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When I was in college, I started freshman year with the cute idea that I could carry all my stuff in my hands instead of a backpack. With a fossil bag slung around my waist and a knee-high stack of books protruding over my shoulder, I quickly learned that I needed something a bit stronger than my hands to support all those heavy books.
By my sophomore year of college, I finally caved to the fact that I needed to invest in a backpack. After thorough research, I purchased a nice one, that though it was expensive, promised me it would last for the next five years.
Three years after college, I still have that backpack. And while it shows immense signs of wear and tear, I cling to it steadfastly. The funny thing is, two years ago my mom noticed how torn up this backpack was and told me it was time to get a new one. So, I asked for a new backpack exactly like it two years ago. I am ashamed to say that the old one is still used weekly, while the new one hangs up in my closest like a prized possession.
For some reason, I would rather cling to the old until it literally falls apart on me than use the new. And I think the Pharisees who asked Jesus about old and new things in Luke 5 did the same.
New Garments, Old Wineskins
In Luke chapter 5, beginning at verse 33, Jesus is questioned by the Pharisees about his Disciples’ choices not to fast. During this conversation, Jesus reminds them that the friends of the bridegroom do not mourn while he is still with them but when he is gone. We do not mourn for our long-distance friends when they are with us, but when they have returned to their homes. In the same manner, Jesus was saying, those who follow me will mourn and fast when I am no longer physically with them. But for now, why would they mourn when I am here?
Explaining this ground-breaking principle of holiness and religion that extend far greater than scrupulous laws and orders, Jesus uses this parable:
“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. 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. No, new wine must be poured into new wineskins. And no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for they say, ‘The old is better” (Luke 5:36-39, New International Version).
In simple terms, Jesus explains that we do not use a new item to patch an old one. For example, if we have an old t-shirt that we have grown out of, we do not buy a new one to cut off half of it and sew it onto the old one. That would be silly! We buy a new t-shirt and throw out the old one because it has served its purpose.
Similarly, let’s say you have a bottle of grape juice in your fridge. When it is brand new and freshly opened, it tastes great. The lid pops off with a bottle opener, and you can taste the carbonated bubbles. After the container has been in your fridge for a week, however, and all the sugar sinks to the bottom, it no longer tastes fresh. It tastes like flat pop. And you know who likes flat pop? Very few people!
The problem with this parable is not that the Pharisees didn’t know the difference between old and new things, but that they were deliberately choosing the old way of life (being a slave to the Law that they thought would set them free) instead of the new (being a slave to Jesus Christ who would eternally set them free if they would only partake in a personal relationship with Him). The Passion Translation of Scripture states it this way:
“Jesus’ critics questioned him. “John the prophet is known for leading his disciples to fast often and pray. As the religious leaders of the land, we do the same. Why do you and your disciples spend most of your time feasting at banquets?” Jesus replied, “Should you make the sons of the bridal chamber fast while celebrating with the Bridegroom? But when the Bridegroom is taken away from them, then you will see them fasting.” And he gave them this illustration: “No one rips up a new garment to make patches for an old, worn-out one. If you tear up the new to make a patch for the old, it would not match the old garment. And who pours new wine into an old wineskin? If someone did, the old wineskin would burst and the new wine would be lost. New wine must always be poured into new wineskins. Yet you say, ‘The old ways are better,’ and you refuse to even taste the new wine that I bring” (Luke 5: 33-39 The Passion Translation).
The Pharisees were so concerned with the way they had always been living, and the Laws associated with that, that they were ignorant to the fact that truth stood before them. This is why verses 38-39, even in the New King James Version, write these lines: “But new wine must be put into new wineskins, and both are preserved. And no one, having drunk old wine, immediately desires new; for he says, ‘The old is better” (Luke 5:38-39, New King James Version).
Old Wineskin, Old Wine
Many of us who have old things or ways of living we are accustomed to often refuse to try new things. But we cannot mix the old and the new. We have to let go of the old to make room for the new. I do not want to be so stuck on the old that I do not make room for the new God wants to pour into my life.
Personally, this really speaks to me because I am a person that likes routine, order, and what to expect next. I often call my way of living organized spontaneity. And while there is nothing inherently wrong with this way of living, I have to be careful that my organized plans do not become mandated expectations of control that I prioritize over God’s plans for my life.
In the same manner, I also use old things until they are on their next to last leg or break or die. A perfect example of this is my backpack! I got a new one that is the exact same backpack two years ago, and yet I have refused to use the new one because I am still waiting on the old one to break. There is nothing wrong with the old one (other than that it looks ratty), but why do I keep using it when a new one has been purchased for me?
Laying Down Our Old
Sometimes, it is hard to lay down our old ways and things we are used to having, even when we know something better and greater is in store. Like the Pharisees in verse 39 of the Passion Translation, we say that the old ways are better without even testing or trying out the new wine Jesus brings.
While I suspect that I am not the only one who struggles with clinging to the old from time to time or trying new things, I want to close with a practical example of this.
Because I have a lot of food allergies, I often eat vegan and dairy-free foods. I have become adventurous when it comes to exploring these things because I know that my diet is very limited. My mom, on the other hand, is not dairy-free and is a meat and potatoes kind of woman. She is strong, stubborn, and loves her double portion of mashed potato sides, no questions asked!
When it comes to my cooking, however, I can see my mom’s distaste for vegan mashed potatoes or desserts a mile away. She detests my dairy-free food before even tasting it.
“How do you know you won’t like it if you’ve never even tasted it?” I’ll ask.
“I just know!” She always replies.
How Do You Know If You’ve Never Even Tasted It?
Today, my challenge would be the same. How do you know you won’t like it, if you’ve never even tasted it?
Like the Pharisees, we get caught in religion, rules, and being slaves to whatever the old is we are having trouble letting go of, without ever giving thought to the new. It is too scary, foreign, and certainly outside of our comfort zones.
But how do we know we won’t like the new that Jesus has in store for us unless we are willing to taste it? To taste Him? To experience the “out with the old and in with the new” He brings to the table and feast?
Lord, I pray that you will help us to put down our old, whatever that entails so that you can make room for the new. We trust that as we experience the new you have in store for us, we won’t even look back to the old that once held us hostage. The old isn’t always bad, but why would we cling to it when something even greater is just within reach?