New Cloth

I remember when my son was little and would inevitably wear holes in the knees of his jeans. I did not want to go and buy new jeans for him to run around and play in. Jackson and his friends were always climbing in trees, sliding into bases in the backyard, and running from house to house. All his jeans needed were a little patch. I am no seamstress, so I went to the store and found some iron-on jean fabric patches. I took his old worn-out jeans with holes all in the knees and got my iron out. I followed the directions and ironed these new patches on his jeans. Lets just say, it worked while the jeans were cooling on the ironing board, but as soon as Jackson put them on I knew it was too good to be true. The patch did not move with the old fabric. By the time my son went out to play and came back inside, the edges of the new patch were already pulling from the edges of the old fabric.

The parable we are looking at today illustrates exactly what happened to the patch on Jackson’s jeans!

Jesus said in Matthew 9:16: “No one puts a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; for the patch pulls away from the garment, and the tear is made worse.”

So, why is this something Jesus feels we need to know and what is He really saying to us?

To really understand this parable, which is found in Matthew 9:16, Mark 2:21, and also in Luke 5:36, we need to look back on the previous verses. In the few verses before, we see the disciples asking Jesus why He and his disciples did not fast. The disciples and the Pharisees lived a life based on the Old Testament Law. They followed a long list of things they had to do in order to have a right relationship with God. Part of the Law was to fast one or two days a week. The Pharisees became very legalistic about following the rules. They were often fasting with the wrong motives. They did not fast to please and honor God.

In Matthew 9:16, the “old garment” represents the Old Testament law, the old law, the agreement that God had with his people and the things they would do. This was the agreement they had before Jesus Christ came to earth. When Jesus died on the cross and was resurrected into a new life in heaven then the New Testament covenant took place. The Covenant of Grace came into being.

The old garment seems to have a tear in it. The parable here is about the old laws. The people in the Old Testament had to fully follow all of the laws. The problem is that nobody can be perfect and live up to all of the rules. It is impossible to fulfill the law.  Living day by day trying to fulfill the law of God, with the law of God on your mind all the time, will tear you to pieces. You will live with guilt and shame all the time because nobody can follow all the rules all the time.

Jesus’ reference to new cloth was a way of saying that He did not come to patch up an old and worn-out religious system, but to replace it completely with a dynamic new way of teaching. Jesus’ new teaching was salvation by grace through faith in Him. This teaching is not compatible with the teaching of the law under the Old Testament. This new teaching could not be mixed with the old because of the new life and freedom. A new cloth sown on an old garment in Jesus’ day would shrink the first time it was washed and would tear away from the old garment that had already shrunk, making the hole worse. This illustrated that Jesus did not come to patch up the Old Covenant, but to replace it.

Jesus is the new patch, He cannot be combined with the old ways. His way is the gospel of grace. We cannot follow rules to be saved by Christ. He brought salvation to replace our need to follow the Old Covenant rules.

Also for todays reading:  Psalm 93