One year I was visiting when a butterfly was making its appearance. What one moment was an inch and half long capsule, split in two and out came a monarch. In less than 2 weeks, what was once a caterpillar was now a butterfly.
The transformation was clear, it was no longer what it used to be.
In Luke 5 there are several stories of transformation. Simon Peter, James, and John were fishermen who became fishers of men. The leper became clean. The paralytic could walk. And the tax collector stopped taking and starting following the One who never stops giving.
In contrast, there was one group where transformation was not happening; in the hearts of the Pharisees. At a dinner hosted by Matthew (in Luke, referred to as Levi), Jesus speaks this parable to the Pharisees, after they hurled yet another challenge at Him:
“No one tears a piece from a new garment and puts it on an old garment. If he does, he will tear the new, and the piece from the new will not match the old. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the new wine will burst the skins and it will be spilled, and the skins will be destroyed. But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins. And no one after drinking old wine desires new, for he says, ‘The old is good.’” (Luke 5:36-38 ESV)
Jesus knew the hearts of the Pharisees. They were hard, stuck fast in their traditions and laws, believing those would bring salvation and freedom. They weren’t interested in hearing what Jesus had to offer, of transformation, a total change of character and condition. But, as Jesus explained, this was exactly what needed to happen. You can’t “patch” Jesus into your old life and expect it not to tear and fall apart. You can’t pour the new life of discipleship into your old-habit wineskin and think that everything will hold together. Following Jesus takes a total transformation of your heart…and life.
The Pharisees may have heard Him explain this, but they weren’t willing to listen. They had their old way of doing things with their own versions of the laws and traditions and remained blind to how Jesus came to fulfill the law and offer them freedom. They were content with their old wine, resisted the new, and claimed “The old is good.”
In this Advent season, as we celebrate Jesus’ first arrival with hopeful anticipation of His second, let’s take a look at our hearts. What parts have we freely given over to Jesus to transform and make new? And what parts have we held on to, clinging to our ‘old wine,’ claiming it better than anything new that Jesus has to offer. Let this Advent season be one of reflection and renewal. Ask the Sprit to reveal to you the areas you have deemed as “the old is good” and turn to Jesus with a heart that desires the new transformation.
This first appeared in Beholding Advent, a free downloadable Advent Devotional.