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WINE SKINS AND WISDOM

November 22, 2013

Text: “Then the disciples of John came to him, saying, ‘”Why do we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?'” And Jesus said to them, “” Can the wedding guests mourn as long as  the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast. No one puts apiece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch tears away from the garment, and a worse tear is made. Neither is new wine put into old wine skin. If it is, the skins burst and the wine is spilled and the skins are destroyed. But new wine is put into fresh wine skins, and so both are preserved.” Matthew 9:17

“Common sense.”  Most people admire others who appear to be wise,  prudent, practical, pragmatic, and can fix everything. This was certainly a virtue in the Great Depression  when things broke,  and since there was not money to buy a “brand new” one, someone in the family fiddled with it until it could be partially dependable. There were persons who made a living operating a “repair shop”. (Ha! Try to find one today!) You have heard, “He’s a really smart guy, but he doesn’t have any common sense.”

It sounds like a group of John the Baptist’s disciples was trying to embarrass Jesus’  disciples; a sort of spiritual one-ups-man-ship. Since fasting was a practice of nearly all sects, these disciples of John seem scandalized that the disciples of Jesus should not participate. So they interrogate Jesus regarding the stumbling block: Why do your disciples not fast?

Jesus gives three examples by which he illustrates how wisdom and common sense can legitimate religious practices.

First he cites an incident of wedding guests mourning while the bride and groom were celebrating in the presence of the guests. Wisdom says that the guests should wait until the couple departs before the guests mourn the difficulties of married life.

When an older garment is torn, one does not repair such a breach with new cloth for when it ages and is washed it rips the garments by shrinking.  The garment becomes unusable because the owner employed an unworkable solution.

Jesus follows last with a sensible way to deal with a common problem. In what does the winemaker store new wine so that it does not leak and become useless?  The vintner does not store the wine in old, brittle wine skins, but makes new wine skins to preserve his stock.

All three illustrations encourage us to utilize common sense solutions to daily problems.  Jesus, however, employs these practical means to benefit us in the spiritual life. Bible study is an exercise in the application of wisdom (i.e. common sense).  Far too much speculation, guessing, and imagination are used in interpreting the Bible.

First, lay aside all pre-conceived ideas. Don’t be stunted by the fictions that men have invented or the myths of the past. Approach Bible study with openness. Be objective when you read the Bible. Use logic in approaching all of the Bible. Do not be gullible. Seek knowledge. Be humble.  (In other words: use common sense.)

More guidelines. Get a good background in Bible study: attend Bible classes. Purchase good Bible study tools. The Public Library is a good source for resources. Ask preachers and Bible students about helpful tools for study. Set up a time and place for Bible study.

Finally, remember these passages of scripture.

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms , and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”  Colossians 2:16

“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.”  II Timothy 2″:14

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