Neither do people pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved. Matthew 9:17
Jesus was seeking to show the Pharisees that Judaism wasn’t working. It wasn’t bringing people into a close personal relationship with God. Years of defining the law, adding requirements and tradition meant that it had become nothing more than a list of “dos” and “don’ts”. It was beyond fixing. It had served its purpose. The law showed us our need of a Saviour (Galatians 3:24) because we weren’t able to meet its requirements in our own strength.
Jesus was bringing “new wine” and to preserve this new wine it needed new wineskins. A new way of being God’s people, a new understanding of the relationship God wanted with his people, and a new revelation of the extent of God’s compassion and grace. God didn’t want to guide his people by regulations but by his Spirit. It was the fulfilment of God’s promise to his people through Ezekiel: “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees …” (Ezekiel 36:26-27).
The old wineskins of law-keeping weren’t able to hold the rich “wine” of God’s Spirit leading and guiding. The old wineskins of rituals and ceremonies weren’t able to hold the sweet “wine” of fellowship that God desired with his people.
Likewise, we leave behind our old wineskin of trying to please God and embrace the new wineskin of grace.