I have read the Bible many times, and every time I came to Matthew 9:16-17 I always wondered what it really meant. As I was reading this passage again the other day, I asked God to show me what it meant, and I believe he has.
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Before I tell you what he showed me, let’s look at this passage, together:
No one patches an old coat with a piece of unshrunk cloth, because the patch tears away from the coat and leaves a worse hole. Nor do people put new wine in old wineskins; if they do, the skins burst, the wine spills and the wineskins are ruined. No, they pour new wine into freshly prepared wineskins, and in this way both are preserved.
Most of the Christian interpretations I have heard say Yeshua was making the point that his teachings and commandments are new, and override the existing, older commandments. The new patch and the new wine are now the commandments that we must obey, and (again, this is a Christian interpretation) therefor the old laws and traditions have been done away with to make room for the new ones.
Of course, being Jewish and Messianic, I know that this interpretation is false. First off, Yeshua taught from the Torah, and if he had said or done anything that even implied we shouldn’t obey the Torah, then he would have been in rebellion against his Father, God, and in sin. If that was true, then his sacrifice would not have been accepted, and we all would be in a lot of trouble today. Fortunately, that isn’t the way it is.
Secondly, although Yeshua did speak against many of the traditions of the elders, which later would become Talmudic doctrine and practice, he did not universally condemn all traditions. For instance, we know he celebrated the Festival of Lights, which is a traditional, man-made holiday and not even in the Bible.
So, what did Yeshua mean when he said new wine has to go into new wineskins?
He meant that his teachings, which were based entirely on the Torah, were being interpreted in a new way. And, as such, he couldn’t properly “fit” them into the old wineskins, meaning the Pharisees and Sadducees, who were too used to and comfortable with their understanding to accept what he was saying.
The “new wine” he taught was the spiritual understanding of the Torah, called the Remes. This is from a Jewish method of biblical exegesis called PaRDeS, which represents different levels of meaning. There is the Pashat or literal meaning of the words- what you see is what it means. A deeper understanding is Remes or spiritual meaning. For instance, Yeshua said we have been told not to commit adultery (Pashat) but when we lust with our eyes, we have already done so (Remes.) The other levels, Drash (a story with a spiritual or moral meaning) and Sod, which is such a deep meaning it is mystical.
The new wineskins are the Am Ha’aretz, meaning the people of the land, those who are not formally trained in the Torah and the Tanakh. These are receptacles that can accept the new wine because they haven’t been “stretched” to their limits from having contained the older wine. These new wineskins were familiar with the traditions, but not affected by them so much that having known them they were not able to accept new wine without bursting. That is why Yeshua prayed:
I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you concealed these things from the sophisticated and educated and revealed them to ordinary folks. (Matthew 11:25)
Today, the knowledge of God’s word is not much more, and probably a lot less, than it was in those days. Christianity has so skewed and misinterpreted the meaning of the letters from Shaul (Paul) and taught disobedience to God’s Torah that the world is more sinful and decrepit than ever. Instead of serving the wine of truth, traditional Christian teachings have caused people to become drunk with the beer of hedonism and ignorance.
Christians (I am not talking about every Christian, but I do mean most of them) need to become new wineskins; they need to be able to accept that what Yeshua taught did not do away with the law, but confirmed it! That means to let go of the teachings that Christians have been filled with, such as Sunday Sabbath, Christian holidays, and Constantinian doctrine and practices, and become new wineskins able to accept the new wine of proper interpretation of Yeshua’s teachings, and of the Epistles in the B’rit Chadashah (New Covenant.)
Yeshua’s teachings may be considered new wine, but it was the exact same vintage as the Torah; all Yeshua did was market it differently.
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Until next time we are together, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!