Jesus plopped a little duo of parabolic gems about patches and wineskins as response. This is one of those passages in the gospel of Matthew that have most of us scratching our heads and wondering, “What exactly did Jesus mean by that?”
I think, and this is pure supposition, I admit, that when Jesus said these words, he may have given a little wink to Matthew, his host and new disciple. Because Matthew understood exactly what Jesus meant by this:
“No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch will pull away from the garment, making the tear worse. Neither do people pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst; the wine will run out and the wine wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.” (Matthew 9:16-17)
So God works in our lives, too. We with wobbly-faith and show-me attitudes.
He does his best work and his most perfect will because of his love for us, not because of our love for him.
He gives us room to grow, silent places in which to think and wander and pray, lonely times when we long for his presence.
His gives us new promises to hold in our arms and in our hearts and lullabies of praise and helps us sing the love song back to him, because of this “tender mercy of our God by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death to guide our feet into the path of peace.”
Sometimes I imagine what characters of the Bible may have been feeling, taking in with their senses and experiencing behind the narrative in the scriptures. I do this to understand, to find sight where the details are few, to stretch within the miracle of scripture and find the human-divine connections. I do this to better understand. Every Christmas, I think about old Zechariah, father of John the Baptist, and his unbelief and the unique discipline of silence exacted upon his by Gabriel. In my Christmas devotions today, I write from Zechariah’s voice, or thoughts, not to pretend that I know what he’s thinking, but to search for the deeper story of God’s faithfulness to us, even when we grow older and jaded and overly-familiar with God. He can make life spring up in the barren places (Isaiah 35) and give us joy and delight (Luke 1:14) where there had only been despair and sadness. God is always good on his word. And God is always good, as Zechariah learns here: Long ago, many years ago …