Old and new
Few people today have regular experience of wineskins, but many people have at least some knowledge of wine.
This knowledge may not always be helpful, however, to understanding the last verse of this chapter:
No one who has been drinking old wine desires new,
for he says, ‘The old is good.’
Most of us have heard that fine wines improve with age and might think that the old wine drinker’s assessment is reasonable, which seems counter to the direction of the previous verses.
Well, fine wines do improve with age, but a wine connoisseur who drinks only an old wine will soon run out of wine (even if the wine does not grow stale or sour as they often do).
Another problem in interpreting these verses is that some people broaden the intent of the parables to refer to ANYTHING new or old: making newness the ultimate measure of goodness (or antiquity, if that is their preference).
In these verses, however, “old” and “new” refer to the Old Covenant and the New Covenant, the Mosaic Law and the New Life in Christ.
Seen in this light, the last verse refers to those who refuse to taste the “new wine” of Christ. In the historical context, these were people who clung to the traditions of Judaism and rejected Christ. However, this also applies most obviously to ANYONE who clings to their old ways and rejects the new life offered by Christ: the old ways of sin, the old ways of godless philosophy, the old ways of faith without Christ.
The old wine can have its comforts, but it will inevitably fail or grow sour.
The new wine of Christ is everlasting in its comfort, in its strength and in the joy it brings.
May we stop clinging to our old comforts and let ourselves be filled with Christ.