“And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins.” Mark 2:22 (NIV)
On Wednesday, March 9th, we’ll officially begin the holy season of Lent with our Ash Wednesday observances. We’ll join with the faithful around the globe in preparing our hearts and lives for the joyous celebration of new life at Easter. To fully experience the joy of Easter there are some things we intend to do (sort of like some are doing in their gardens now) to prepare ourselves for receiving all God has for us, not only at Easter, but also throughout this Lenten season as well.
In the passage above, from the Gospel of Mark, we have a response Jesus offers to those who were asking him why his disciples were not fasting like John’s disciples were (see Mark 2:18-22). Basically, Jesus says “a new thing is happening with my arrival and through my presence, and it appears you’re not ready for this new thing because you’re so stuck on the old things.” (Note: this is an EXTREMELY rough paraphrase!) What an amazing image he offers … wine in wineskins.
Wineskins?! Here’s what’s meant here (thanks to www.JesusWalk.com):
“Wineskins were made of whole tanned goatskins where the legs and tail were cut off and had been sealed (1 Samuel 1:24; 2 Samuel 16:1). In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word nebel, "skin-bottle, skin," is translated by the KJV as "bottle" which gives us images of glass wine bottles. But these were rather whole goatskins, with nubbins bulging out where the legs once were, the neck tied off where the wine has been poured in, the whole large skin bulging almost to bursting as the carbon dioxide gas generated by the fermentation process stretches it to its limit. Fermentation in the wineskin might continue for another two to four months until the process slows down and stops. By that time the skin has been stretched to its limit. The alcohol is probably about 12%, and the collagen protein that gives the leather its stretching ability has been stretched out, and probably denatured by the alcohol, destroying its natural resiliency. The skin's ability to contract and stretch again has been lost.”
What Jesus came to reveal to the folks back then, and to us now, is like “new wine.” It called (calls) folks to be stretched beyond their wildest imaginations, spiritually speaking. The folks in his day had a rough time with it, and most of us have a difficult time with much of what he came to show us (one example: “love your enemies and do good to those who mistreat you.”).
The “wineskins” Jesus refers to are what I believe could be our hearts. Some of us have hearts that have already been stretched to the limit by hurtful, shameful and guilt-ridden past experiences. Some of us walk around with what the Bible might call a “hardened heart,” which might be considered a heart that has been broken so many times, and in so many ways, that we feel it can’t take anymore. So, we close our hearts and they become like stone. They become “old wineskins” that can’t receive, or effectively hold, the “new wine” that Jesus offers and the Holy Spirit brings to us. This Lenten season it’s our intention to do something about this as we journey together!
One thing we'll do together is share in daily Lenten devotionals, which will be posted on this website. You're invited to prayerfully consider the words of Max Lucado each day of Lent 2011. Mr. Lucado has a way of making the truths of the Gospel message come alive for 21st century readers. As you read these devotionals each day your invited to consider three questions to begin your reflections:
1. In what way does this reading call me to experience or express something new (i.e. a new belief, attitude, thought, behavior, pattern, etc.)?
2. How does this reading challenge me (i.e. rub me in a way(s) that causes me to feel uncomfortable)?
3. How can the Spirit aid me and guide me in moving through whatever this reading stirs in me that may be calling me to experience “new wine” (New Life in Christ)?
Allow these three questions to "jump start" your journey into having your heart stretched by the "new wine" the Spirit will continually bring you in this time of journeying with Christ.
Lenten Peace ...