Jesus miracalously turned water into wine in a wedding banquet at Cana in Galilee.why would Jesus change water into kowing that drunkenness had being ridiculed in the old testament and some instances of abuse of drunkenness found in scriptures and also considering present culture on alcoholism and its problems being alarming ? And Is the usage of wine in Holy communion alcoholic or otherwise . Please throw light on this issue because it is really a controversial issue in many cultures?
Another great question Wanen. I wonder if this one centers around free will? Specifically man’s choices, not Jesus’.
How does mankind use the things God has given?
I think it’s first important to know that turning water into wine wasn’t about water or wine, or the immediate consequences; the water turned into wine was about Jesus. In John chapter 2, verse 11, it is written that this was the first of the signs Jesus did that others might believe in Him. It seems he did seven.
This sign showed that Jesus is the source of life. (Someone who knows more about Ancient Near Eastern and/or Jewish symbolism could elaborate on this… and/or correct me…).
This sign was about Jesus, and the consequences not of the wine, but of Who He Is. This makes the human response (the human choice about what God has given) of great importance.
Throughout the scriptures wine (alcohol) is shown in both the context of blessing (wine gladdens the heart, etc.), and scorn (drunkenness, foolishness, etc.).
I think there are at least two very important concepts to consider here, after considering what Jesus did and Who He Is:
The first comes from Ecclesiastes 7:29: “See, this alone I found, that God made man upright, but they have sought out many schemes.” The more time goes on, the more all that is good or might have been good will be corrupted. Wine, sex, life, worship… nothing is off-limits from the defilement of the deceitful desires of our hearts, which always seek to worship ourselves and our things instead of God. This brings me to the second consideration, which again has to do with our own choices:
Again in John 2, verses 24 and 25, it is written, “But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.” And what does He say is in man?
“For our of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.” Matthew 15:19.
Drunkenness is abuse of a thing, and abuse comes from the hearts of men and women. If it were not wine, it would be something else. If God were to limit our choices to what we would not abuse, or if He were to limit what exists to what could not be abused or used for abuse by us, then we would have no choice and there would be no existence.
I don’t know if the question should be, “why did Jesus make wine, considering who man is?” as much as it should be, “why does a man choose to remain who he is when Jesus Is Who He Is?”.
Your brother in Christ,
I apologize if this post seems a little disjointed. My 14-month old son was “helping” me the whole time, haha. It was hard to keep my line of thought going.
Congratulations @countryinked for being able to give as coherent an answer as you did with your helper on board!
And great question @wanen. Jeremy gave you some good thoughts - especially about the signs in John being to support the reality of Who Jesus is.
As for why wine in particular, and the dilemma of Jesus creating something that could lead men into sin, I would point out that in the Bible, there is no separate word for grapejuice! Anything squeezed out of a grape is called wine whether it’s alcoholic or not. It’s like our word “cider” - depending on context, it could be innocent or inebriating. So, many times in the Bible you’ll see wine being condemned - as in Proverbs 23:29ff - and other times it’ll be praised as bringing joy and gladness - or Jesus even turning water into it. Context is the only way to tell the alcoholic from the innocent.
I believe that the story in John 2 supports the view that the wine Jesus made was nothing more than grapejuice. Notice that the governor of the feast praised the bridegroom for what he assumed was the bridegroom’s doing. He describes how people would customarily serve the freshest wine first, and then when people’s tastebuds became less discerning through use, they would begin using up the juice that was starting to sour. But this host seems to have begun with juice so fresh that it made the first juice seem sour by comparison!
Some people think that the phrase “good wine” argues for it being fermented, which I’ve long thought was a strange idea to assume in the minds of First Century Jews who struggled to keep things fresh as long as possible and tried to use them before they went bad. It is more consistent with the direction of our modern culture to celebrate alcohol as the “good stuff”!
But as for the significance of Jesus’ choice for a first miracle - aside from the practical need of the hour - I think it illustrates His power to transform a life that is colorless, tasteless, drab and common, and turn it into something sparkling and delicious! When I came to Him for salvation, He sure changed the water of my life into wine!
Sometimes people wonder if He might still change water into wine today. I can’t say I’ve ever seen Him do that - but I’ve certainly seen Him change beer into furniture!
As for what kind of wine is appropriate for communion, our church has always used grapejuice - if unleavened bread should represent His sinless body, then unfermented grapejuice picturing His sinless blood would seem more consistent with the symbolism.
I hope these thoughts will help you with this issue!
@wanen Excellent question and great responses from @countryinked and @jlyons. I believe they already hit the main points, so I just wanted to summarize a few things and point you to some additional resources. Tim Keller’s sermon on this passage, linked below, is an excellent sermon on this text and why Jesus performed this miracle.
Here is a brief summary of the main points:
- in the prophets there was a close connection between the blessings of the Messianic Kingdom and wine (see Isaiah 25 below)
- drinking wine is not inherently wrong - it is only wrong when done in excess
- in the Old Testament, an abundance of wine was a sign of God’s blessing
- whether or not we use wine or grape juice during communion depends largely on our cultural context - it is not wrong to use wine for communion, but if we are concerned about being above reproach or causing someone to stumble, then it may not be appropriate.
Christ grant you wisdom
Isaiah 25:6-7 - On this mountain the Lord Almighty will prepare
a feast of rich food for all peoples,
a banquet of aged wine—
the best of meats and the finest of wines.
On this mountain he will destroy
the shroud that enfolds all peoples,
the sheet that covers all nations;
he will swallow up death forever.
There in the hours of celebrating the new life together of a man and woman whom history has forgotten, is a more excellent celebration: the new life given by God in the new creation. The flowing new wine shows the abundant blessing of Christ and his bride the church.
