To understand the context “nor do they put new wine into old wineskins,” we need to first read the passage in Matthew 9:14-17:
“Then the disciples of John came to Him, saying, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast often, but Your disciples do not fast?” And Jesus said to them, “Can the friends of the bridegroom mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast. “No one puts a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; for the patch pulls away from the garment, and the tear is made worse. Nor do they put new wine into old wineskins, or else wineskins break, the wine is spilled, and the wineskins are ruined. But they put new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved”.Matthew 9:14-17
Here, Jesus was asked why His disciples do not fast like the Pharisees do. It was a basic question about the observation of Jewish traditions. Jesus answered this question by elaborating on the fact that these traditions have no place in the teachings He was reviving. He was the Messiah, His time on earth would be short and all that His disciples could learn from him was His top priority.
“Nor Do They Put New Wine into Old Wineskins”
Jesus went on to elaborate in verses 16-17 that His teachings were representing God’s will for man in a new light, in a new understanding when compared to the old and worn out ways of the Jewish traditions. The religious leaders, through years of inflicting traditions on the laws and teachings of God, had blurred up the true meaning of what God intended to teach through their useless traditions.
Jesus was basically telling His followers that they needed to start new, and look at things from a new perspective. If they insisted on looking at things from the perspective of the old traditions, they would miss out on what He was trying to relay to them and in the process end up totally misunderstanding the original truths. The disciples had to have fresh minds that were not blinded with traditions.
An ancient Jewish tradition on fasting, from the 1st century A.D., states that the Jews regularly fasted on Monday and Thursday (Luke 18:12). In general, among the ancient Jews fasting was done to make good a misdeed or to have answers to prayers. Many fasted because they thought such deeds earned them merit with God. Unfortunately, the people didn’t understand that a person can’t obtain righteousness by external good works. The Old Testament prophets had rejected such beliefs and taught that God hates Israel’s fasts (Isaiah 58:3–5; Zechariah 7:5, 6).
There are special occasions when the believer needs wisdom and godly judgement regarding problems in his life. At this point, fasting can be of great help. Such fasting may not necessarily mean complete abstinence from food, but a special diet of simple healthy food that can give energy (Daniel10:3).
The Lord says: “Is this not the fast that I have chosen: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, to let the oppressed go free, and that you break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out; when you see the naked, that you cover him, and not hide yourself from your own flesh? Then your light shall break forth like the morning, your healing shall spring forth speedily, and your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry, and He will say, ‘Here I am'” (Isaiah 58:6-9).
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In His service,