“And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; or else the new wine bursts the wineskins, the wine is spilled, and the wineskins are ruined. But new wine must be put into new wineskins.” Mark 2:22
Albert Einstein is credited with saying that “insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” I’m going to adapt this saying and define self righteousness as doing your own thing over and over again and expecting to be made holy.
The context of our focus text is one where the disciples of Christ were being criticized by Jewish leaders for not fasting like the disciples of the Pharisees and John the Baptist. These leaders practiced a kind of righteousness where a person tried to win acceptance with God through adherence to a regimen of religious rituals. The problem with this approach was that God didn’t really want their superficial ritualistic religion and on top of that many of the rituals they were prescribing had nothing to do with the ceremonies that God had instructed his people to do as part of their worship services. But this didn’t stop them from trying to define their relationship with God according to values and activities of their own choosing.
Jesus, however, was trying to teach his disciples to find a real relationship with God. And this meant that they would need to learn about God by learning his values. And they would need to approach him as a community through religious practices of his choosing and not their own.
The only true holiness is God’s holiness. And the only true righteousness man can have is the righteousness Christ gives us through his Spirit. People know that anything they come up with is inadequate but this doesn’t keep us from trying to come up with substitutes.
When Jesus told the Pharisees that they wouldn’t put new wine into old wineskins he was saying that the relationship God is offering can’t be held in the constraints and rules of we’ve been making. Self righteousness must be replaced by the love, humility and purity of the righteousness of Christ.