Thursday, March 26, 2009

Christ’s Blessings Through Wine

Jesus changes water into wine

John 2:1-11

A wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.”

“Dear woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My time has not yet come.”

His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons.

Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim.

Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.”

They did so, and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside and said, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.”

This, the first of his miraculous signs, Jesus performed at Cana in Galilee. He thus revealed his glory, and his disciples put their faith in him.

I remember watching a television documentary years ago on the making of wine. They interviewed a man from the so-called “Bible-belt” in the Southern United States who said, “I’m almost ashamed that the first miracle of our Lord was changing water into wine.”

This man was wrong on at least two counts (probably more). He wasn’t “almost” ashamed, he was completely ashamed of Jesus. In the Bible, the Pharisees were ashamed of Jesus. Christians are never ashamed of Jesus (except while we are sinning). Next, though the Holy Scriptures condemn drunkenness in many places, they never give an absolute ban on drinking wine (or similar drinks). Instead, wine is described as a blessing from God, and as a sign of His grace and favor.

The Holy Bible is very clear that drunkenness is a sin against the Fifth Commandment (“You shall not murder.”) because it hurts the body that God gave you. “Do not join those who drink too much wine or gorge themselves on meat, for drunkards and gluttons become poor, and drowsiness clothes them in rags.” (Proverbs 23:20-21) Also, “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.” (Ephesians 5:18) There are also many examples in Scripture of those who have gotten drunk and have suffered because of it. Noah, and Lot (after the destruction of Sodom) are two examples. King David got Uriah drunk to try to cover up his own sins with Uriah’s wife (2 Samuel 11:13), though Uriah was more righteous when he was drunk than David was when he was sober.

Scriptures also show that wine is a blessing from God. “[Yahweh (the Lord), my God, makes] wine that gladdens the heart of man.” (Psalm 104:15) In addition to making man’s heart glad, the blessings of wine are used in the Old Testament to describe the blessings of heaven. “‘The days are coming,’ declares the Lord, ‘when the reaper will be overtaken by the plowman and the planter by the one treading grapes. New wine will drip from the mountains and flow from all the hills. I will bring back my exiled people Israel; they will rebuild the ruined cities and live in them. They will plant vineyards and drink their wine; they will make gardens and eat their fruit.’” (Amos 9:13-14)

Those who say that Christians should not drink wine or alcoholic beverages are adding new laws that God never spoke. They are like Eve, who said that God told them that they shouldn’t touch the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 3:3). God only told Adam and Eve not to eat the fruit (Gen. 2:16-17), but when Eve added to God’s Word it made her more vulnerable to fall for the devil’s temptation and lies.

Besides changing water into wine, Jesus did not refrain from drinking it either. This should be enough to show people that God does not forbid the moderate use of wine. However, our sinful flesh often looks for opportunities to justify itself, especially when we can pretend to be more righteous than God Himself. That is what the Pharisees were doing when they criticized Jesus for not observing the rules that they had added to God’s Word. Jesus noted their hypocrisy in Matthew 11:18-19 when He said, “For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ 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.” Jesus was certainly neither a glutton nor a drunkard, but because He didn’t follow the rules invented by the Pharisees they looked down on Him and thought they were better than Him, even though Jesus was obeying God’s law perfectly in every way.

Jesus ultimately fulfills the promise of the blessings of wine when He institutes the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper and gives His holy blood to those who drink the wine of the Sacrament. “Then [Jesus] took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it anew with you in my Father’s kingdom.’” (Matt. 26:27-29)

In this holy Sacrament Jesus joins Himself with us even after His ascension into heaven. Jesus is still “God with us” even as He is seated at the right hand of the Father and ruling all of God’s creation. Jesus has not abandoned us, but has given Himself to us through the ordinary means of wine in the Sacrament by the power of His Word. Through Christ’s blood in the wine, we receive the forgiveness of our sins that Christ has won for us on the cross. This is why the devil works so hard to demonize wine, even in the church, or to tempt us to misuse or abuse it. Satan doesn’t want us to enjoy the blessings of Christ’s forgiveness through the Lord’s Supper. However, Christ has given us a greater gift than we could possibly hope to receive. He has given us Himself. First, on the cross where Jesus exchanged His holy life for our sinful lives, and now He unites us to Himself through bread and wine that we may enjoy His gracious blessings both now and forever.

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