This parable is preceded by two similar short parables. The three together mean that the followers of Jesus (be they Jews or Gentiles) no longer need to follow the old Jewish ways of faith because Jesus has fulfilled all prophecies of the coming of a Messiah to set God’s people free. Mark 2:18-22.
The first short parable was in response to some people who noticed John the Baptist’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting, so they asked Jesus why his followers did not do the same.
Jesus replied that going to a wedding and fasting would be foolish. There would be plenty of time to fast after the bridegroom had departed.
In the second short parable, we have to forget the modern fabrics our clothes are made of today and imagine a material used in the times of Jesus which would shrink when washed.
Jesus said no one would patch a hole in an old garment with a new piece of cloth because the new fabric would shrink and cause even more damage to the old garment.
Likewise, with the third short parable, we must remember that the people in those days made a lot of wine, which they stored in bottles made of animal skin. When a new skin was used it would yield to the wine as it fermented and expanded and so provided a suitable vessel for new wine.
However, if new wine were put into an old leather vessel, as it fermented the old skin would rupture and both the vessel and wine would be wasted.
What does this mean for us today?
All three parables give a similar message.
In the first, Jesus meant he had fulfilled the Old Testament prophecies and likened himself to a bridegroom, with the Church as his bride. His followers should celebrate him being with them here on earth. The time for fasting was when they awaited the long-promised Messiah. Now they should honour his arrival.
The second two parables both had the same meaning of not mixing an old religion with a new one because it would not work, and both would be destroyed.
The Pharisees (a large and influential Jewish sect at that time) had become a self-righteous works-based religion. All Jewish people were required (and are still to this day) to fast on the Feast Day of the Atonement on the 10th of July each year, but they were fasting twice a week, thinking the more they fasted, the more devout and above reproach they were.
The disciples who followed Jesus were under a new covenant of grace and faith in him. He would atone for their sins by dying on the cross, so fasting was no longer required. Trust in him was.
Followers of Jesus were not to be filled with pride and self-righteousness. They were to celebrate and be grateful for Jesus and also to be humble in their faith with no one worth more than another.
So the takeaway for today is for us to give thanks for the life of Jesus. For the hope he gives us and all he taught us while on earth. To have faith in him, but not to think too highly of ourselves as we go about our lives and treat others as we would like to be treated ourselves.