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Parables of Jesus: The Patch and The Wineskins (Mark 8:21-22)

Pastor of Iglesia Conexiones, a baptist church in Jessup, MD. B.A. in Bible, B.S. English Ed., M.S. in Educational Leadership.

In my previous article on the parable about the bridegroom's guests and the bridegroom, I mentioned that, to interpret the parables in the gospels, it is important to consider the elements within the parables, any explanations the Lord offers, and the context of the parables.

In this article, we will take a look at two brief parables: the patch and the wineskins.

Parable about The Patch and The Wineskins

The two parables read as follows:

21 No one sews a patch of unshrunken cloth on an old garment. Otherwise the patch pulls away from it—the new from the old—and the tear becomes worse. 22 And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise the wine will burst the wineskins and the wine is destroyed and the wineskins too. But new wine is put into new wineskins.” (Mark 2:21-22, LEB)

What do these parables mean?

Analysis of The Parables

The Elements within The Parable

The elements in the parable about the patch include (i) a patch of unshrunken cloth, and (ii) and old garment.

The elements in the parable about the wineskins include (i) new wine, (ii) an old wineskin, and (iii) a new wineskin.

What The Lord Says

According to the Lord, no one patches an old garment with a patch of unshrunken cloth, otherwise the tear in the old garment becomes worse. Moreover, the Lord also says that no one puts new wine into an old wineskis, otherwise the winekin bursts.

So, this parable is about what no one does. No one does the things above in order to prevent the old garment from tearing and the old wineskin from bursting.

The Lord does add an additional detail to the parable about wineskins: new wine is poured in a new wineskin.

The Context of The Parables

As we read the context of the parables, we realize that the Lord told these two parables immediately after he told the parable about the bridegroom's guests and the bridegroom (Mark 2:18-20)—which he told to answer the question about why his disciples didn't fast.

Avoiding a Misinterpretation

In isolation, the parables about the patch and the wineskins could mean anything. However, once we consider their context, we realize that they have a specific purpose in the passage: they are elaborating on the parabale about the bridegroom's guests and the bridegroom, they are explaining why the Lord's disciples don't fast.

The difficulty with these two parables, however, is that, at first glance, they appear to be about inanimate objects (an old garnmnet, a patch, an old wineskin, new wine, and a new wineskin), not about people who represent the disciples or the Lord.

The unskillful reader will try to find out what each of these objects represents, but doing so is just a matter of guesswork because there is nothing in the passage that explains what the different objects in the parables represent. Instead, we must ask ourselves how these two parables are similar to the preceding parable, and how they relate to the issue the Lord was addressing.

Notice that these two parables, like the first one, are about what people do not do. The first parable was about how a bridegroom's guests do not fast, and these parables are about how people do not sew a patch of new fabric on an old garnment, and about how people do not store new wine in an old wineskin. Why? Because fasting in the presence of the bridegroom makes no sense since the bridegroom intends his guests to celebrate with him; and, patching an old garnment with a patch of new fabric makes no sense since the old garnment will be torn by the new fabric; and, storing new wine in an old wineskin makes no sense since the new wine will cause the old wineskin to burst.

Interpretation of The Parable

The parables of the patch and the wineskins are, in essence, the same as the parable about the bridegroom's guests and the bridegroom. The point of the three parables is that it would be inappropriate (nonesense) for the Lord's disciples to fast.

However, only the parable about the bridegroom's guests and the bridegroom tells us that the reason why fasting would be inappropriate is that the Lord is present with the disciples. Also, of the three parables, this parable is the only parable to tell us that there will be a future time when the Lord will no longer be with the disciples and that the disciples will therefore fast at that time.

The parables about the patch and the wineskins, on the other hand, are not so detailed. Instead, they only repeat the main idea of the first parable: they only teach that it would be inappropriate (or nonsense) for the disciples of Jesus to fast.

The patch and the old garnment do not represent anything. The new wine, the old wineskins, and the new wineskin do not represent anything. The key to both parables is that, in both parables, people refrain from doing something in order to prevent undesired results.

The only element in the parables that represents anything is the people who follow what is common sense:

  • People who do not sew a patch of new fabric on an old garnment represent the disciples who do not fast.
  • People who do not store new wine in an old wineskin represent the disciples who do not fast.

The people who store new wine in a new wineskin also represent the disciples who do not fast. However, they represent them in an opposite way and positive way: the disciples who do not fast are represented by the people who put new wine in a new wineskin because the Lord approves of the disciples not fasting just as his audience approves of people putting new wine in a new wineskin.

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© 2022 Marcelo Carcach

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