“No one puts new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and the wine is lost as well as the skins. No, new wine is put into fresh wineskins” (Mark 2:22).
This is the first parable recorded by Mark, and one of very few recorded by all three of the Synoptic Gospels. (Interestingly, John doesn’t record any of the parables of Jesus.)
The language in Matthew and Luke is almost verbatim. “No one puts new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the skins burst, the wine spills out, and the skins are ruined. No, they put new wine into fresh wineskins, and both are preserved”(Matthew 9:17). “No one puts new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the new wine will burst the skins, it will spill, and the skins will be ruined. No, new wine is put into fresh wineskins” (Luke 5:37–38).
Jesus wasn’t teaching a first-century tutorial on the preservation of fermented grape juice.
Wineskins were made from soft, pliable goatskins. Old wineskins that already had been used to ferment wine lost their elasticity, became brittle, and would burst if used again, resulting in the loss of the containers and the new wine.
Jesus was contrasting His ministry of grace and mercy with the heavy burden of the Pharisee’s legalism. With utter hypocrisy, the Pharisees would “tie up heavy loads that are hard to carry and put them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves aren’t willing to lift a finger to move them” (Matthew 23:4). Jesus promised relief from the Pharisee’s staggering burden of perfect obedience to the six-hundred, thirteen laws recorded in the first five books of the Bible, and myriads of other manmade rules and regulations.
Jesus came to usher in the New Covenant (Jeremiah 31:31-34) with God’s promise to “forgive their iniquity and never again remember their sin” (Jeremiah 31:34). Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).
What did Jesus demand? Believe. Just believe. Only believe.
Believe that you need to be saved and that Jesus is the only Rescuer. “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life” John 3:14–15). When the snake-bit Hebrews recognized that they would soon die, they faithfully looked to God’s life-giving remedy (Numbers 21:4-9). “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16, NKJV).
Jesus’ covenant of saving grace doesn’t fit into the Pharisee’s religion of works and ritual. “No one puts new wine into old wineskins.”