Matthew 9:16 – 17 Cloth and Wine Skins; what does it mean? Sometimes when we find Jesus saying something that leaves us with our head twisted to the side like a confused dog, it’s best to try to gather as much information we can surrounding the verses that come across as strange.
So, what does Matthew 9:16-17 Mean anyway?
In this study, we’re going to tackle the point that Jesus was trying to get across in these two strange verses. But also, we’re going to take a good look at who he was speaking to when he said these things, as it makes a big difference as far as the meaning goes.
I’ve seen this question asked a few times before, so I took the opportunity to lay it out here the best as I understand, and provide a Matthew 9:16-17 commentary to help clear the air on these verses. Here they are:
16 No man putteth a piece of new cloth unto an old garment, for that which is put in to fill it up taketh from the garment, and the rent is made worse. 17 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.
Well, there they are, the two verses in question. Something that I like to do to get the right context is back up a couple of verses when I come across a verse that I don’t immediately understand.
It’s best to do this to try to understand the situation, but it is also a good practice to avoid a “one-liner theology” problem. So many issues derive from scripture that is taken out of context and turned into its own thing.
And yes, any time I’ve ever come across someone building a house on top of one verse in scripture, more often than not, it’s been taken out of context. So try to keep things into the intended context when it comes to God’s Word.
Anyways, I digress… Let’s practice what I’m preaching here, and back it up to verse 10 and try to gain from understanding the context of these verses.
10 And it came to pass, as Jesus sat at meat in the house, behold, many publicans and sinners came and sat down with him and his disciples. 11 And when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto his disciples, Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners?
12 But when Jesus heard that, he said unto them, They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick. 13 But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.
Then Jesus follows these verses with the parables of the cloth and wineskins after an interruption from John’s disciples. It’s safe to say he’s answering the Pharisees’ question concerning eating with sinners. And this is how I get there.
The Immediate Truth
If you understood the learning, the training, the hours behind the study, and education that the Pharisees were supposed to embody, you’d realize why what Jesus just told them should go without saying.
Jesus is responding to the Pharisees first of all in these verses (Matthew 9:16 – 17), and reading through any of the four gospels, you can see what kind of people the Pharisees were. Generally speaking, they are shown to be spiritually dead.
The fact that they couldn’t figure out why Jesus was eating with publicans and sinners without having to ask is telling in the first place. These, in my eyes, seem to be un-trainable for lack of a better way to put it.
I guess ‘set in their ways’ might be a better way to put it… We can call these the old garments of cloth, or maybe the old wineskins. Both will do.
They being old wineskins couldn’t contain (or otherwise accept) the teachings (or new wine) of Jesus almost all of the time with very few exceptions. The publicans and sinners (at least as I see it) allowed Jesus to start with fresh mindsets that were unspoiled with the doctrines of the Pharisees.
Trainable from the Ground Up
Publicans and Sinners
The publicans and sinners would be the “new” wineskins or cloth. These are not the “religious” crowd that has heard it all before. The Pharisees would never expect to have seen any one of these folks back at the temple, taking part in the religious ceremonies.
By the time Jesus hit the scene, many of the precepts of the Lord had been replaced by the doctrine of men. As decades came and went, layers of tradition and different clutter caked over and replaced the point of the Mosaic Law. All kinds of additions and fail-safes that the Lord neither asked for nor approved.
Because of this, a division grew between religious people and people who are not. The publicans and sinners weren’t there to hear about religion, but rather to hear straight from the Son of the Living God, though they didn’t realize that at the time.
To them, this was a new wine they were experiencing. They received the Word of Jesus with gladness and did not burst or resist what he was saying.
This difference that Jesus is making takes me back to a supervisory position I held for a while. It was almost better to hire someone with no experience than it was hiring someone with plenty of tenures. The reason being is when you hire someone that has done something a certain way for ten or fifteen years, it’s tough to break them of old ideas to conform to how things operate where they’ve just been hired.
Hiring someone fresh off the street is sometimes preferred. They aren’t tainted with the practices of another place, and they are easier to mold into what the company is looking for in an employee. But to even go anywhere with that, that person needs to be trainable in the first place. You’re not looking for a new wineskin that’s already been sealed, (for a throwback to the topic at hand).
The way I’m looking at this is these would be the “new” wineskins. Easier to teach because they don’t come to the table with preconceived ideas or doctrines. That would mean that the publicans and sinners would contain the new wine Jesus was pouring out, whereas the Pharisees couldn’t contain it. It’s not easy trying to teach someone anything when they think they already know it all.
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The Supernatural Truth of Matthew 9:16 – 17
In many verses of the Bible, there are natural or carnal reasons for the piece of scripture, and there’s a spiritual nature to the same verses. In other words, naturally discerned on the one hand, spiritually discerned on the other.
The supernatural truth couldn’t be realized until Jesus raised from the dead, and sent in his place the Holy Spirit, just as he promised. This is going to put a whole different meaning behind these parables, particularly that of Matthew 9:16 – 17!
Today, we have something people in the dining room that day did not have at the time Jesus said these parables, and that’s all the revelations of the Holy Spirit, given to us through the apostles.
Suppose you look at the parable of the wineskins with a set of spiritual eyes and perceive the old wineskins as being your old man. Unsaved and un-redeemed- spiritually dead. Being spiritually dead, you will never contain things of the spirit because you are carnal, and the carnal mind cannot comprehend the things of the spirit. Romans Chapters 7&8 go through that pretty well.
For a detailed study on Romans 7, read Self vs Spirit. If you have a difficult time distinguishing the will of your spirit against the will of your flesh, that page will help you.
Supernaturally, when we are born again, a spirit is born anew inside us, creating at that moment a new creature. Or to otherwise put it concerning the parable, he creates us as new wineskins. And glory be to the Father, he fills us full of new wine! Here is a verse laying that out for us:
2 Corinthians 5:17
Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.
I guess you could say old wineskins are passed away, behold, all wineskins become new, see what I’m saying? I think it’s noteworthy to tie this even tighter together with what happened after the believers were filled for the first time with the Holy Spirit. What was the first thing people said that witnessed the believers?
Others mocking said, These men are full of new wine.
Somewhat ironic, huh? What else to fill new wine bottles with but with new wine. Funny they should say that. Sure they were mocking, but in reality, that little verse compliments the parable of the wine bottles.
You can get a lot out of this parable when you place it into a spiritually discerned sense. You can just keep on going, pointing out that the new wine (Holy Spirit) would burst an old wineskin & would not be able to contain him. The Holy Spirit has always been around unsaved people, but not inside as he is to those who have been born again- baptized with the Holy Spirit of the living God.
To Sum it All Up
Physically speaking, the old wineskins were the Pharisees or people who had religion, yet no relationship with the Father.
The new wineskins were those who had no religion, yet were open to a relationship with the Father through what Jesus had to say.
Spiritually speaking, the old skins could be considered as the old man or the carnal man. This sinful flesh that can’t receive the spiritual matters of the Lord.
The new skins are those who have been born again and are open to receive the Spirit of the Living God as new wine of the Kingdom of the Lord.
17 Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.
These are great verses to chew on for a while. If you’ve enjoyed this study concerning the cloth and wineskins, please use the share buttons below to share the study.
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