"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." (Mark 2:21)

All three Synoptic Gospels record this analogy to answer the question why the disciples of Yeshua do not fast like the disciples of the Pharisees and John the Baptist. Yeshua adds a parallel analogy to strengthen His argument:

"And no one puts new wine into old wineskins, otherwise the wine will burst the skins, and the wine is lost, and the skins are as well, but one puts new wine into fresh wineskins." (Mark 2:22)

CONTEMPT FOR THE OLD FORM AND STRUCTURE

The charismatic and renewal movements have adopted these verses to castigate old structures of congregations, including denominations. They are cited as the authority to reject old worship styles as well. In the new streams of congregations, new worship styles and new models of education are the new wine and new wineskins. The new wine and new wineskins are good and the old wine and wineskins are bad. Some say that the new work of the Spirit cannot be put into old wineskins. This leads to the arrogant supposition that the new churches and streams have superseded the older churches and streams. One of my theologian friends noted that this arrogance can be traced to the original supercessionism - that the Church has replaced Israel (old wineskins). Messianic Jews embrace the New Covenant and apply Torah. Some regard this is an obvious mistake of putting new wine into old wineskins. I recently came from a large leadership conference where this use of the analogy of new wine and new wineskins was pervasive.

THE MEANING OF WINE AND WINESKINS

I have argued that the picture of new wine and new wineskins is not a diatribe against the old wine and old wineskins. Rather, it is an argument for appropriate behavior according to the times and circumstances. The goal of putting the wine in the new wineskins is not to drink the new wine, but to age the wine so that the new wine will become old wine. If one is going to immediately drink the wine before it ferments, it does not matter what wineskin one puts it in. A new wineskin is necessary because it has the required elasticity to stretch as the contents expand during the aging process. The version in Luke 5 even says that "no one who drinks old wine wants the new, for they say the old is better." (v. 39) This is as if Luke is warning exactly against the wrong interpretation we have just described. Therefore it is not appropriate to fast while Yeshua is physically present, but when He is absent, fasting will be part of the life of believers. Fasting is not forever eliminated. It is true that with the coming of the Kingdom circumstances have changed and require new wisdom to integrate old and new. Things cannot be done just as before, as if He had not come. However, the new ways do not sweep away all that is valuable in the old. When new revelation comes, it has to be integrated with the wisdom of those upon whose shoulders we stand. If it does not build upon and integrate with past revelation and practice, how can it be recognized as true revelation?

THE ANALOGY OF SHRUNKEN CLOTH

I think the analogy of shrunken cloth makes this even clearer. In Mark's version, one must shrink the cloth before sewing it to the old garment. Obviously, the patch is applied to make the old garment useful. The new cloth does not replace the old garment. Jeremiah, who writes about the New Covenant, says in Jeremiah 6:16:

"Thus says the LORD, Stand by the ways and see and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is and walk in it: and you shall find rest for your souls."

What does it mean to shrink the new patch? It means to prepare it so it can be rightly integrated into the old garment. Again, this is appropriate action for the circumstances. Indeed, the concern is to see the patch fulfill its useful function. That is, to preserve the older garment! Hardly anyone who jabbers on about new wine and old wineskins ever emphasizes the verse on the un-shrunken patch. Why? It would destroy the arrogant interpretation that does not honor forefathers. This is a great disrespect for the past. It makes people feel rootless, denying that God has worked in past generations and has by grace given revelation and practice that is worthy of preservation.

APPLYING THE ANALOGY OF WINESKINS AND SHRUNKEN CLOTH

So just how does the passage apply? In the Matthew passage, we are to preserve the old wineskin and the new wine. So it would appear that new wine in new wineskins is always added to the storehouse that is also the repository of the old wine and old wineskins. Yeshua refers to this when he says,

"Therefore every scribe who has become a disciple of the kingdom of heaven is like a head of a household, who brings forth out of his treasure things new and old." (Matthew 13:52)

So here is a text about appropriate behavior according to the situation. Here are some examples of application.

