don’t like it at first. They believe that the former, or familiar, wine is better. But later, if they continue to try the new, they may realize that the newer wine truly is better. “They can be brought round to new wine, given time” (Mead 1988:234).
The second textual variant is with the word better (MT Gk. chrēstoteros), which in other translations isbest (Gk. chrēstos). With this, the choice of wine becomes one of simple preference—“I like this wine better than that wine”—rather than an exclusive statement about which one is ultimately best. With both variants, the Majority Text is preferred (as translated in the NKJV), as it helps lead to the proper understanding of this verse, which is presented below. People who thought that Jesus was condemning the old ways of Judaism and were desiring to provide an explanation for why the Jewish people ultimately rejected Jesus as the Messiah, would be included to edit this verse.
The main difficulty with all of these options is in what they share: the assumption that Jesus was trying to do away with something bad in the discipleship methods of John the Baptist and the Pharisees. That assumption causes verse 39 to be difficult to understand. If, however, this assumption is abandoned, and it is recognized that Jesus is not criticizing the traditional pattern, but is simply introducing His own different way of choosing and making disciples, then the verse becomes clear. The differences between the methods of Jesus and those of the Pharisees and John “had nothing to do with patterns of religion. It was not that the two fasting groups were concerned with outside observances, while Jesus was concerned only with the inner attitude of the heart. Nor can the fasting groups be dismissed as legalistic ascetics in contrast to Jesus seen as a free-and-easy antinomian” (Wright 1996:433). Something else is going on.
Jesus is answering questions about what kind of teacher He is, and what kind of disciples He is making, and ultimately, why He is doing things the way He is. The picture of new clothes (v 36) answers the question about the way Jesus is choosing to make disciples (v 33). The picture of new wineskins (vv 37-38) answers the question about why Jesus calls sinners and tax-collectors like Levi to be His disciples (v 30). And finally, the picture of new wine (v 39) answers the question about why Jesus teaches what He does (v 21). These three questions and answers are brought out more clearly in Mark 2:1-22. And what is the ultimate answer to all these questions? The Kingdom has arrived. The exile is over. “The party is in full swing” (Wright 1996:433; cf. also Evans 2003:194).
In a way, therefore, the final statement of Jesus in verse 39 is a veiled invitation to the Pharisees and the followers of John to try the new wine. He is not denouncing them or their ways, but a full cup of His wine has been placed on the table, and they are invited to taste it. Though they may not like it at first, the invitation is there (Eriksson nd:12). Jesus has brought in the Kingdom of God, and the invitation to participate is open to all. “Jesus interprets his behaviors, which are questionable and innovative to some onlookers, as manifestations of God’s ancient purposes coming to fruition” (Green 1997:250).
Referring back to the textual variants helps support this view. It seems likely that an early scribe might have removed the word “immediately” (Gk. eutheōs), since no wine connoisseur prefers new wine to old, regardless of how often it is tasted, and since Jesus is not saying that one way of discipleship is best and all other ways are bad, but rather, that those who are used to one particular way, continue to prefer it, believing that it is better than others. The scribe may have also been inclined to explain why the Jewish people rejected Jesus as their Messiah, and so would have put “best” (Gk. chrēstos) in the place of “better” (Gk. chrēstoteros). These scribal corrections are to be rejected because Jesus is not saying that the methods of the John the Baptist and the Pharisees are bad or should be rejected, but that He simply has a new way, which they will not immediately (or ever) appreciate.
So Jesus invites all people, including the Pharisees, to join Him in this fresh way of following the Torah, but knows that people generally remain in their traditions and are uncomfortable trying something new. They prefer the old. Jesus knows that most will not change their ways, nor even try it. If there is a rebuke of the Pharisees and their teachings, it is only in this: that they are so entrenched in their traditional ways of following Torah that they will not even taste the fresh, new way of following the Torah that Jesus has brought (Bock 1997:522).
Jesus found that much resistance to accepting his message, on the part not of hostile but of well-intentioned and pious people, arose simply from this attachment to old ways and old ideas. They had stood the test of time; why should they be changed? This was a perfectly natural response, and one which was not totally regrettable: it could be a safeguard against the tendency to fall for anything new just because it was new—to embrace novelty for novelty’s sake. …Old wine has a goodness of its own and new wine has a goodness of its own. Personal preference there may be, but there is no room for dogmatism which says, ‘No wine is fit to be drunk till it is old’ (Kaiser 1996:457).
So Jesus uses new methods (new clothes) to provide new men (wineskins) with a new message (wine). Jesus is not saying that the message, men, and methods for making disciples of John the Baptist and the Pharisees are wrong. He is simply pointing out that their way is not for everyone, and leaves some people outside of the boundaries. Their way is good for those who fit the mold. But Jesus wants to reach those who have been abandoned, overlooked, bypassed, and rejected. Through His words, actions, and selection of disciples, Jesus is showing that the Kingdom of God has arrived. Though he doesn’t name it here, Jesus is beginning to introduce the New Covenant since the previous Covenant will eventually vanish (Heb 8:13; Luke 22:20; Wiersbe 1989:189).
Healing, forgiveness, renewal, the twelve, the new family and its new defining characteristics, open commensality, the promise of blessing for the Gentiles, feasts replacing fasts, the destruction and rebuilding of the Temple; all declared, in the powerful language of symbol, that Israel’s exile was over, that Jesus was himself in some way responsible for this new state of affairs, and that all that the Temple had stood for was now available through Jesus and his movement.
…We get Jesus feasting with his motley group of followers, as a sign of their healing and forgiveness; Jesus implying that those with him are the true Israel; Jesus enacting the real return from exile, the new exodus; Jesus marking his people out with a new praxis which did for them what the Torah did for the pre-eschatological Israel; Jesus forming a counter-Temple movement around himself (Wright 1996:436).
Chapter 6 provides numerous examples of the new methods and message of Jesus as He teaches and trains the men He has chosen for His disciples.