“But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins” (Luke 5:38)
Dear friends in Christ, greetings to you in the name of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the One who was in the beginning, always is and always will be. 2017 is over and the much anticipated New Year, 2018 is here. Being the beginning of a New Year it is a good time to reflect on how we would want the year to turn out for us. It is also a good time for us as God’s people to take inventory of our walk with the Lord. We should take a very close look at where we are in our relationship with Him. We need to examine ourselves and see where we have been, where we are and where the Lord wants us to be.
There is something almost enticing about the inkling of “out with the old, in with the new.” Part of the realization of this task is to know that we need to say ‘goodbye’ to the agony and sores of the past. To do that we are going to have to find the courage to let go of our reeling anger, sendoff our bitterness, and cast off our malice toward those who have hurt us deeply. All these are the characteristics of an ‘old’ lifestyle that cannot fit into a new and bright vision. Remember, that the Lord wants us to be on higher grounds in all facets of our lives; the year as earlier said, presents us with this great privilege to fulfill the Lord’s purpose that we may gradually become perfect as God our Father (cf Mat 5:48).
The teachings of Jesus were totally unparalleled; no one ever taught like him. He amazed his listeners to the point that they verbalized their astonishment. He came with a complete and new teaching but met with the narrow-mindedness of the guardians of the old order. Through various illustrations he began to challenge them to understand that they could not cling to old and false convictions and expect to be able to embrace his teachings. For example, Jesus paints a very familiar image to drive home his point. He employs an illustration that was very typical at the time, something that the people could relate to and understand quite easily. In the custom of the day, where vineyards were common place, almost everybody was familiar with wine makers. Wine was used at meals and celebrations; hence, it was easy to be well acquainted with the process of making wine.
It was elementary knowledge therefore that when wine was new it was certain to go through changes or what is called fermentation. That is, the wine will develop pressure at certain points and if put in a container that was inflexible, it will burst it because the wine was mobile and going through changes. Jesus says you won’t take new wine that is subject to go through changes and put it into old wineskin because the old skin lacks the flexibility to adjust and adapt to the growth, mobility and aging process of new wine.
The “new wine” here represents the teaching of Jesus in all its freshness, novelty, and authority, and the “wine-skins” referred to the men who are to receive from the Lord his great teaching. Now, the renowned teachers in Israel (scribes and rabbis) were devoted to the old interpretation of the Law and as such were hampered by traditions. Jesus would rather his doctrine be handed over to simple unbiased men, who receive it and pass it on in its pure and unadulterated form to other simple souls than to the rabbi of Israel who are fettered by so many prejudices.
So the problem from a better perspective is not simply that Jesus had come with a new teaching but their framework of thinking and rigid religious systems were so antiquated and concrete that they would burst in the attempt to receive the new teaching.
My dear friends, every New Year comes with a mood of great expectations of new things and a much heightened optimism to make the year better than the previous one which is definitely a sound and noble aspiration, yet we might get it all wrong if we place our faith and energy in the wrong things. We should not be deceived that something magical, novel and groundbreaking had automatically happened and will show immediately in our lives just by merely crossing from one year to another.
The great Apostle and Saint, Paul, beautifully put this spiritual lesson to us when he says: “Let your minds be reformed so that your nature will be thus transformed” (Rom. 12:2). It is a call to action and not some illusory transformation. Therefore, with the mind of Jesus and the words of the Apostle, I urge you, focus not so much on the New Year but on the all-important need to cultivate a new mind because starting a New Year with the same old mentality, needless to say, it’s just going to be like business as usual. In other words, we do not go into a new year with an old mindset; that would be like putting new wine into old wineskins.
May the grace of Jesus fill you that you may be renewed by his teaching. Amen
† Alfred Adewale Martins
Archbishop of Lagos
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