My wife will tell you that I used to have a favorite pair of shorts. They were black, light-weight, very comfortable, and were my favorite pair of shorts. However, there came a time when they had been washed too much or I put on too much weight, but I ripped them pretty bad. Fortunately, Kim is very good with a needle and thread and sewed them back up for me. However, this sew job was a short lived victory; it was not very long before I ripped them again and Kim made me get rid of them. So that is the story of my favorite pair of black cargo shorts.
Jesus, in Luke 5.33ff, talks about sort of the same thing. Pharisees make a statement about Jesus’ lack of fasting; apparently Jesus is not religious enough for them. He goes around eating and drinking, and that with tax collectors and “sinners.” Indeed, Jesus will ultimately point out their hypocrisy when he compares John the Baptist and himself in Luke 7.33-34. John fasted and “looked religious” but they said he had a demon; Jesus came eating and drinking and they call him a “wine-bibber” (KJV). It is lose-lose with the Pharisees.
Parable of the Wedding
In this first encounter with the Pharisees about fasting, Jesus utilizes parabolic teaching. He tells a parable about a wedding and in it, he predicts his rejection and death by the hands of the Jews. The point he is making is that so long as he is around, his disciples do not have a reason to fast and do not have to fast to make a show for the religious elites. Jesus does not devalue fasting; he merely points out that for now, they do not fast for the bridegroom is with them. But there will come a time when he (Jesus) will be gone and then they fast.
Parable of the New Garment/New Wine
Now Jesus shifts the parable to a new patch sewn on old garments. In this parable, Jesus is making a comparison between the new covenant that he came to establish (see 22.20) and the old covenant which the Pharisees clung to so fervently. Jesus says he did not come to do a patch job; instead he came with an entirely new garment. Second, he says that he is bringing new wine which cannot be contained within the old system – the new system with burst the old asunder if made to fit in the old. No Jesus is bringing new wine in new wineskins.
Well, what about the last verse in ch.5 about the old being better? Is Jesus saying that the old is better? Not at all. Rather, he is pointing out to the elitists that they wrongly reject the new wine Jesus is bring. As one commentator wrote: “Jesus is not reversing himself and saying that his teaching is not as good as the old it replaces. The point emphasized is that people tend to want the old and reject the new, assuming (wrongly in this case) that the old is better.” Hence, Jesus condemns them for their rejection of the new covenant he is establishing.
One final word: Jesus does not condemn the Law. He is merely pointing to the fact that what he has come to establish is far greater and better than the old covenant. Indeed, this is the point argued by the Hebrew writer throughout the entire epistle: Jesus and his covenant are far greater than the old system. By Jesus’ own admission, he did not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it (Matt 5.17).