Matthew 9

New wine, Old bottles.

“Neither do men put new wine into old bottles: else the bottles break, and the wine runneth out, and the bottles perish: but they put new wine into new bottles, and both are preserved.” (v. 17)

For many years, I had mused about this verse, wondering what in the world it has to do with the question that the disciples of John asked Jesus in v. 14. The question had to do with fasting, which is almost always associated with mourning and sorrow. The true fast always has a certain element of sorrow in it. Jesus had explained that while the bridegroom was in the wedding party, it is time to rejoice, but there is time for sorrow after He leaves. The teaching here is that they were not yet ready to fast. They had a lot to learn first. Fasting is not to be taken lightly, or haphazardly. We too often speak of prayer and fasting, as a mediocre thing, as if it is nothing special or unusual. Jesus uses, in way of illustration, an analogy that everyone would be familiar with when he speaks of storing their wine. The fermentation process in new wine will cause gasses to expand the bottles, and they knew that you do not put new wine into old bottles, that have already been stretched out, but give it time to age, then store it in the bottles. These disciples had to age a little first, then get down to serious fasting. Fasting is not for the novice. He may be able to fast as a young Christian, but he will not often know how, or why he should do it. Solomon said it well in Ecclesiastes 3:1, when he says that “to every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose.” It’s the same with new cloth that has not stretched, or shrunk to fit the old, as He said in the previous verse. The answer for John’s disciples was that the time was not now for fasting.

We need to be careful that we don’t take fasting too lightly, I believe that God takes it seriously. Fasting ought to be something special, when we urgently need God to do something in our lives. This means that perhaps we should not fast, as the Pharisee’s twice a week, in a repetitious and trumped up fast, but with a broken heart we should cry unto Him. If our heart is not broken twice in the week, then we need not fast twice in the week.

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