36Jesus also told [the Pharisees and their scribes] a parable:
‘No one tears a piece from a new garment and sews it on an old garment; otherwise the new will be torn, and the piece from the new will not match the old. 37And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the new wine will burst the skins and will be spilled, and the skins will be destroyed. 38But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins. 39And no one after drinking old wine desires new wine, but says, “The old is good.” ’
The appearance of Jesus caused a clash of paradigms. Two different ways of framing the spiritual life collided.
The “old” vision viewed life as a meritocracy. The religious task was to be good, to observe the law, keep the ritual practices of the faith, and live in such a way that your life was clearly distinct from those who were outside the privileged group of God’s chosen people.
The “new” vision embraced the possibility of a life of grace and freedom that crossed all boundaries.
The task of the religious life is to help the heart open to an awareness of the presence and action of God at work within all human beings. Religion is not about rule keeping. The “new” way is the way of growth in consciousness, opening to greater freedom and living in tune with the reality of the universe as it is designed.
The “new” and the “old” cannot coexist in the same container.
Jesus ends his parable with a profound conundrum:
no one after drinking old wine desires new wine, but says, “The old is good.”
I have tasted the “new wine”, and yet, at times I long for the “old wine”. The law feels safe and predictable. It is comforting to feel that I know who is in and who is out, and that my good behaviour proves I am on the right side of the truth. Freedom can feel threatening; it is so unpredictable and uncertain. Freedom is untidy.
But the new wine of freedom and grace is the way of Jesus. It is the way for which my heart longs. It is the paradigm in which my inner being is designed to operate.
God help me to let go of the old security of the law and embrace the new freedom of your Spirit.