During his ministry, Jesus frequently challenged conventional wisdom, and He also encouraged His followers to radically demonstrate God’s love. He often did this through the use of parables. Jesus used these short stories to relay important instructions and lessons in ordinary language. There are more than 30 parables in the Bible, each with its own dynamic lesson.
In Matthew 9:16-17, we learn of the Parables of the New Cloth and New Wineskins. “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.”
In Jesus’ time, wine was stored in wineskins, not bottles. In doing so, new wine was never put into an old skin. While fermenting the wine, it was always poured into new skins. The reason is because during fermentation, the exerted gases created pressure. The new wine skins were elastic enough to take the pressure, but old wine skins could burst because they could not withstand the fermentation process.
In the parable, Jesus also refers to patching a garment. Normally, you shouldn’t waste a piece of new cloth to repair an old garment. If new cloth is used to patch an old garment and the patch becomes wet, it could shrink and then put strain on the old garment. The tear ultimately could be worse.
Jesus was trying to tell believers that if we want to follow His teachings, we can’t be like that old piece of clothing. We can’t put Jesus’ new teaching on our old selves because it won’t work. If we want to follow Jesus’ teaching, we have to become new through Him.
A person’s behavior reflects his commitment to Christ as seen in the illustration of attaching new cloth to old clothing. The old clothing — our sinful, selfish life — cannot be mended but must be replaced. We must seek to be new through Jesus and be an outward example of how we can be transformed through His grace and mercy.