And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the new wine will burst the skins and it will be spilled out, and the skins will be ruined. But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins. (Luke 5:37, 38 NASB)
The symbolism is this passage is so rich that it will take us a few more days to get through it, so please bear with me. There is a plan. :)
The people in the agrarian society in which Jesus lived and taught understood the winemaking process, and they understood exactly what He meant in this parable. The process was clearly familiar to Him, as well. Because we are relatively removed from the growing and processing of our food, the analogy loses a little in translation unless we learn the background.
There are so many references to the fruit and the vine, as well as to wine, in Scripture, that understanding the basics of processing the fruit into the finished product can greatly enhance our understanding in Scripture. We will save the fruit/vine lessons for later. Today, we are looking at the fruit.
Once the fruit is ripened on the vine, it is picked by hand and carefully placed in shallow baskets to avoid bruising the fruit. Now, that is interesting because, while you don't want to damage the fruit ahead of time lest it spoil before processing, it is going to have a rough time in that process. When it is time for the winemaking to begin, the carefully protected fruit must be crushed to obtain the juice. It is only with a clear endpoint in sight that crushing is allowed for the fruit. Crushing is no easy process, either. The grapes are removed from the stems, gathered together, and are crushed by hand in order to split the skins and allow the pulp and seeds to pour forth. While still a grape, albeit a damaged one, that fruit is now in the process of becoming something completely different. Multiple steps will be needed to convert the grape into the wine, some of which may seem as if nothing is being done, but in the end, if everything proceeds according to plan, the grape will be converted to a richly colored, clear liquid that is matured, preserved, and relatively free from the risk of spoilage. It's no longer a grape, but it has become so much more!
The initial crushing is a critical step in the process of transformation for the grape. To become what it is intended to become, the crushing is not optional. In fact, hard as it might seem to a grape, the crushing is desirable because it allows the juice or essence to be recovered and the seeds and waste pulp to be removed.
None of us really enjoy the crushing, but it is a critical step in becoming what God intends for us as Christians, as well. Our old ways and ungodly self must be removed so that we can become more like Christ, just as the seeds and stems must be removed from the grapes. While the crushing is usually not a pleasurable experience, it is the first step in the journey of becoming the person God intends us to become - mature, stable, full of richness and flavor, more like Christ. That crushing may come in the form of a difficult experience or an overwhelming conviction, but you can be sure that it will come. When we see the crushing as an indication of God at work in our lives and embrace the changes He is bringing in our transformation, that difficult time can become the sweetest experience as we find fresh mercy and grace every step of the way. In the end, the crushing can be one of the most precious gifts of our lives.
Are you or a loved one experiencing a "crushing" or have you already made it through? Today, thank God that He does not leave us as we are when we come to Him, but continues to change us until He transforms us into Christ's likeness. Pray that the process will be completed in each of us and that we and our loved ones will become exactly what and who He intended us to be.