Cold Formalism or Unconventional Ways

"... no man putteth new wine into old bottles; else the new wine
will burst the bottles, and be spilled, and the bottles shall perish.
But new wine must be put into new bottles, and both are preserved." Luke 5:37-38

    The bottles referred to here were actually
containers made from the hides of animals. When these wineskins were
new, they were pliable and somewhat elastic. But when they became old,
they were stiff and inflexible. If new wine was placed in old skins,
the fermenting action of the wine would build up too much pressure for
the old wineskins to accommodate, and they would burst.

    Here in Luke 5, Jesus uses this to illustrate the
clash between Judaism and Christianity. He is saying that "the outmoded
forms, ordinances, traditions and rituals of Judaism were too rigid to
hold the joy, the exuberance and the energy of the new dispensation."

    This chapter contains dramatic illustrations. In verses 18-21,
we see four men tearing up the roof of a house in order to bring a
paralyzed man to Jesus for healing. Their innovative, unconventional
method is an illustration of the new wine. In verse 21, the scribes and
Pharisees begin to find fault with Jesus; they are the old wineskins.
Again, in verses 27-29
we have Levi's enthusiastic response to Christ's call, and the banquet
he held to introduce his friends to Jesus. That is the new wine. In verse 30, the scribes and Pharisees grumble again. They are the old wine-skins.

    We see this in all of life. People get set in
traditional ways of doing things and find it hard to adjust to change.
The housewife has her own way of doing the dishes and finds it
irritating to see someone else fumbling around in her sink. The husband
has his own ideas as to how a car should be driven, and nearly loses
his senses when wife or children drive.

    But the great lesson for all of us is in the
spiritual realm. We should be flexible enough to allow for the joy, the
effervescence, the enthusiasm of the Christian faith, even if it comes
in unconventional ways. We neither want nor need the stodginess and
cold formalism of the Pharisees, who sat on the sidelines criticizing
when God was working.