Jesus warns the scribes and Pharisees about the problem of a “closed mind” that refuses to learn new things. Jesus used an image familiar to his audience – new and old wineskins. In Jesus’ times, wine was stored in wineskins, not bottles. New wine poured into skins was still fermenting. The gases exerted increased pressure. New wine skins were elastic enough to take the pressure, but old wine skins easily burst because they became hard and rigid as they aged.
What did Jesus mean by this comparison? Are we to reject the old in place of the new? Just as there is a right place and a right time for fasting and for feasting, so there is a right place for the old as well as the new. Jesus says the kingdom of heaven is like a householder who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old (Mt 13:52). How impoverished we would be if we only had the Old Testament or the New Testament, rather than both?
The Lord Jesus gives us wisdom so we can use both the old and the new. He doesn’t want us to hold rigidly to the past and to be resistant to the new work of his Holy Spirit in our lives but he also wants us to see that what is old wine is good wine, but that will eventually give out and be replaced with the new wine. “I make all things new,” he says. He wants our minds and hearts to be like the new wine skins – open and ready to receive the new wine of the Holy Spirit.
(Adapted from Don Schwager)