With the coming of the Messiah, the rules have to change. Yeshua makes these new rules through his apostles. It is no longer possible or appropriate to bar gentiles as unclean when they embrace faith in the God of Israel through the Good News of Yeshua. They can be part of the Passover Seder in its most pronounced meaning, the bread and wine that represent the Body and Blood of Yeshua.

With the gift of the Spirit, our relationship to prophecy changes; now each person can hear the voice of the Spirit and become a prophetic person. We are not subject to prophets in the same way, but we still do recognize prophets.

We still pray the old Psalms, but must add prayers and praises that incorporate the fullness of the meaning of Yeshua and the benefits of the New Covenant.

Sometimes there is a creative new response to a move of the Spirit in a particular locale. If a pastor seeks to bring this new move of the Spirit into his congregation without adequate preparation, it can burst apart his congregation. It may be unfamiliar, strange or threatening. Many people have an immediate aversion to that which is unusual to them. However, if the pastor shrinks the cloth, that is, he prepares a right integration; he can eventually incorporate the best of the new move without destroying his congregation.

I have seen congregations destroyed. I have seen others incorporate new ways and lose very few. One example is Holy Trinity Brompton Anglican Church in London. The congregation drinks the old wine from the old wineskin: the great old Anglican Evangelical liturgy and communion service. However, all who desire are invited to stay for a spontaneous Holy Spirit meeting. The old hymns and new charismatic songs both find their place. More and more people have embraced the new.

This has important implications for Messianic Jewish communities where we seek to integrate both old and new with wisdom. The spontaneous new in the Spirit should always characterize New Covenant communities. However, the old wine is important too. A sense of rootedness in the Feasts and ancient biblically grounded liturgies add depth and meaning where we honor what is good in our heritage.

Let us be done with interpretations that support arrogance in response to history. Let us rather respect and honor all that is good.

By Daniel Juster


Dan Juster leads the overall ministry Tikkun International. Donate to Tikkun International.

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Comments:
08:49 03Feb09 James -
Awesome article! We pray and lift up the brothers and sisters in Christ, daily, who suffer to do the work of the Jesus in the most important place in the world. A word of encouragement; I have seen a rise in the number of believers in America who hear the calling to support our Israeli brothers and sisters. Even to the point that some are attending Messianic synagogues here to learn more of who God really is. Some are even preparing for the day that they too, will be able to stand in Jerusalem hand-in-hand with their Hebrew brothers in battle. Know our prayers are with you all and our desires are to be with you in ministry.

08:50 03Feb09 Susan Warner -
This was such a wonderful article. I have come to rely on your commentaries as a very beneficial part of my walk with the Lord.

10:06 03Feb09 Donna Diorio -
It is perplexing to me, Dr. Dan, that some of the most spiritually attuned churches and movements in the Church today have exactly this blind spot to the purposes of God in Israel.
The apostle Paul could not have been more prophetically accurate about the inclinations of human nature that would blind the "new wine" folks to seeing how they stand on the shoulders of the "old wine."
I believe, however, that it is exactly this group of Christians, when the blinders finally fall from their eyes as to the purposes of God in raising up an authentic testimony in the Messianic Jews of new wine in old wineskins, that is going to be far more dynamic and powerful than all the current Israel-supporters. Because the vast majority of Israel supporters today - those who see God has a plan for Israel - are still completely ignoring how God has been raising up thousands upon thousands of Jewish believers in Jesus as a witness and as laborers in God's intended harvest among all the Jewish people.
The Messianic movement is also not perfect, especially in the United States where there is an over-emphasis in traditional forms of Judaism. As we keep addressing the issues of both sides, the scales of blindness on both sides are bound to fall off. The Truth will set us free because both sides are seeking to worship God in Spirit and in truth. It seems we just have to get to the place where we are honoring what God has invested in both sides before we will find that unity Yeshua prayed we would enter into together.