@jlyons I disagree; fermentation is not the same as going bad, and if you look at the Greek, the term used to describe the cheaper wine translates to “lesser,” which refers to both quality and age. As Christ notes in Luke 5:39, aged wine was generally considered to be of better quality (this has to do with the tannin content, not the alcohol content), and while non-alcoholic “wine” was known in the ancient world, making it required killing the yeast in the juice before significant fermentation could take place, usually by boiling the juice, and I seriously doubt that people in an area as drought-prone as ancient Israel would have wasted their scanty wood supplies on boiling more than a small portion of their grape harvest. (I go into the topic of wine in the Bible extensively in my post “Wine in the Bible”; see that posting for further details.) I believe the most logical conclusion is that the wine at Cana was, in fact, alcoholic, and the wine Jesus produced tasted like a well-aged, exceptionally good vintage.
A good explanation that I’ve heard regarding this miracle has two major parts. The first part is that wine symbolized God’s covenant with the people of Israel, a key part of which was the possession of the land. In order to make good, aged wines, you have to be settled and secure in a land for quite some time, long enough to plant the vines, raise them to maturity, harvest and process the fruit, and then seal up the new wine for an extended period of time. Thus, aged wine was an apt symbol of the old covenant; by coming in and bypassing all the time and effort required to make good, aged wine (and creating a better product to boot), Jesus was showing His disciples that a new and better covenant was at hand. This ties into the second part of the explanation: Wine was closely associated with feasts and celebrations, and as we see elsewhere in the New Testament, the consummation of the Kingdom of Heaven coming to Earth and the unification of Christ to the Church was best symbolized by a wedding feast. So the purpose of the miracle was primarily to serve as a sign to the disciples (few other people at the feast knew what had happened) that the Kingdom of Heaven was at hand, and Jesus was at the head of the vanguard.
@MicahB A link to the post you mentioned
Hmm - I like your connection between this first miracle and Christ coming to win a Bride through the new (wedding) covenant. Good insight.
I wondered who be first to disagree with my post - I know it’s not a popular position in many parts of the world. I have no desire to nit pick every detail of what you say. But I would like to address your use of Luke 5:39.
This is the third in a series of statements Jesus makes in response to why his disciples don’t fast like the Pharisees and John’s followers. The first is about the futility of using new cloth to mend an old garment.
The second is about putting new wine into stiff wineskins that will not be able to expand.
And then the one you’ve mentioned - No man also having drunk old wine straightway desireth new: for he saith, The old is better. In the parable, Jesus likens the one drinking the old wine to the Pharisees who reject the new wine of the gospel, because they think the old wine of the Law is better - because it’s what they’re used to. Which is obviously not what they should be thinking at all. In other words, the man in the parable is wrong - the old wine is not better.
I merely mention this to suggest that it might not be the best verse to support your point with.
As I note in my original post, the Greek term used to describe old wine as “better” can also mean “gentler.” New wine is high in tannins that give it an astringent taste, while aged wine is much less astringent because the tannins have polymerized and become less perceptible. Hence, if someone is used to old wine (or the old covenant), then the new wine (or new covenant) will seem sharp and distasteful. I don’t think Christ’s statement is a condemnation of aged wine, though, any more that it is a judgement of new vs. old cloth or old vs. new wineskins, just like I don’t think that His reference to the “yeast of the Pharisees” is a condemnation of the use of yeast (it simply means that their legalism and hypocrisy is catching). Christ’s point was that the new covenant cannot be constrained by the old covenant of the Law; there is simply not enough room for it in the old way of things. I brought up Luke 5:39 merely because it indicates that the general view was that old wine was preferable to new wine, so if the master of the banquet thought Jesus’ wine was the choice wine, then it stands to reason that it tasted like an aged wine.
Turning water into wine is one of the attesting signs used by John. It is the first of seven signs and I believe that it is describing the new way believers will worship in contrast to the old way that was second rate at best. The old way was the observance of the law that could not save but was very good at telling us that we needed to be saved. The new worship was in communion with the indwelling of the Spirit of God and the guilt we experienced through the sins we committed was gone, Jesus paid our debt (Guilt) through his atoning death on the cross, it is gone and we are free. The wine that Jesus provided in this miracle was demonstratively better than the wine previously being served and was now running out.
My first thought is that water symbolizes judgment. The wine symbolizes the Blood. His Blood cancelled the judgment against us. However, this is not the result of any careful exegesis of the text, just the first thing that came to mind.
Although alcoholism did occur i am not sure how pervasive it was. Grape juice was a common drink and fermentation is a natural way to preserve the juice. When it was served as a drink it was diluted significantly I have read that it was diluted about 12/1 which makes about 1-2% alcohol. There was no condemnation to consuming alcohol of that content only the use of high alcohol content drinks to the point of drunkenness. Wine of low alcohol content was a normal drink at celebrations. The present view of no alcohol use by some Christian traditions (which is my own tradition) is an overreaction to the abuse of alcohol experienced by some of our people. Some seem to have a genetic disposition for
alcohol addiction and for those abstinence is the answer regardless of cultural acceptance.
Your observation seems valid. The use of marriage ritual by Jesus would support that position in fact John ch. 14 the first paragraph uses the imagery of the engagement ceremony to illustrate Jesus’ departure after his death with a promise to return. It is also the lead in to the discourse of the coming of the Holy Spirit to believers and His role of encouragement and empowerment. The Church has not yet been instituted but will soon be at Pentecost. No one in the Apostolic anticipated a 2000 year time frame which we are presently in but the promise is real and we are getting close. The invitation to the wedding feast mentioned in the book of Revelation (Rev.19:7-8) is the fulfillment of that promise given in John 14.