Questions From Readers
● What was Jesus’ point when he said that you do not sew a new patch on an old garment or put new wine in old wineskins?
Basically, he meant that Christianity would not, and in fact could not, be made to conform to the Judaism of his day with its traditions of men that had developed.
According to Mark’s account, Jesus said: “Nobody sews a patch of unshrunk cloth upon an old outer garment; if he does, its full strength pulls from it, the new from the old, and the tear becomes worse. Also, nobody puts new wine into old wineskins; if he does, the wine bursts the skins, and the wine is lost as well as the skins. But people put new wine into new wineskins.”—Mark 2:21, 22; Matt. 9:16, 17; Luke 5:36-39.
Jesus had just been asked why his disciples did not practice fasting as did the religious leaders, the Pharisees. Christ replied that, while he was with his followers, fasting as a sign of mourning was inappropriate. Then he said what is quoted above.
There was practical sense in his illustrations. If you sew a patch of new cloth on an old garment, the new material will shrink and rip away when this garment is washed. Or, if you put new wine in an old skin bottle that has lost its elasticity, the skin will burst when the new wine ferments and gives off carbon dioxide.
Jesus thus helped his hearers to appreciate that no one should expect his followers to conform to the old practices of Judaism, such as ritual fasting. Also, his powerful new teachings could not fittingly be contained in the system of Jewish religion. Rather, those hearing and following Jesus could rejoice in the vitality of his teachings without trying to compromise them with the Pharisaical ways of the Jewish leaders.