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The Enigma of New Wineskins

For a long time, and in many readings of Luke 5 (or Mark 2 or Matthew 9), I have pondered the meaning of "new wine in old wineskins" (vs. 37-38). Jesus responds to the religious leaders disputing with him about certain practices, "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. But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins."

Right away, questions press upon us about what Jesus means. What is the new wine? What is the old? What is the new wine compared to the old? Why does Luke 5 conclude with the observation that people prefer the old wine to the new wine? What does he mean by new wineskins? What is supposed to be our takeaway from this passage? 

Since I am now pastoring a congregation after so many years in higher education, I am thinking again about Jesus' references to wineskins and wine. But it is not only pastors who need to think about what Jesus is saying here, for his words...

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