“For these men are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day.”
It was quiet – the calm before the holy storm. Suddenly a sound came from heaven like the rush of a mighty wind and filled the house in which the disciples were gathered on the Jewish feast commemorating the giving of the Torah: Pentecost. Tongues as of fire rested on them, they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke in other tongues. They powerfully proclaimed the mighty works of God and the outpouring of the Spirit upon all flesh.
“They are filled with new wine,” some mocked. In other words, “They’re drunk!” But wait a minute. What connection could be drawn between drunks and the disciples? Drunks often mumble nonsense, but these disciples were logical, persuasive and convicting, especially the Apostle Peter who called for repentance, faith and baptism, whereby 3,000 were baptized and added to the fold that day.
What else could it have been? Overwhelming joy! Yes, the disciples were said to resemble a bunch of happy drunks. They were indeed filled with ‘new wine’, but their inebriation was not from the wine of the grape – it was the ‘wine’ of the Holy Spirit.
On one occasion Jesus said, “People do not put new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise the skins burst, the wine spills out, and the skins are ruined. Rather, they pour new wine into fresh wineskins, and both are preserved.” Why are new skins needed?
Wineskins were usually made from whole goat hides with the neck and feet tied. Wine would then be stored in these skins. As the wine fermented, gases would be produced, causing the skin to expand. An old skin would burst under this pressure, because it had become dry and brittle and would already have expanded to its maximum. A new skin, on the other hand, would expand without bursting as the wine fermented.1
The new and old wineskins are figures of the New and Old Covenants. The ‘new wine’ of grace and the life of the Holy Spirit could not be contained in the ‘dry and brittle wineskins’ of the Old Covenant. Fresh, new wineskins are required for the expansive working of the Holy Spirit. Although Jesus did not come to “abolish the law or the prophets”, he did come to fulfill, perfect and expand the Old Covenant moral law. The New Covenant provided us with grace and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and for this ‘new wineskins’ are necessary.
On another level, we could view our own lives as wineskins of sorts. As God pours out the Holy Spirit into our lives we receive it in ‘fresh wineskins’ that will allow the wine to expand and stretch us until it is fully fermented. Filled with the ‘new wine’ of the Holy Spirit, we must listen and be open – and be willing to follow as the Lord moves in our lives. Stretching is not always easy or comfortable, but through it we grow and become more conformed to the image of Christ.
How might the Lord be ‘stretching’ you?
1 Barclay Moon Newman and Philip C. Stine, A Handbook on the Gospel of Matthew, UBS Handbook Series (New York: United Bible Societies, 1992), 265–266.