10:37 03Feb09 Gloria Haworth -
I have often struggled with the various interpretations of this passage and have come to my own conclusions. I appreciated your insights so much that I plan on forwarding this to some of my dear friends and relatives.
I have believed for a number of years that we should embrace and respect the Old Testament feasts, if only because they so beautifully foreshadow events that occured later. I look forward to the fulfillment of the final day of Sukkot when the Shofar is sounded for the last time! In case you would like to know, I was raised in a Christian home.
Peace to all Israel, both those born into the Chosen tribes and those of us who are spiritual Israelites.

11:00 03Feb09 Bob Colver -
Thank you Daniel for this most important set of clarifications. I can look back 35 years to my first church experience in which I would classify as "if it was not new wine, it was no good, to be rejected." 20 years ago I began to see the seeds of self-righteousness destroy my former church and began to understand respect and tolerance for others. I have learned to pray for all churches I pass by, and to be humble and full of grace for all believers in Yeshua's life, His Cross, and His living Word.

11:27 03Feb09 Susanna V -
I absolutely loved it!! So true, cannot throw out the old in arrogance, both are vital!!

11:40 03Feb09 Charlotte -
Dan -- wonderful message! Wish it could be sent to all the churches in the Kingdom. Thanks for all you do.

12:04 03Feb09 Tom Dolph -
I've "preached" against the blatant, deliberate and conscious RE-interpretation (TWISTING) of Holy Scripture for the past 40-years. These opportunistic innovators know they can always attract new followers if they can come up with a novel doctrine, and they're always searching for just the right gimmick and a "proof text" that seems to back it up. Those with "itching ears" will never bother to examine the evidence because they DON'T WANT to find out it's false. These "innovators" are exactly what Paul was talking about when he spoke of "ravening wolves" and those who seek to make money off gullible "fans of religion".

12:09 Jesse Bruton -
Good job pointing out how such a passage can be used as permission to dishonor the faithful ones who preceded us. May we all always be pliable, flexible vessels to preserve the wonderful ministry of the Holy Spirit for many to drink deeply from.

13:20 03Feb09 Pelham Gross -
And the Light out of Israel just keeps falling into my Bible for Truth to jump alive inside my hide!! Oh-h-h-h-h BROTHER what a blessing! Thank you for your faithfulness!

14:15 03Feb09 Tom Mills -
Thanks for this article. I find we do much the same thing to the Malachi passage calling for Elijah the prophet to "restore the hearts of the fathers to their children..." We have totally ignored the fact that Malachi is talking about those who currently represent the "fathers of the Faith" here - the current leadership of Israel. They have abandoned their true calling and have forsaken the "children of Israel." In other terminology, the shepherds have abandoned the sheep. We have limited this passage to familial "dads" and the lost generation of "kids" when in fact, God is calling this forerunner generation to become the prophetic voice (Elijah) calling the leadership of the Church back to truly caring for the sheep - Jesus' children - and preparing them for His return. This can probably be applied to dads and their kids, but the true power of the text is released when we use the term "fathers" the way Malachi used it instead of the way modeern western preachers have used it.

  -- Dr Juster replies: Yes, I agree, it applies to all you have outlined.

16:39 03Feb09 Spyros Karalis -
I am a Greek Charismatic Christian who accepts and loves Messianic Jews. Brother Daniel Juster has always the wisdom to say things with a positive balanced way. May our Lord Jesus bless him. Dan is a blessing not only to Messianic Jews but to the Gentile Church also. Thank you brother.

22:42 03Feb09 Suzanna -
This is a most helpful exegesis, one that we shall pray to practice, with humility and wisdom and hopefully be able to pass on to others, at the approrpiate times. You touched on the place of fasting, which of course is important at the right times, for the right reasons.
However we witness a ministry to new, (ex-U/O) believers and also in other contexts, where it may even be over-emphasised. We do ourselves fast as God leads and with wisdom we trust. But it is our belief that fasting is more for us, (as a discipline and reminder). Our Great Father God answers our prayers only because our High Priest has died for us and because we pray with faith in His name, alone [not because we are fasting.]
It is good to share the different aspects of practising our messianic faith, so we praise God for you.

