“No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. If he does, the new piece will pull away from the old, making the tear worse. And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, he pours new wine into new wineskins.” (Mark 2:21-22)
There are two levels of revelation in the book of Mark regarding Jesus the King and His kingdom. One is the King’s encounters with His subjects and the other is His kingdom teaching. Today’s devotion focuses on the second of these two.
Jesus gives us two examples to illustrate how change occurs in His kingdom. Change does not have to mean a “change for the better.” It can also indicate a change of seasons, or covenants between God and His creation.
Both illustrations are pretty easy to understand. A new piece of cloth on an old garment is going to shrink when it is washed. And new wine in an old wineskin (container make of animal skin) is going to ferment, further expanding and eventually bursting the old skin.
This is a great word picture because it helps us understand the relationship between God’s two covenants of law and grace. God established His first covenant through Abraham and wrote it in stone at Mt. Sinai in the presence of His servant Moses. He ushered in the second covenant through the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. Neither covenant was bad. Yet the two were different, which is why it is impossible to live under both.
The covenant of Law was tied to the Nation of Israel, the Promised Land, and God’s plan to use His people as a vehicle through which the second covenant would come. The covenant of grace fulfilled the first covenant by offering up the very Son of God as a final sacrifice.
Today, through faith in Jesus, we enter into the second covenant of grace. We can follow the first covenant if we want, but our sins will condemn us and we will have no recourse without the cleansing blood of the Savior.
This is exactly the issue Jesus was trying to address. The Pharisees were trying to proclaim themselves righteous under the covenant of law, and hold everyone else to their standards. But the self-righteousness of the Pharisees could not hide their hypocrisy and those they misled became the blind following the blind.
It is impossible to do both. Either we are condemned by the law or saved by grace. Both covenants have their place since we would not know grace if there were no law, but now we have been given a new and lasting covenant that fills up what was lacking in our walk with God.
I have never seen a wineskin burst, but I have had a few iron-on patches pull away from the knees on my pants. And if you remember wearing pants with those patches your mother ironed on them, you know how weird they felt.
I choose grace! Sorry mom…I know you meant well.
Dear God, thank You for our new relationship. In Jesus’ name, Amen.