Wednesday, 16 April 2008

WWJD: What Would Jesus Drink?

"The Wedding Feast of Cana"
Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons
When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, ‘They have no more wine.’” (John 2:3)

The other day I heard it again: “Jesus didn’t really turn the water into wine; he turned it into juice.” Have you ever heard that line of reasoning? I’m sure you have. Personally, I’m getting a little tired of those false teachings that leave little or no room for the humanity of Jesus. Now, I’m really not interested in arguing theology; but sometimes I do just want to yell, “Wake up and smell the ‘Draft!’”

I’m certainly not promoting drunkenness, but I am promoting the fact that I’m sure my Lord drank a glass of (alcoholic) wine or two while He walked this earth. I’m sure that Jesus, after a long walk with His disciples, probably would have stopped in at a local pub for a cold beer!

The point is, lest we have forgotten, that Jesus was both “fully man” and “fully God.” He was concerned with the relational, the meeting of people where they were at. If He sat with the prostitutes and if He ate with the tax collectors, I’m sure that He drank with them too. We see this in Jesus' own words when He said, "The son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, 'Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.' But wisdom is proved right by her actions" (Matthew 11: 19). The religious Pharisees criticized Him then, and the religious today often continue to do the same by criticizing Christians who drink and who suggest that Jesus probably did too. I would suggest that it is time that such Christians today stop being so religious!

To answer my critics who would have us to believe that the water that was turned into wine was really a non-alcoholic juice, let me begin by turning our attention to Numbers 6:3. This is the passage which deals with the rules for the Nazirite. It reads, “he must abstain from wine and other fermented drink and must not drink vinegar made from wine or from other fermented drink. He must not drink grape juice or eat grapes or raisins (emphasis mine). What I noticed here was that within the very same verse there is reference to, 1) wine, 2) other fermented drink, 3) grape juice. The point is, there were words in the original languages for each. If Jesus had turned the water into a juice instead of wine, there were other words that the Gospel writers could have used to describe the water turned into juice. However, they didn’t use those words because the water wasn’t turned into a juice, rather it was turned into a wine. Therefore we can conclude that it was in fact an alcoholic wine that Jesus miraculously created.

Unfortunately what we’ve all too often done is read back into the Gospels what we’ve wanted them to say in order to protect our western Christian biases. We need to understand the culture of the day and read our Bibles in light of that culture. It is a historical fact that grapes were fermented and turned into wine. It is a historical fact that fermented grape juice (wine) was served at weddings. Combine that with what the master of the banquet said to the groom about everyone bringing out the choicest wines first and the cheaper wines after everyone has had too much to drink, whereas the groom saved the best for last (John 2: 9-10), then we also see that it had to be fermented (alcoholic) wine that was being referred to as opposed to simply juice.

Photo Source: unknown; via Facebook
Do we really think that Jesus went to the home of the tax collector for dinner and refused the wine that was, no doubt, put before Him? Do we really think that Jesus went to a wedding banquet, turned the water into wine, and then said, “No thanks, I’ll just drink the Pepsi or a glass of water?” Jesus was “fully human” and would have walked where the people walked, and lived as the people lived; including having a glass of wine or other fermented drink. He did not drink to get drunk and thus violate Scripture on the subject, but I’m sure He did follow the custom of the odd glass of wine, and especially so at a wedding feast. Jesus lived life among the people and still remained sinless. So must we learn to live among the people and still live sinless lives.

The problem is that we each have our own version of a “sin list.” For some people the thought of alcoholic drink of any kind is sinful. It doesn’t matter to them if it’s even only one drink and if the drinker never drinks in excess and gets drunk. For them it’s sin. For the next person it may be tobacco products that are sinful. It’s ironic that Charles Spurgeon, who was known as the “Prince of Preachers,” enjoyed his cigars. While we see tobacco use declining more and more today, the point is that it was once culturally acceptable, even in the church. The next person has no issue with being overweight, even though excessive weight is also not good for any of us and also destroys the “temple of the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 6:19) as much as too much drinking or smoking does. The point is, people have their own little pet-peeves as to what is acceptable for other Christians and what is not.

What we need to come to is not to judge each other by what we eat or drink, but to act in love. “One man’s faith allows him to eat everything, but another man, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables….One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike” (Romans 14: 2, 5). In Christ we all have the freedom in regards to these things; it’s not a case of right versus wrong, but rather personal freedom in our walk of faith.

Do I drink wine or other fermented drink? Yes, from time to time I do. However, if my brother or sister has an issue with it, I will try and avoid the subject so as not to put a “stumbling block” (Romans 14: 13) into their path due to their weak faith. The key is to always respond in love. If we can learn to do that then I’m convinced we won’t have anywhere near as many divisive and factional (Galatians 5:20) issues as we do now.

Did Jesus drink wine? I’m sure that He did, but if you think differently, I won’t argue the point any further so as not to put a stumbling block between us. Christians have far too many of those between them already.

Anyways, that's the way I see it. Peace.

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