As I was thinking through the writing of this post and the significance of the mercy seat, two times the word wineskin came to mind. The first time I shrugged it off as a random thought, but the second instance was harder to shake: I had woken up one morning and my very first thought was wineskin. I knew then it was time to give this topic some serious attention as this was not a random thought, but rather, an important tie-in for this post. I have to admit, my knowledge of wineskins was pretty limited (ok, practically non-existent). However, the more I studied, the more I uncovered the goodness of God as He lead me to this sweet connection.
As the name somewhat implies, wineskins were made from the skin of a goat or sheep, (or an ox or camel if necessary). Here is what I didn’t quite understand: New wine continues to ferment and build up pressure. If placed in an old wineskin, this process would burst the old skin. Even with my limited knowledge, I certainly know that wine on the ground is bad news for everyone! Thus the reason new wine needs to be placed in new wineskins.
This makes Jesus’ response to the Pharisees’ question about the disciples make much more sense. In Matthew chapter 9, the religious leaders were very concerned about the fact that the disciples did not fast. In the Old Testament, fasting showed contrition and penitence and was associated with piety. These leaders were bent on keeping the old ways of the law, and looked down on anyone who didn’t do likewise. They wanted to know what the deal was with these Jesus followers and why they weren’t adhering to the rules.
Jesus first explained his answer by using an analogy of a wedding party, making the point that the guests do not mourn (or fast) while the bridegroom is still in their presence. Then in verse 17 Jesus makes this statement: “Neither do men pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst, the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.”
So what does this mean? What is the significance of the new wineskin He speaks of? Amazingly, Jesus was telling us about Himself- telling us that He is the bridegroom and the New we all need. For soon, there would be no need for sin offerings or burnt offerings. Even the mercy seat of old would become obsolete; for Jesus would become the meeting place of God and His people.
Simply put, in order to receive Him as Savior and King, the old system was to be abandoned. It was no longer needed, and had no place mixing with the new.
And what was this new? It was something so radical. So unbelievable. So incredibly beautiful. It was Jesus, the Son of God, dying in our place as the ultimate and final sacrifice. The most costly sacrifice of all, given completely, for sinners. Who could have imagined this? Holy, perfect, blameless, righteous blood poured out as the propitiation for our sin. Not the blood of an animal, but the priceless blood of Jesus Christ. In our place, He received all of God’s holy wrath. It was there, on the hill of Calvary, that God’s perfect justice and incomprehensible love abounded.
And like the goat running in the wilderness, the blood of Jesus took away our sin. But unlike the goat, this was for all of time. On the cross Jesus said, “It is finished,” (John 19:30). Final. Once and for all. Jesus, with outspread arms on that rugged and bloody cross was the final sacrifice- the only sacrifice- needed for the removal of sin. Hebrews 9:26-28 says, “But now he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people.” Glorious expiation.
This blood ushered in the New Covenant, making it possible for all who believe in the name of Jesus to come to the Father. Even more amazing, this new covenant has the power to purify one’s conscience. Because the blood of Jesus completely dismantles the power of sin and its effects, we are left clean. No animal’s blood could ever accomplish this. As stated in Hebrews 9:14, “How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!” We are cleaned, forgiven, and freed from guilt. Our Accuser has lost all power.
Within the New Covenant we have been remade and given a new nature (2 Corinthians 5:17). No longer do we have hearts of stone, but hearts of flesh. We are no longer enemies of God, but His friend and His beloved. Only the blood of Jesus can do this. Only His blood can change the inner nature of man.
This New Covenant, which was ratified by the blood of Christ, was sealed by His resurrection. Jesus not only gave His life, but He conquered death as well! Complete victory was His. And as we are in Christ, that victory is ours now too. Oh to have witnessed the most spectacular scene in all of history: The empty tomb hosting two angels, one at each end of the stone bench- reminiscent of the two cherubim at each end of the Ark of the Covenant. The New had come.
Indeed, Jesus and the cross is our new mercy seat. For it is through this sacrifice that God can now meet with His people- with us. Covered by the blood of Jesus, we can stand in perfect righteousness before a holy God, forgiven and uncondemned. No more curtains. No more rams, bulls, or goats. Nothing but the blood of Jesus, the new wineskin.
Our God truly is the Father of all mercies. Of the mercies bestowed on us daily, reminding us of His goodness, presence, and love. And of the mercy He gave to us through the Lamb of God, who is Heaven’s mercy seat and our Savior, Jesus Christ.
May our hearts bow down and worship the One to whom we owe everything. And may our love for Him deepen with each day He graciously gives us.
*The Way by Pat Barrett (from Part I)
Resources used for the writing of Part I and II:
ESV Reformation Study Bible
Tabletalk Magazine (April 2019)