Revelations from the Word

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The old wine is better

by Jean-Louis Coraboeuf

"Then they said to Him, Why do the disciples of John fast and pray often, like the Pharisees, but Yours eat and drink?... Then He spoke a parable to them: No one puts a piece from a new [kainos] garment on an old one; otherwise the new makes a tear, and also the piece that was taken out of the new does not match the old. And no one puts new [neos] wine into old wineskins; or else the new wine will burst the wineskins and be spilled, and the wineskins will be ruined. But new wine must be put into new [kainos] wineskins, and both are preserved. And no one, having drunk old wine, immediately desires new [neos]; for he says, The old is better" (Luke 5:33-39).

Jesus had just called Levi to follow Him, then the latter organised a feast to celebrate the event, and Jesus' disciples ate and drank with these sinners (Luke 5:27-30). Jesus then taught them by means of a parable. The old garment represents Judaism and the new garment faith in Jesus the Messiah. In the same way as a piece of new material cannot be fixed onto an old garment without risking tearing it, faith in Jesus the Messiah cannot be added to traditional Judaism without initial preparation. In the same way new wine cannot be put in old wineskins without causing them to burst open, the new teaching of Jesus cannot be accepted by traditional Judaism without conflicts.

The Greek adjective neos means 'new' with the notion of time, that is to say young. The Greek adjective kainos means 'new' and 'of quality', that is to say brand new (which has not yet been used) or renewed (in relation to what was beforehand). And so the wineskins can be brand new or renewed. When we become new [kainos] creations in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17), we do not change personality, but we are renewed in our inner being. The renewing of the wineskin is done by turning it round [metanoia] and tanning [dero] it. The Greek word metanoia means change of mentality, repentance, and the Greek word dero to tan, to beat with blows, to skin, in order to make a wineskin or a bag. The renewing of the wineskin is made evident by these two verses, "I am come to call sinners to repentance [metanoia]” (Luke 5:32) and "The servant who, having known the will of his master, has prepared nothing and has not acted according to his will, and will be beaten [dero] with a great many blows" (Luke 12:47).

In general, man does not like to change his ways in the natural realm and still less in the spiritual realm. That is why he says, "The old wine is better". God is not against old wine since there will be a feast of excellent dishes and old wines in His kingdom (Isaiah 25:6). But faith in Jesus the Messiah implies two things: repentance with respect to former things, our former self, and a complete renewal of our entire being, our new nature in Christ. It is then that Jesus will be able to instil His new teaching in us. The Pharisees who considered themselves righteous, were therefore not able to see the need to repent (Luke 5:32), nor to receive new teachings, and still less the need to let a new Master tan their old wineskin.