06:28 04Feb09 anonymous -
This article was very enlightening I'm completely amazed and so blessed. May the Lord continue to flood the eyes of heart with more light so that we can be blessed.

08:01 04Feb09 Rolf Piller -
Excellent, it reflects also that we need to trust HIM more than our understanding. We need to learn thinking matters to the end and not stop somewhere inbetween. Taking time to reflect and not to rush ahead.

13:29 04Feb09 Mike and Nickie -
Thank you Dan for your teachings and the balance and loving attitude you bring. You have a gentle spirit which brings together Jews and gentiles to each issue.

14:30 04Feb09 Brinah -
Everything you say is reasonable and well-balanced. I know the problems you describe between traditional evangelical and charismatic Christians all too well. We have faced them in many churches over the last 20-something years. The joy of the rediscovering of the gifts of the Holy Spirit along with inspiring new music and songs and a freer and more lively form of worshipping was so overwhelming and exciting that we wanted to "bless" everyone with it. Sadly this was often done in an immature and insensitive way - and thus rather by pushing, dragging and in other somehow aggressive ways.
The other side of the coin is - just as sadly - that the congregations were much too eager to prove all the renewal/revival as wrong, even as a "spirit from below" and "all this Holy Spirit talk" as something "that has no significance today, that ended with the days of the Apostles" -- at least here in Germany, where I live.
Meanwhile some kind of co-existence has been developed in most places. In my church this reads: we do what we always did and you may sing three worship songs, aren't we progressive? You will understand that I am NOT happy.

14:47 04Feb09 Raymond Wiggins -
I am convinced that many of your commentaries are "oracular" in nature, that is to say, you understand the "first principles of the oracles of God," namely, being one who is "swift to hear" the "implanted word" deposited in your inner most being and then ministering that same grace in your writings to us, the readers, as the Spirit of wisdom and revelation opens our "eyes" to these "hidden nuggets" of truth! You are certainly not "dull of hearing!" The Body of Christ, is maturing as you continue to supply to it "grace for grace."

22:08 04Feb09 anonymous -
What an interesting analogy! I find myself using it in relation to my home church, which has entered the Post Modern era perhaps more rapidly than it should have, and has lost many of its number. As for the point you are making for keeping the old traditions in the Messianic Jewish services, yours and other writings have served to educate me on a subject which I had not really considered before.

02:14 05Feb09 Patricia Goodwin -
Thank you for puting this teaching so clearly. I shall be sharing it with the other members of our study group which is studying the Torah and our Jewish roots.

23:36 05Feb09 anonymous -
Thank you, thank you, thank you! I have been involved with this movement and have been uncomfortable with what I have felt was a spirit of superiority. They seem to feel "their new wine" is better than others who are walking with the Lord. There are many godly people with different ways of worshiping God.

14:25 06Feb09 Tracy -
This is an excellent teaching that really explains the "whys" of the quick rise and fall of so many of the revivals across the land. We need the revelation of the one new man, and the maturity of the whole body of Yeshua to have the sustaining end time revival. We need all that the Lord has and is establishing. For the greatest harvest of souls, we should be seeing the lasting fruit of keeping with repentance. I have been deeply concerned about the "emergent church" movement, for our youth. This article is very important, and I will be spreading this message!

19:26 16Feb09 Larry Schnedler -
Good article. I also believe it is important to honor those who have gone before, through whose wisdom and sacrifice we have what we have today. I personally do not enjoy the old as much as some do, but a balance between old and new is healthy. I appreciate the balance brought to the subject through this article.


Also in this issue of the newsletter:

A Father's Heart for a Soldier Son
Marty Shoub: Portrait of the Artist
Asher Intrater: War in the Heavenlies