Sunday, September 9, 2012

Turning Water Into Wine: God loves a party!

In the Gospel of John, chapter 2, Jesus attends a wedding in Cana, about 8 miles from Nazareth. Jesus' mother is already there, and as with all weddings at that time in Israel, they lasted seven days and the hosts invited as many friends and family as possible. To run out of wine at a wedding was a major social disgrace. The host was supposed to have enough wine for all seven days.

When Renee and I were married at the Brockport Presbyterian Church in Western NY in 1979, our wedding did not last seven days and we had no alcohol at our wedding. ZERO, unless you count the alcohol that some of our guests discretely brought in undercover. We should have invited Jesus to do something similar, since he was at our wedding. He could have made it special just like he did here in Cana. Many of our guests (not from our local church) felt awkward and ill at ease because of no alcohol.

In retrospect, I believe we did a disservice to many of our guests by not serving alcohol; we didn't even serve champagne for the toast. Now don't get me wrong. I'm not pushing alcohol. At this point in time, I seldom drink, but if I'm at a wedding, I'd probably have some champagne or a glass of wine. The issue for me is those who try to make the Bible say something that it doesn't say. The issue for me is those who paint God's character as one who is a celestial killjoy. Some of the Christians who abstain from alcohol and everything else look like they've been baptized in lemon juice. They are not fun people--in fact, some of them don't even know how to have fun or to enjoy a wedding or a party.

Here at this wedding in Cana, Jesus' mother asks  him to do something. There were six stone jars there which were used for purification rites and held 20-30 gallons of water each. Jesus commands that each jar be filled with water and then he tells the servants to draw out the water and take it to the master of ceremonies. In John 2:9-10, we read
"The person in charge tasted the water that had become wine. He didn't know where it had come from, although the servers who had poured the water knew. The person in charge called the groom and said to him, “Everyone serves the best wine first. When people are drunk, the host serves cheap wine. But you have saved the best wine for now.” 
I want you to notice what the MC (host) said to the bridegroom. He says that usually at weddings, they serve the best wine first and then after people are drunk (did you notice that--Jesus is at a wedding where people were drunk, and he created wine for people to drink who were already drunk?) the host would serve the cheap Red Mountain wine which no one would even notice because they taste buds and senses were dulled. But now the host is astounded because he says they've saved the best wine for last. This is the wine that Jesus had just created in his first miracle.

Here's what I want you to see in Jesus' first miracle: God is no killjoy! He loves weddings and parties and does not have a problem with people drinking alcohol.

In Matthew 11:19, we see that Jesus did NOT abstain and he was considered a drunkard by his critics. God made everything and everything is good, including wine. Paul tells us that nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving. The problem with those who argue for abstaining because alcohol is being used wrongly is that it's not a consistent argument. Sex is abused and misused and we don't tell married couples to abstain because there is sexual perversion. We don't get rid of sex, but instead we use it rightly. When we see people engaging in gluttony and overeating to the point of obesity, we don't forbid eating food and we don't abstain from eating food including desserts.

Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 10:31 that "whatever you do, do it to the glory of God." Men have abused all kinds of things including children and women and we don't get rid of them, do we?

Proverbs 3:9-10 (GW) 
9 Honor the LORD with your wealth and with the first and best part of all your income. 10 Then your barns will be full, and your vats will overflow with fresh wine.
Here's what God tells his people to do after they've worked hard, paid their bills, paid their tithe, taken care of the poor--in Deuteronomy 14:25-26 (GW)
25 If so, exchange the tenth part of your income for silver. Take the silver with you, and go to the place the LORD your God will choose. 26 Use the silver to buy whatever you want: cattle, sheep, goats, wine, liquor—whatever you choose. Then you and your family will eat and enjoy yourselves there in the presence of the LORD your God. 
Here's the problem in some Christian circles today, especially here in the Bible Belt, we selectively take different issues which are debatable and turn them into "forbidden sins." We don't like cigarettes and smoking so that's a sin because it harms your body--never mind that these same legalists usually carry more weight than is healthy for their "temple." We don't like certain music and it's sinful unless you can buy it at your local Christian bookstore. We don't go to movies because they are evil and sinful, but if the movie is "Christian" or made by some church in Alabama, then we can give ourselves permission to darken the doors of our local cinema complex.

There are two gospels at work in the Christian church today: One is a gospel of works where we achieve a degree of righteousness based on what we do or don't do. We are "good Christians" if we don't drink, smoke, chew, go to movies, watch TV, etc. The other gospel which is the Gospel of Jesus Christ says that we cannot attain His righteousness by any of these legalistic "dos and don'ts." Only the blood of Jesus and His sacrifice on the cross can make us righteous and holy.

If you don't drink, be blessed but don't look down on those who drink--don't fall into the trap of classifying them as "lost sinners" because they frequent a bar or drink wine with their meals.Otherwise, you become like the Pharisees who called Jesus and his disciples drunkards.


