You’ve heard the saying… “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” I know dogs. I grew up with dogs. Just when we thought we were done with dogs, my mom would go out and get more dogs. Just look at the photo above. Yup, that’s me in the back left holding Lizzy, our second dog. At one point we had four dogs! The other two at the bottom were my sister’s and brother-in-law.
It’s true! You can’t teach an old dog new tricks. Every time we would get a dog we taught them the two basic tricks right away: sit and shake. Buster, dog number four held by my brother-in-law Eric (top right), learned how to sit, shake, speak, and roll over. But as he got older when you would tell him to do a trick he already knew, he would revert back to the old faithful, shake. Basically, his attitude was, “hey, shake got me a treat before, it should still work now, right?”
Patches and Wineskins
In Luke 5 we find Jesus starting to debate with the Pharisees. You need to know, the Pharisees never liked Jesus from the beginning. They challenged his ability to forgive sin (5:21), and even challenged who he ate with (5:30)! But Jesus, not one to back down from a challenge, begins to go on the offense. Directed to the Pharisees, Jesus gives them this illustration:
Luke 5:36-38 (NLT) 36 Then Jesus gave them this illustration: “No one tears a piece of cloth from a new garment and uses it to patch an old garment. For then the new garment would be ruined, and the new patch wouldn’t even match the old garment.
37 “And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. For the new wine would burst the wineskins, spilling the wine and ruining the skins. 38 New wine must be stored in new wineskins.
Seems like Jesus is giving practical advice:
- Patches: If you sew a new patch on an old garment, when you wash the garment, the patch will shrink and tear an ever bigger hole in the garment.
- Wineskins: During this time, people stored wine in goatskins. Because new wine expands as it ferments, old wineskins wouldn’t work due to being brittle and lack of stretchability.
While it may seem that Jesus was giving practical advice, like I said earlier, Jesus was really going on the offensive with the Pharisees.
Pharisees: Old Dogs
Being compared by Jesus as old garments and old wineskins, the Pharisees represented an, “old,” legalistic, law driven, religious system. Even when you look back into Luke 3, John challenges the Pharisees because of their prevailing attitude that they were safe from condemnation simply because of their ancestry (3:8).
Truth is, you will see time and time again that most of Jesus’ frustrations are aimed at the self righteous Pharisees. Take for instance Jesus’ response after the Pharisees question him for, “eating and drinking with scum (5:30)?”
Luke 5:31-32 (NLT) 31 Jesus answered them (Pharisees), “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. 32 I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners and need to repent.”
The Pharisees were a lot like that “old dog,” unable and unwilling to recognize that the old way of doing things was more on legalism, rather than grace.
Jesus: New Tricks
Many times in Jesus’ teaching you’ll encounter His proposal for a complete paradigm shift from the old way. Jesus is communicating here that He came, not as a patch on an old system, but rather, to fulfill the law and establish something completely new!
Going further, Jesus is not only advocating the He is the new wine, but that it’s important to put this new wine into a completely new vessel. Jesus came not with another set of laws, rules, and regulations, but instead, Jesus came extending grace and relationship with Him. It’s through this relationship with Him that we learn how to live.
There’s So Much More
Jesus ends his statement with a bold reality.
Luke 5:39 (NLT) 39 But no one who drinks the old wine seems to want the new wine. ‘The old is just fine,’ they say.”
Imagine going to Cedar Point (America’s Roller Coast) in Sandusky, Ohio, and upon arrival all you ride, all day long, is the Antique Cars. There’s nothing wrong with the Antique Cars, but you will be selling your experience short if you think that’s the only thing to do at Cedar Point! There’s so much more that Cedar Point offers, and sometimes you need to get outside your comfort zone and trust.
Jesus’ ending statement was more than a statement, it was an inditement! Jesus knew that the Pharisees were perfectly fine keeping everything the way it had been, but Jesus didn’t come to keep everything fine. It was broke and He was there to fix it. A part of Jesus’ ministry was to open the eyes of a world that was stuck perpetually on the Tilt-A-Whirl, while the Top Fuel Dragster was sitting there ready to be experienced.
Ask yourself, am I experience all that God has for me? Is there a little Pharisee in me that says, everything’s fine? Jesus doesn’t want you to be fine, He wants you to be fruitful! How new is your garment? How stretchy is your wineskin?
Spend time with Jesus today and ask him to fill you with the new wine of his teaching.