Read: Matthew 9:14-17
Fermentation makes everything from carbonation to preservation possible. However, it can also wreak havoc. In September 2017, a vineyard in California found one of their metal wine barrels swollen by over-fermentation. They attempted to relieve the pressure in the barrel by removing the clamp, only to have it blown off by a 20-foot torrent of wine.
The expansive (and sometimes destructive) nature of fermentation was well-known in Jesus’ time, and He used this phenomenon to demonstrate His point in Matthew 9. Jesus had recently experienced a series of run-ins with religious leaders. He had offered forgiveness and healing to a lame man, called a despised tax collector to be His disciple, and then gone to a party with people of ill-repute.
At this party, John’s disciples asked Jesus why He and His disciples didn’t fast. Many religious people of the time had adopted a twice-weekly fast in addition to the prescribed Day of Atonement fast. Fasting and feasting both have their place (v. 15), but Jesus points them to the heart issue by quoting from Hosea: “For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.” (Hosea 6:6)
He illustrates His point with two parables (Matt. 9:16-17). The images here are those of unresolvable conflict between the new and expanding and the old and rigid. New cloth can tear inflexible garments apart. If new wine is poured into a rigid wineskin, the fermentation process will break the wineskin. The parallel is clear: the works-based religion of the Pharisees was incompatible with new life in Christ.
Jesus ends the parables with a twist: no one likes new wine! Jesus’ statement is not one of qualitative judgment, but of preference. Everyone prefers the old wine, because they haven’t yet developed a taste for the new way Christ offers.
It is naturally difficult for us as sinful people to accept that we need a Savior. We often prefer to prove our own holiness through spiritual disciplines. Are you attempting to prove your worth to God or people?
Review the promises of God in Ephesians 1:3-14. Next time you’re tempted to prove yourself, use these promises to prove God’s greatness.