  1. Speaking of saying something the Bible doesn't say, the text says, when they "have well drunk" or literally "freely drunk" - not - "when they were drunk".

    I'm not against some drinking - especially wine being that there is special significance to the fruit of the grapevine, and the drinking of wine in scripture. However we are not to give the appearance of evil, and it is not beyond rebuke if a Christian is frequenting a bar. In our culture many folks get drunk and party all the time – and we should use much caution with regard to our positions on alcohol. It is far from legalistic to determine that someone drinks too much and commence to rebuking them as a Christian brother or sister.

    How many times a week can I get drunk? This gets awfully subjective. I hope you haven’t gone and encouraged some young dad to wreck his family. This is probably under the Roman 14 principal; the law of liberty, for the most part, but look at the pattern of Jesus and the apostles. I’m not sure you can show me where they became drunk. As a matter of fact a qualification of Elders and Deacons is that they are “not given to much wine”.

  2. Micaiah, I encourage you to take an honest look at the scripture--in the Interlinear Bible, it translates it as "they have become drunk." The NIV translates it: John 2:10 (NIV) 10 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."
    The point that the host or MC is making is that their sense of taste is dulled because of having had too much to drink so they can no longer distinguish when they are being served cheap or inferior wine.

    Micaiah, at no point in this post was I arguing for getting drunk--you made that leap, not me. I said that Jesus was called a drunkard along with his disciples. I said that Jesus made real wine for a celebration, but I did not advocate for drunkenness. Obviously, people can drink without getting drunk. And apparently, even though they had drunk too much at the wedding at Cana, it was not an issue for Jesus--certainly, it didn't keep him from making MORE WINE, the best wine.

    Again, you defeat your argument when you quote the qualification for Elders and Deacons because it doesn't say they CAN'T drink, it says that they are not given to drunkenness (NIV). I agree. I wouldn't want an elder or deacon who was prone to drunkenness.

    My point is that pastors, teachers, Christians go beyond the Word of God and making a law that the Bible does not...and forbid alcohol, thereby making those who drink feel like they are rotten sinners....they may be sinners, as we all are, but not because they drink alcohol. They are sinners because they were born in sin, and are sons of Adam.

    I don't think I've encouraged any young dad to go and get drunk. But I may have helped someone feel less condemned because they drink one, two or three beers on a Sunday while watching football.

    Micaiah, I do know that I've talked to enough non-Christians in New England as well as here in the South and they are often made to feel like they have to stop drinking to come to Jesus, in the same way that smokers are made to feel like they have to stop smoking to come to Jesus. Who puts that roadblock up? Does Jesus? Does the Holy Spirit? Is that part of the Gospel that Paul proclaimed? No, it's the other gospel that I mentioned in my post which is the gospel of "do's and don'ts"--we establish our own righteousness based on what we do or don't do, not on HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS.

    Here's a scenario of how things could operate in the body of Christ:
    Let's say there are two couples: One drinks, the other doesn't. They sit down for dinner together and they're Christians. One couple has a glass of wine and the other says, "Sorry, we don't drink." The one couple then says, "I'm sorry. Am I going to cause you to stumble? Are you a recovering alcoholic? Is there a problem here?"

    "No, it's just a conscience issue. I don't drink."

    "Ok. Do you mind if we drink?"
    "No, we don't mind at all."

    Is it ok for one couple to have a glass of wine with their meal and the other couple to not have a glass of wine with their meal, and they both sit at the table and love each other?

  3. Hi there, thanks for responding. Let me start by saying again - I have no problem with drinking some alcohol as a christian - I'm pretty sure I advocated a moderate view in my post. that is why I cited qualifications of Elders and Deacons - it fits right? Not given to "much wine"?? I don't see where my argument is defeated by that citation. Also, I don't put a lot of stock in any particular english translation when having difficulty with words and such. Its not helpful to me to know what some other guy said, I preferr to go to a word for word translation or a literal translation first, and then I look at other translations to see what the general ideas are among the greek scholars. I don't usually go to the NIV for deep study. At any rate, you will find that I was accurate. It does not say they were drunk... people can drink too much and not be "drunk" as I think you mentioned.

    I agreed with much of what you said, and I think if you re-read my post you will see that the only conflict we have is that you seem to think its great for christians to frequent bars, and insinuate that Jesus kind of likes providing wine for already drunk folk - and anyone who rebukes a christian for this is a legalist. That is more what I take issue with. I know a lot of old timers that fit your descriptions and perhaps they are wrong, but we are not encouraged to look exactly as the world does. In fact since people are different, the Bible tells us believers to have grace for the "weaker brother" whos conscience tells him these behaviors are sinful_ see Romans 14. My two cents? In a world that lives for drinking and entertainment, perhaps it is wise to heir on the side of less beer and football, and more living out the gospel.

    I know you are not intentionally causing someone to wander, but I am a 35 year old dad and I really enjoy reading your posts. This one rubbed me the wrong way because at one point I might have sent this over to my wife and said, "SEEEE! Its not bad!".