4/7/2020 – The Parable of the New Cloth
Passage: Luke 5:36-39
Written By: Andrew Crippen – Undergrad
In this day and age, sometimes Jesus’ parables are left lacking in terms of context. The Parable of the New Cloth is one such parable to some extent. The first part is relatively easy to conceptualize. Jesus is talking about repairing a piece of clothing, with the people of the time probably visualizing a robe or a tunic. For a fast, cheap repair, one might rip a bit of cloth off of the nearest piece of clothing they might find. While this might cover the hole in their robe or tunic, it doesn’t do much good beyond that. In fact, the quick fix might have done more hurt than help, as you have both ripped the new, perfectly good garment, and you have drawn attention to the problem with the old garment through the use of the new cloth. The second half of the parable repeats the message through a similar format. In Jesus’ time, when wine or other liquids such as water, oil, or milk were to be transported, they were stored in a wineskin. A wineskin is a sealable pouch typically made from goat skin. When a wineskin is used to store wine, the wine sealed inside would continue to ferment, stressing the pouch as the internal gas pressure increased. When new wine is placed into an old wineskin, the new gases cause the already stressed skin to burst. This wastes both the skin and the wine.
Have you ever wondered why we as Christians don’t consider ourselves to be Jewish? We claim the same God, we read out of the same book, and we follow a lot of the same laws. But we consider ourselves to be something new, and it’s because of this parable. Jesus told this parable to a crowd early in his ministry to answer a question concerning the fasting habits of his followers. Some Pharisees had pointed out that their disciples and the disciples of John the Baptist had both observed traditional Jewish fasting habits, but Jesus’ followers did not. Jesus often talked about the problems with the Jewish faith throughout his ministry, but in that moment, before he had even designated his apostles, he made it very clear with this parable what he thought of the Jewish faith. Jesus sees the faith of the Pharisees as an old torn garment, as a bloated, stressed wineskin, one the verge of breaking. Jesus knew that the Pharisees don’t see the need for a meaningful relationship with God, and he saw how that holds them back. He declared that his ministry will break away from unnecessary ritual and traditions to make a real connection with our creator.
So what does this mean to us today? Well, even though there is still a definition of right and wrong, we don’t determine that with the law. Christ says “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” Matthew 5:17 NIV. However, in the modern church, we are often held back much like the Pharisees in ritual and tradition. We are so worried about how we and others ought to be living, that we forget why and for whom we ought to be living. By accepting Christ as our Savior, we begin to welcome the Holy Spirit into our hearts and lives. Jesus promises us this, referring to the Holy Spirit as Paraclete, or helper, which will be sent to the disciples of Jesus after he returns to the Father. The Holy Spirit is within us and alongside us, and it is through the Holy Spirit that we can shake off tradition and ritual. We no longer need those things to advance our relationship with God. We can, through prayer and reading of the gospel, by the Holy Spirit, learn how to lead a godly life from the only man to successfully lead a perfect life, Jesus. Through the Holy Spirit we can establish a meaningful relationship with God, and have an understanding of what it takes to further that relationship. We have a life free from laws that we all will break eventually, traditions that promote an ideal that we can’t reach, and rituals that will at times feel empty, because Jesus made a better way with his sacrifice. Because we can receive the Holy Spirit, we can be new garments and new wineskins, ready to live meaningful lives in relationship with God.
God, we thank you for your sacrifice. We thank you for sending the Holy Spirit to us so that we can understand and live the lives that you want for us. We ask that through your Holy Spirit, we would know how to live. We ask that we would see the freedom that you have given us to be even closer to you. We thank you that you desire to be so close to us. Amen.