Tuesday, January 17, 2017

New Wine Needs New Wineskins.. What's a Wineskin??

Today's Gospel ends with one of my favorite verses (which, coincidentally, sums up the whole Bible),

"New wine is poured into fresh wineskins" - Jesus (in Mark 2:22)

In biblical times people drank a lot of wine.  Not because they were running away from their problems but because they were trying to prevent digestive ones.  Wine was generally made to be much weaker than we are familiar with today however the alcohol kept the beverage safe to drink.  Water wasn't always safe to drink.  People died a lot more back then than they do today.


I mean, death came earlier in ancient times for many reasons but, to sum it up, the modern world has advanced medicine and knowledge of all the things.  So, today we know how to survive better because we know of the existence of things like bacteria.  

So, people in Jesus' day drank wine and they stored it in things called "wineskins" which was usually made of animal skins.  Newly made wine would need to be stored in a big ol' jar or a wineskin and it would begin fermenting which would stretch the wineskin.  If the wineskin was used before then that means it would have been stretched already by the previous fermentation of wine.  HENCE, the need for NEW wine to be poured into a NEW wineskin.  The new wine expanded the new wineskin, it didn't burst, and everyone was happy.

In the Old Testament God gave the wine of His grace through the Law and the Prophets.  The people's hearts became used to this wine.  Jesus came on the scene, though, and had a new wine for the Israelites and the world.  For the people to receive the new wine of the Holy Spirit into their lives they would need new wineskins, new hearts, in order to stretch with the "fermentation" process of conversion which God calls us to.  Hence, "New wine is poured into fresh wineskins" is really a summary of the Bible because in Christ not only are we given something new but we are made new.  

So that's the general meaning of the verse.  But, God's Word doesn't just speak in general, informative, and interesting messages for us.  God's Word speaks directly to each heart.  The problem can happen, however, that even though God may be trying to communicate something intensely and uniquely personal to an individual that person may not be open or listening.  That person (i.e. you and me) needs to be open to what God wants to give.  We need to let go of our old wineskins and give God new hearts to which He can pour Himself into.

Life application?  God is laboring, trying to give you something new.  "Behold, I am doing something new.  Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?" - God (Isaiah 43:19)  You (and me) are very good at resisting His gifts.  For various reasons we as human beings struggled to let God love us while He struggles to love us.  Remember when Jacob wrestled with God (via His angel) in the Old Testament?  Yeah, that's all of us.  Our mission in the spiritual life (and in life in general) is to let God has His way; to let God win; to let God give us the new wine of His grace.  In every moment He has a new grace or blessing for you.  What is He trying to give you in this moment?  

In your prayer time try to come to God in a posture of receptivity and be intentional about it.  Read a Scripture passage (perhaps the one above about the wineskins) and ask God what it is He is trying to give to you.  He ALWAYS wants to give us His grace. Don't resist.  Otherwise, our hearts will remain pretty much as they are right now.