Rethinking a Messiah’s Miracle
WWJB? It’s a legitimate question. Jesus drank with the best of them.1 He made choice wine from water at a wedding in Cana—and lots of it. About 150 gallons. In case you’re wondering, that’s about 800 bottles. And it was good stuff.
“You saved the best for last,” said the master of the banquet to the bridegroom.2 All proof that Jesus approved of earthly celebrations and drinking, despite the fact that some fundamentalists make the ludicrous claim that his wine wasn’t fermented. It was. The Greek word used is oinos, which means fermented drink derived from grapes. In fact, in the Torah, God told the Israelites to use a portion of their tithe to buy food, wine, and strong drink—whatever their appetites craved—for an annual party.3 Like the Cana wedding, it was a time of rejoicing, which the Psalmist echoed when he said “He makes wine that gladdens the heart of man [and woman].”4 The scriptures tell us the abundance of wine is a divine blessing.5
Don’t get nervous, teetotalers. God does not approve of alcohol abuse. Paul told his hearers “don’t get drunk with wine”6 in the Greek continuous tense; meaning don’t be in the habit of overindulging.7 The implication is, it’s fine to tie one on with restraint once in a while, as the Israelites were encouraged to do once a year; just beware of the dangers of drunkenness, in other words, alcoholism. It will ruin your life. Today, unlike biblical times, it is complicated by the deadly combination of drinking and driving.
But what of societies where moderate imbibing is practiced responsibly? If Jesus was invited to a wedding in Belgium or Germany or the home of an American microbrewer, and his mother Mary was worried because they ran out of beer, what would he brew? You can bet your bottom dollar it wouldn’t be Bud Lite.
As a microbrew enthusiast I’d like to offer a few suggestions. Just as the water-into-wine miracle teaches us about God’s lavish provision, his concern over a host’s embarrassment about a poorly planned wedding party, and the importance of bounteous celebrations of life and love, our delving into a WWJB scenario will uncover eye-opening revelations. Ones you can test out in real life. And, if you’re inclined, at the local pub.
We already began with what he wouldn’t brew. Let’s explore that further. As much as I love the Canadian Ale, La Fin du Monde, a robust, flavorful triple-fermentation with a nine percent wallop, I doubt Jesus would brew it. Why? The English translation of this French-named beer is “The End of the World.” My contention is Jesus doesn’t want to send us that message. Some Evangelical Christians delight in saying his return is imminent along with seven years of harrowing tribulation with nothing to look forward to but Judgment Day. They then use this claim to convince you to “accept Jesus” so you’re spared the horror. As I have written elsewhere,8 this interpretation of New Testament eschatology is misguided and naïve. Jesus spoke of the end of the age, meaning the era of Jewish Temple worship (which ended with the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD), not the end of the world. Lavish provision and celebrations of life are still in play. We may need to limit them for ourselves at times, but not due to a looming apocalyptic global catastrophe, but rather so we can show concern for the poor and empower them to join the party. Spiritual manipulation through fear is not what Jesus is about, which also highlights how his teaching on hell is misinterpreted.9
1. Matthew 11:19
2. John 2:1-10
3. Deuteronomy 14:26
4. Psalm 104:14-15
5. Genesis 27:28
6. Ephesians 5:18
7. Darwin Chandler, The Royal Law of Liberty, pages 252-253
8. Michael Camp, Last Days Delusions
9. Michael Camp, Embrace Universal Life
To be continued…