PREPARING FOR THE WEDDING FEAST
"And Jesus said to them, "The attendants of the bridegroom cannot mourn, as long as the bridegroom is with them, can they? But the days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast."
"But no one puts a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; for the patch pulls away from the garment, and a worse tear results."
"Nor do men put new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the wineskins burst, and the wine pours out, and the wineskins are ruined; but they put new wine into fresh wineskins, and both are preserved." Matthew 9:15-17
In this passage the Lord refers to Himself as the bridegroom. This obviously implies that He had come to receive His bride. But He does not refer to His disciples as the bride, but rather, as the "attendants" of the bridegroom. Verses sixteen and seventeen speak of what must happen before He could receive His bride. First a change needed to come in the garment, the wine, and the wineskin. There would need to be a new garment, a new wine, and a new wineskin.
The New Garment
We must remember that these verses must be kept in context with what the Lord said in verse fifteen. The context is a wedding. That is established when the Lord speaks of the bridegroom. So what could this new garment be? The main garment in a wedding is the bridal gown or dress. He is looking for His bride, but she is not ready yet. The first thing to take care of is the wedding dress.
If the "attendants" are gong to become the "bride" they will need to become worthy of His presence. The problem is that they are but sinners. They do not have a wedding dress of pure white to wear. Their garment is old and torn. It is definitely not white! They can never be presented to the bridegroom in such attire.
So the answer is to apply the "new" cloth. The old cloth is unshrunk or untreated. This cloth, of course, refers to the Lord Jesus Himself. The cloth is here, however it is "untreated" and cannot cover the bridal gown in its current state. The Lord had to be crucified, buried, and resurrected in order to become the "new" cloth that would mend the wedding dress. Do you remember the story of the prodigal son? Even though his father loved him very much, he was not worthy to approach the father's presence until he was wearing the best robe. Christ is our robe that we wear to cover us and make us fit for the wedding feast.
The New Wine
The new garment takes care of the outward need of the bride but what about the inward? The father of the prodigal was satisfied by the covering of the robe, but what about the satisfaction of the prodigal himself? He was still hungry! Immediately the father had the fatted calf killed and they all had a huge feast. The father provides for both the outward and the inward.
Now the new wine is for our inward need. We need something to cover us, but we also need something to fill us. We are so poor outwardly, and so empty inwardly. We not only need the new garment, but we also need the new wine.
The wine at a wedding feast is very important. When the Lord Jesus changed the water into wine in Cana, He was showing us something of Himself. He is the new wine. We are the barrels of water. Now everyone knows that when you are celebrating a wedding you serve wine, not water. The Lord changed the contents of those barrels. He filled them with the new wine. He fills us with Himself! Now, there is substance within the barrels worth rejoicing over. Now there is new wine that can be used to satisfy the thirsty and make them merry. Now the Lord Jesus is not only the Bridegroom, but also the new garment to qualify us and the new wine to satisfy us.
The New Wineskin
Obviously, wine needs to have a container or else it will be spilled and wasted. It needs a place to not only be contained, but also to be preserved. In the first century, the wineskin was the vessel to contain the wine. Paul said that "we have this treasure in earthen vessels." Therefore, the new wineskin represents something that contains Christ as the new wine. But what is this "something"? It is nothing less than the corporate Christ; the church. He is not only our new garment and the new wine, but has now been enlarged to also become the new wineskin to contain that wine. He is everything. He is the bridegroom, the new garment, the new wine, and the corporate vessel to contain the new wine.
"For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of the body, being many, are one body; so also is Christ." I Cor. 12:12
We are always saying that Christ is the Head of the body; Head of the church. But do we realize that He is also the Body? Paul tells us plainly in this verse that Christ is also the Body. But how can this be, practically speaking? It's because of "Christ in you, the hope of glory." This is made possible because of the fact that Christ lives in you and Christ lives in me. Not only that, but Christ cannot be divided. The Christ in you is one with the Christ in me, and the Christ in us is one with the Christ in all other Christians. So Christ is this Body which is comprised of many members who are filled with Him. This is the new wineskin. It is Christ enlarged to contain His own life.
Some people try to have the new wine without the new wineskin. But without the wineskin (church life), how can you keep the wine? You, as an individual, are not the new wineskin. You are just part of the wineskin. It's true that you contain some of the wine, but if you are severed from the body, that "blood" will spill out. Do not think that you can survive apart from the body. If the wineskin is cut into pieces it will no longer hold the wine.
We must also realize that the wineskin is not only the container for the wine; it is also the "way" to drink the wine. The church provides a means for you and I to drink of Christ. When I gather together with my brothers and sisters they each bring a part of Christ, they each bring some new wine. I share the wine I have; they share the wine they have and everyone drinks to full satisfaction!
We must keep in mind that the "new" wine must be kept in the "new" wineskin. Pouring new wine into an old wineskin does not work. Many believers who have received a revelation of Christ in them have tried to pour the new wine into their denomination or their organized church. This will never work. You cannot make an old wineskin into a new one. The wineskin will burst and the wine will be wasted. New wine needs a new wineskin.
We need to have Christ as the new garment, we need Christ as the new wine, and we need the corporate Christ as the new wineskin. We desperately need first century style church life to contain the life of our Lord!