What is the significance of Mark 2:21-22?

In Mark 1:16-3:12 Jesus’ ministry begins and right off the bat he starts to perform miracles and healings. The controversy of the Sabbath arises, and many people begin to question who Jesus is. This section of the Gospel of Mark primarily deals with His authority. As the narrative continues to unfold, an extremely striking and unique statement is made by Jesus in Mark 2:21-22. The bible says: "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. "No one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the wine will burst the skins, and the wine is lost and the skins as well; but one puts new wine into fresh wineskins" (Mk. 2:21-22). It is without question a baffling passage that quite a few bible students and scholars have grappled with over the years. It’s meaning is not only pivotal to the section pertaining to the authority of Jesus, but it is also a microcosm of the plan of salvation and its end results. Please allow me to explain further. 

Mark 1:16-3:12, the section dealing particularly with Jesus’ authority, begins with a call of the disciples. Jesus then begins to teach and perform miracles and healings. By the time we get to Mark 2:21-22 Jesus is well underway establishing who He is and what He has come to do. These two verses found in Mark (2:21-22) play a fundamental role in terms of its relationship to its broader context of 1:16-3:12. Jesus talks about patches on old garments and new wine in old wineskins to make a point. The point Jesus is making is that what He has come to do and fulfill can’t be fitted into old forms and traditions. Jesus’s teachings, miracles and authority are unlike what anyone had seen before. They are the works and words which no man had ever done before, and no one has done since! The bible tells us in Mark 1:22 the people were amazed at His teaching because He taught as one having authority. Jesus didn’t come to make the old things better or to improve on things that were already falling apart. He came to usher in the rule of God, something that was new to everyone. 

Jesus came to introduce something new, not to patch up something old. This is what the gospel is all about, but it is an idea that many struggle with. Millions of people are still trying to cling to the old law (Law of Moses) and other such precepts but Jesus had no interest in rebuilding the old law. He died on the cross abolishing the Law of Moses (See Eph. 2:11-18) and He instituted the new covenant through His blood (See Heb. 8). This is exactly what Jesus meant when He said what He said in Mark 2:21-22. This is fundamental to the broader context of 1:16-3:12 because Jesus is already introducing new things and doing things differently. They were amazed at His teaching. He was healing people and casting out demons that depict the authority He had was from God. In conjunction with Jesus saying He is Lord even of the Sabbath and all the things He Himself spoke and did in this section of Mark, it is clearly evident that there is something new that has come. The rule of God is being ushered in by the Son of God and in doing so it would ultimately lead to a new covenant. 

I believe Jesus’ point in using the image of new wine in old wineskins and sewing a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment is for us to see that we can’t cling to what is old and what will fall apart but we need to think about what is new. These people would have understood the concept of new wine in old wineskins but whether or not they understood the true meaning of what Jesus was saying was left up to them. I also believe that this could be the idea of concealing and revealing that Jesus also uses in His parables. To those who wanted to hear and obey they would listen and the message would be revealed, but to those who didn’t it would be concealed. 

Overall this section of scripture is a very important one for us to think about and consider. Jesus demonstrated His authority through a variety of amazing examples and teachings and we would do well to listen to Him today and follow Him. We need to put our faith and trust in Him knowing that He has all authority in Heaven and on earth.