The Parables of Jesus Part 3
Matthew 9:16, Mark 2:21, Luke 5:36 - The Gospel is a new covenant, like whole cloth
“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.”
Matthew 9:16 NASB1995
““No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; otherwise the patch pulls away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear results.”
Mark 2:21 NASB1995
“And He was also telling them a parable: “No one tears a piece of cloth from a new garment and puts it on an old garment; otherwise he will both tear the new, and the piece from the new will not match the old.”
Luke 5:36 NASB1995
This short parable comes in response to the Pharisees criticizing Jesus and His disciples for not fasting. This criticism happens not long after Jesus heals the paralytic man who was lowered through the roof of a house and Jesus forgave the man’s sins before healing him. The parable has a second part (covered in the next devotional) about putting new wine into old wine skins.
The audience for this parable would certainly understand the limitations of patching up worn garments with new cloth, because a new patch of linen or wool would shrink when washed, causing it to tear away. The second consideration is that the new patch would not match the old cloth. And they would also understand the possible need for patching garments that are still usable, so that they can be worn again and not have the expense of a totally new garment.
Fast-forward to the 21st century and now people pay exorbitant amounts of money for denim jeans that are ripped in various places. When I was a girl, my Mom would sew or iron patches on my worn jeans and would never let me be seen in public looking like I had gone through a meat grinder, like the person my photo illustration (and I saw many in my search that were far worse). In our disposable society, most clothes are barely worn before they end up in donation bags, except for the coveted ripped jeans, which become even rattier as they are proudly displayed along with expensive boots and jackets. Such a weird fashion trend!
But fashion is not the true underlying reason for this parable. Note that Luke’s version implies that both the old and new garments are damaged by this action, because the patch had to come from somewhere and ancient Judea did not have fabric shops on every corner. Precept Austin has excellent commentary he borrows from John MacArthur on the meaning of this parable (links point to Biblia):
Repairing an old tunic with a piece of new, unshrunk fabric would be ill-advised. Not only would the new cloth not match the faded color of the old (cf. Luke 5:36), it would shrink when washed and pull the garment, causing it to tear. Our Lord’s point was that His gospel of repentance and forgiveness from sin could not be patched into the legalistic traditionalism of Pharisaic Judaism. The true gospel cannot be successfully attached to the tattered garment of superficial religion worn so proudly by the scribes and Pharisees. Apostate Judaism’s rituals and ceremonies were like filthy rags (Isa. 64:6); they were beyond repair. Jesus did not come with a message to patch up their old system. He came to totally replace it. It is important to note that the old garment to which Jesus alludes is neither the Mosaic law nor the Old Testament as a whole. Jesus did not come to destroy the law but to fulfill it (Mt. 5:17-19+). Moreover, the apostle Paul explains that the law of God is righteous and good (Ro 7:12,16+). The Jewish leaders had added their own rabbinic stipulations and traditions to God’s law to the degree that Judaism had more to do with keeping extra-biblical prescriptions than with honoring divine requirements.
Our Lord fulfills the Old Testament law, He did not come to destroy it. So many things have been heaped upon that law that are extra-Biblical by the Pharisees that they have made tatters of their faith. Jesus does not patch up their old systems, but brings a new covenant linked to God’s law, like whole new cloth. The Pharisees were proud of their superficial religion, but the Gospel of repentance and forgiveness cannot be attached as a “patch” to those legalistic rags.
My next devotional examines the second and similar parable about new wine in old wine skins, from Matthew 9:17, Mark 2:22, and Luke 5:37-38.
Heaven on Wheels Daily Prayer:
Dear Lord - Your new covenant of repentance, forgiveness and belief in Eternal Salvation covers me, the believer, like a beautiful new cloth that needs no repair. Amen.
Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved. lockman.org
Precept Austin, a collection of commentaries and sermons is described by the personal testimony at the link.