“We’ve never done it that way before.”
This is the cry of those who are unwilling to change, those who like things just the way they are.
That would be a description of the Pharisees and religious leadership in Israel at the time of Jesus. Life was good. They were in charge. They were successful and revered. Why change anything?
This passage today about a confrontation of words between these Jewish leaders and Jesus likely did not happen right on the heels of the previous passage about Levi. Rather, Luke probably includes it at this juncture to continue the point he was introducing about the differences that would fester ultimately into all that would take Christ to the cross.
The accusation is that the followers of John the Baptist and of the Pharisees were very strict about fasting and praying. By comparison, the disciples of Jesus seemed to be always eating and drinking, hence not truly godly or spiritual or righteous (also casting shame upon their leader).
Jesus will answer by saying that the old ways, from before his coming, and his way as the Messianic King simply cannot mix. It was truly an apples and oranges kind of thing. He uses three illustrations:
First, when the friends of a bridegroom are with him, that is not a time of fasting, but of rejoicing.
Secondly, a patch of new cloth that is yet to shrink would not be wise to put on an already-shrunken piece of cloth. It does not match, and when it shrinks it will rip an even larger hole in the older garment.
Thirdly, when new wine is put into old skins, the fermenting will cause it to expand, burst the skins, and all will be lost. The application is that a new time has come (pictured by new wine in new wineskins), but the Pharisees are like people who will only be happy with the same old wine.
The fisherman disciples, by following Jesus, would be doing something beyond just catching fish, they would be catching souls for the kingdom. Levi, by following Jesus, would be enriched and fulfilled in ways that far exceed the accumulation of wealth in this temporal world. But the Pharisees, by not following and accepting Jesus, would be like folks merely satisfied with old, old wine.
This is some of the beginning teaching that speaks of one of the biggest ideas of them all in terms of following Christ. To trust Jesus and to go on with him will result in finding true wealth and enduring satisfaction in this life and the next. In this path is reward that never perishes.
The enigma is that by giving up and losing all, one truly gains everything. The disciples chose wisely, the Pharisees chose poorly. How are you choosing?
Luke 5:33 – They said to him, “John’s disciples often fast and pray, and so do the disciples of the Pharisees, but yours go on eating and drinking.”
34 Jesus answered, “Can you make the friends of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? 35 But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; in those days they will fast.”
36 He told them this parable: “No one tears a piece out of a new garment to patch an old one. Otherwise, they will have torn the new garment, and the patch from the new will not match the old. 37 And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the new wine will burst the skins; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. 38 No, new wine must be poured into new wineskins. 39 And no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for they say, ‘The old is better.’”