The Pharisees asked Jesus why His disciples were not participating in the ritualistic display of sadness and remorse for their imperfections (fasting) at the temple. Jesus replied that while He was with them, it was not a time for His followers to be sad but rather for them to be joyful.
Jesus then uses two short parables to emphasize that His followers had found a new way, and it wouldn’t make sense for them to mix in practices from the old way with the new way that they had found.
Parable 1: Patching a Torn Garment
“No man putteth a piece of a new garment upon an old; if otherwise, then both the new maketh a rent, and the piece that was taken out of the new agreeth not with the old.” (Luke 5:36; also see Matthew 9:16, Mark 2:21)
At the time of Jesus, a torn garment was not something to be worn in public—unlike today when people buy garments with holes already in them! So, if your garment tore, and you then obtained a new garment, what would you do next?
A. Take a piece of the new garment and use it to patch the old torn one
B. Discard the old garment and wear just the new one
While it might be tempting to try to repair the old garment such that you would then have two, this approach has several disadvantages:
- You’d have to take a piece away from your new garment.
- Attaching new cloth to an old garment could result in further fraying.
- The new cloth would be a different color, so it would be obvious that you were wearing a torn garment.
So, the most suitable approach would be Option B — wear your new garment exclusively.
Parable 2: New Wine in Old Bottles
“And no man putteth new wine into old bottles; else the new wine will burst the bottles, and be spilled, and the bottles shall perish.” (Luke 5:37; also see Matthew 9:17, Mark 2:22)
At the time of Jesus, the “bottles” used for wine were actually wineskins, which would stretch as the wine fermented in them. If a wineskin was reused, it would be unable to stretch any further and it would break instead. So, if you were buying wine, how would you store it?
A. In an old wineskin with the risk of it breaking and spilling all of your wine
B. In a new wineskin
Obviously, you would choose Option B — discard the old wineskin and go new all the way.
A Modern-Day Parable: Eating from Multiple Tables
Picture yourself in a large banquet hall with many different tables. Each table has food on it, but the food is prepared differently depending on which table it is on. The table you are sitting at has excellent food. What will your meal consist of at this banquet?
A. A mixture of food from multiple tables
B. The excellent food from your own table
Now, if this was an actual banquet, it might make sense to sample some different types of food and have some variety.
However, suppose that each table represents a different church — each with different beliefs and doctrines. Now what do you do? Do you try to worship God with a combination of beliefs from various churches? Or do you go exclusively with the beliefs of The Church of Jesus Christ?
On the day you were baptized, you put aside your old belief system and adopted the faith and doctrine of The Church of Jesus Christ (including the restoration of the gospel, the ordinances, latter-day expectations, etc.) as your new belief system. Just as with the other parables above, the right choice is to go “new” exclusively.
Let’s not eat from multiple tables. Let’s not put our new wine in old wineskins. Let’s not mix cloth from our new garments with old garments that should have been discarded. We have a “new way” in The Church of Jesus Christ. We need to embrace this as our identity and use it exclusively.
(Note: The above “modern-day parable” is based on an actual dream that was accepted as a revelation from God by the General Church priesthood in 1994. The title of the revelation is “Maintaining Our Identity in The Church of Jesus Christ.”)
This article has undergone ministry review and approval.