Meal in the House of Matthew - James Tissot

The Parables of the Cloth and Wineskins

We sinners must drink deeply of the new wine that Jesus offers us. But you'll find the Pharisees of today still trying to keep the new wine from the lips of Jesus' disciples. In the Gospel of Luke, the Pharisees once again try to trap him when they ask why his disciples drink and eat with Jesus rather than fasting like John's disciples. Jesus responds to the Pharisees saying, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance." The Pharisees are implying that association with sinners is desecrating. But the opposite is true. When Jesus associates himself with sinners he consecrates them.

How often to do you associate yourself with the poor sinners of our world? If you don't, why not? Do you not have time? Maybe you don't want to be seen with them? Do you not know where to find them? They are really easy to find, especially if you have a mirror in your house. They are everywhere and they need you to love them. They need you to rejoice with them. They need you to forgive with them. But mostly we need them to learn how to love.

Jesus explains that he is in the poor and lowly, "For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in." We are consecrated by him when we meet him in others.

Everything that comes into contact with Jesus is consecrated—is made sacred and holy. Our whole world became desecrated when sin entered the world through Adam. And what Jesus is doing is re-consecrating the world. He does it simply by his presence. He explains in Luke 5:34 that when his disciples are in his presence they cannot help but eat and drink. His disciples are consecrated when they are with him and it makes them joyous. They are whole again and have no need to fast. The purpose of fasting is to clean oneself. It is one of the many methods in the Law that were prescribed for becoming 'holy'. The intention of these rules were to clean oneself from the dirty sin of the world. As we find when we try to adhere to the Law, we can't become clean. The Law was for Jesus to fulfill. So, when Jesus appeared on the earth, it was a game changer. That's why his disciples eat and drink with Jesus. They know they have been set free. Yet, Jesus makes it clear that after he is taken away from his disciples, they will fast as well. We are in that day and age. When fast without our beloved Jesus.

However, there are many times when we do not need to fast, because we most certainly have Jesus with us. We are with him when "two or more of you are gathered in my name." As noted above, we are with him when we help the needy and the poor in spirit (Matthew 25:35). In these ways we come in contact with him. But unlike these ways in which he is near us and with us, he provided us a special way where he literally enters us. He comes into our house, our body, in a real and living way through the sacrament of the Lord's Supper. We are then enabled through Christ to consecrate the world. He lives in us and we touch the unsacred and make it whole again, just like he did when he was walking on this earth.

The Parable of the Cloth and Wineskins explains why the poor, repentant sinners must drink of him in the sacrament and be near him in our relationships with others.

In this parable, the old wine represents Mosaic Law. The old wineskin is Israel under the Law. The new wineskin represent his Church (New Israel) and our literal bodies. The new wine is Christ: his love, his grace, his mercy, his righteousness, his joy, his friendship. Christ enters the new Israel and dwells in us through his spirit. If he enters the old Israel in this age, he causes it to burst. When Christ died on the cross the curtain was torn from the Temple, the old garmet was torn and rendered void. When Jerusalem fell in 70 AD, the bursting of the old wineskin was complete. It is important to note that the same thing happens to us when we try to put Jesus inside of us if we think we are righteous like the Pharisees. Jesus busts us up when we are hypocrites. Jesus can only come into us and live in us when we know we are sinners and have repentant hearts. The same warning is valid for our churches. The hypocritical church (which included the churches where sin isn't preached as a reality) cannot be filled by the new wine. It's the sick who need the new wine—not the healthy.

There are many who think that the Eucharist is only for the new holy and unblemished wineskin, that we should be free of sin to receive the body and blood of Christ. However, the opposite may very well be true. Jesus comes to the sick, not the healthy, right? Now I'm not saying we should take the sacrament of the Lord's Supper without knowing what we are doing. Many problems occurred in the Church from frivolous use of his body and blood. We can only share in Christ's body and blood when we know we are sinners with repentant hearts—which is very sobering indeed. As we have discovered, it in the repentant sinner who needs the new wine. The righteous do not need the doctor. In fact, if we partake in the new wine when we think we are holy and righteous and free from sin, Jesus is warning us that we will burst just like old Israel did. The old garment of false-righteousness will be torn.

The only way for Jesus to come to me is when I know I am a sinner in need of repentance. In one parable after another we find this same truth. This is most certainly the key to the parables.

Knowing this will help us understand why in the Parable of the Wedding Banquet the man who was wearing the wrong clothes was thrown outside. We may even be able to find out who that man really is.

Tags: parables, commentary