WineFebruary 6th, 2013 by Anthony Bosman
It’s the middle of the night, around 1 or 2am, and I’m standing outside of a frat party on my university’s campus. The music’s still going, but the party’s beginning to die down as students begin walking back to their dormitories. Or rather, stumbling back, revealing the nature of the party.
So what am I doing here? It has to do with John 2. I’ll have to back up a bit to explain.
Earlier that evening, I was studying the account of Jesus’ first miracle. You know, water to wine. And the wine bit was troubling me.
You see, according to the passage, Jesus seems to have created around 150 gallons of the stuff (John 2:6). That’s a lot of wine.
What isn’t explicit is the type of the wine. The greek word for wine (oinos) can denote either fermented wine (i.e., alcoholic) or unfermented wine (think grape juice). I was bothered by the possibility: Did Jesus make 150 gallons of alcoholic wine?
As a college student, I’ve too often seen the effects that just a fraction of that much alcohol can have. I have friends who consistently conclude a tough week of classes by trying to ‘escape’ through alcohol. Often they end up doing foolish (or even dangerous) things. Then the next day, they try to laugh it off. Yet all the while they are hurting, and the ‘escape’ is only burying and intensifying that hurt.
Beyond the deep emotional pain, there is also serious physical danger. Alcohol is the number one cause of motor accidents for those my age. Moreover, it leads to increased health risks. While some debate if moderate use has benefits for the heart, what is clear is that even moderate alcohol consumption increases the risk for colon, liver, breast, and a host of other cancers.
And of course, there is a causal relationship to domestic violence and broken families.
So did Jesus – the Master Physician – create 150 gallons of alcoholic beverages? While perhaps this passage isn’t explicit, elsewhere Jesus cautions, “Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness and the anxieties of life” (Luke 21:34). He knew alcohol was a false escape.
The Bible is full of many such warnings. One that especially strikes my attention explains:
Who has woe? Who has sorrow?
Who has strife? Who has complaints?
Who has needless bruises? Who has bloodshot eye?
Those who linger over wine, who go to sample bowls of mixed wine.
Do not gaze at wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup, when it goes down smoothly!
In the end it bites like a snake and poisons like a viper.
Your eyes will see strange sights, and your mind will imagine confusing things.
You will be like one sleeping on the high seas, lying on top of the rigging.
“They hit me,” you will say, “but I’m not hurt!
They beat me, but I don’t feel it?
When will I wake up so I can find another drink?” (Prov. 23:29-35)
Here the writer demonstrates his familiarity with the effects of alcohol and offers a strong command. “Do not gaze at wine”.
Not, don’t get drunk; rather, don’t even look at it!
I have good friends who believe that it’s alright to “drink in moderation.” The problem is every one of them can recall multiples times when they drank far more than they planned to. And even when they do abide by their artificial limits, still they’re putting their health at risk and signaling to others their approval of a substance that causes so much hurt.
Don’t even go down that road really is wise counsel. So then why am I, in the middle of the night, at such a party?
After doing this study on what Jesus and the Bible taught on alcohol, I was appreciative of the wise teaching to abstain from alcohol, but felt that I was still missing something. I said a simple prayer, asking God to reveal whatever it was to me, then I went to sleep.
The middle of that night I was woken up by a phone call. A couple close friends had gone to a nearby party and one had drank to the point that she couldn’t walk back to our dorm. So I and another drove down to pick her up, helped her to the car, and stayed up with her for a while to make sure she was ok.
Yes, it interrupted my sleep, but I believe this is how God was answering my prayer. He was teaching me that not only does He want to bless my life through teaching me to make wise decisions, but He also wants to use me to bless the lives of those around me.
And I’m altogether confident He wants to use you to. That’s His plan. Are you in?