Doing the right thing with new wine (Matthew 9:14-17)

No doubt, we should ask why Jesus referred to wine here. I would suggest that there may be two reasons. One is that frequently in the Old Testament wine was used to describe the joy that would mark the kingdom when the Messiah came. After all, Jesus is the Messiah and it would be expected that he would refer to what the Old Testament said about his kingdom. The other reason would be that everyone knew that wine was linked to celebrations and described situations in which people were happy at what was taking place. What are the new things that are going to give such joy.

Jesus spoke about this new way to the woman of Samaria. In their discussion, she wanted his opinion about whether Jerusalem was better than Gerizim where the Samaritans offered their sacrifices. If she had asked the question a few years earlier, the answer would have been that Jerusalem was more important because they did what God had stipulated concerning sacrifices. But now, says Jesus, the question is not relevant because a new time has arrived in which people can worship the Father anywhere without focussing on rituals. They would be able to worship the Father because Jesus would open the door for them to do so.

The new wine is the gospel, the good news of salvation. In the gospel, we discover the great love of God for sinners and the steps he took in order for them to drink the new wine. We are familiar, most of us, with great Bible texts that summarise the gospel, that tell us clearly what Jesus did for sinners. Those verses encourage us to come to Jesus and rest upon him for salvation, to cease trying to work our way into God’s favour but instead to trust in Jesus alone for pardon. They bring us to the cross and open to our gaze the cross of Calvary where salvation was procured for sinners.

What are some of the blessings connected to the gospel that we can receive freely from God? There is forgiveness of all our sins, there is reconciliation with the God against who we had sinned, there is adoption into his family, there is the working of the Spirit in our hearts to sanctify us, there is fellowship with Jesus, there is the community of saints, there is access to God’s presence, and there is the promise of heaven. All these blessings are wonderful and they are given to everyone who believes in the Saviour.

What are the new wineskins that we are to use to be able to drink the new wine? I would suggest that by a new wineskin Jesus was referring to a new heart. Where else can the blessings of the gospel dwell but in hearts that have been made new by the Holy Spirit? The problem with the disciples of the Pharisees and the disciples of John was that they were religious people with old hearts. They may have had minor differences between them, but both were very different to the disciples of Jesus. It is only a new heart that can hold the new wine of the gospel.

And those of us who have new hearts should always ask ourselves ‘why’ when we find ourselves drawn to legalism. After all, why would we want to depart from the gospel way and make up rules of our own as the way to live?

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