Religion is often seen as a prop, crutch or help in difficult times; a psychological addition to normal life or a part of the social fabric providing a structure to life. And for many, their religion is just that. The word ‘religion’ means to bind oneself to a duty or obligation – ‘what you do creates your holiness’. In these verses, Jesus is telling a parable to prove that what is brand new will not mix with what is old.
Everybody knew that wineskins - made from animal leather - became hard and inflexible with age. If fermenting wine was put into an old skin, it would burst, and both the skin and wine would be ruined. The fabric of old cloth garments became brittle and inflexible so that sewing new cloth on to cover a defect would probably pull the old garment further apart. Jesus was making clear that He had not come to patch up people's lives or the inadequacies of the Jewish law (it was unable to make anyone good enough for God), but to bring new life which could not be contained by religious rules (Ephesians 3:19).
True Christians want to please God but they are not religious (in the sense of having to fulfil rites and a code of ethics in order to be acceptable to God). Everyone who has repented of sin and received Christ as Saviour has God the Holy Spirit living in them. His dynamic personality is so different from a powerless legal framework of religious dos and don'ts. Christ's powerful energy (Colossians 1:29) is refreshingly new. He brings grace, forgiveness and righteousness to unholy sinners at no cost to them: that is totally unknown in any religious system.
Some people think that they can 'bolt-on' Jesus to their existing lifestyle or religious beliefs, or have Him as an insurance policy. Wrong! As somebody has said, ‘If Christ is not Lord of all, He is not Lord at all!’ When He is welcomed as King in our lives, all other authorities must submit to Him, or go away. Many would like Jesus to fix the problems which they cannot solve; but He is not a travelling spiritual mechanic. He is your Maker, Redeemer, Shepherd, and Lord - He will transform your whole life when you let Him; and when that happens nobody wants the old way back again. As 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: the old has gone, the new is here!" That is a much-needed message for this world, weary of trying and failing to get better. It is just what some of your colleagues need to hear. Please tell them!
© Dr Paul Adams