I once waited tables at a fancy-pants restaurant that boasted on its wine cellar full of dusty bottles the elite could swirl and sip for about the same price-tag as three months of rent for me. During a wine-tasting training session I was offered a $50 swig. I enjoyed wine and was excited to sample this luxury, which in the end tasted a lot like licking a tree. “Mmmm, oakey.” So take the following treatise on wine for what it’s worth, coming from a girl who’s had more boxed wine than bottled. But before you write me off as completely uncouth, I do believe what you put the wine in does matter. My Man taught me that.
Our Jesus, the very Vine, who could whip up a crowd-pleasing wine (John 2) faster than Lucile Ball could stomp grapes, said it’s important to put the right wine in the right container. “And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, he pours new wine into new wineskins.” (Mark 2:22)
A wineskin is essentially a leather bottle. Old leather becomes worn and tender, so as new wine ferments and swells, the old leather is unable to hold it. Jesus was known to hang out with rough crowds and partake of some ‘fruit of the vine’ now and again, but I doubt He was giving a seminar on wine preservation. He was as mysterious then as He is now… there are layers of meaning waiting to be unearthed in everything He says and does. I love imagining the scene when He tells the crowds, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” (John 6) The Jews begin to argue amongst themselves, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” I’m picturing thought-bubbles filled with forks, knives and question marks. It’s classic Jesus… leave ’em with their head scratching. But in reality, while Jesus may perplex us, He never leaves us. His true followers will open the door, invite Him over for dinner and ask for revelation.
So if we dig past the obvious and Jesus isn’t talking about wine in Mark 2—just what is He talking about?
I’ve done my share of new wine tasting and, unfortunately new wine wasting. My heart longs to follow Jesus, but if I’m not careful, I can default so easily to old habits—flesh habits. The new wine He offers is amazing, abundant, Spirit-filled life. I sometimes take that new wine and pour it in the dark, dank cellar of the past—old wineskins (flesh)—rather than letting it breathe and flow in the new wineskin (heart/spirit) He’s given me. Try as we might to hang on to those old flesh patterns, like eating until stuffed or indulging in that extra glass of wine, we won’t find any lasting joy there. And peace? Nope, no lasting peace in the old skin either. Really… who enjoys feeling like they might burst? Why do we do that? We may end up full, but never fulfilled. There’s only One who truly satisfies.
Bread and wine are such poignant examples and symbols of good things God gives us that the enemy, the world, and our flesh tempt us to abuse. We look to the temporary, when we’re offered eternity. But Jesus beckons us, “Come!’ and if we answer His invitation, new wine—His very life—will find its way into our new skin, a skin that never bursts from pressure of trying to be what we’re not, but instead overflows with love. And that… is something I’d like to indulge in.
“Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me.” – Jesus, Rev. 3:20