Author’s Note: Interested readers can find all previous volumes in this series here.
Today we conclude our two-part series on what the Bible says about wine. Last week we studied the Old Testament, and now we open up the New, noting the central role wine plays in Jesus’ messianic ministry.
Wine is first mentioned in the first book of the New Testament, the Gospel of Matthew, when Jesus says:
“” Neither do people pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst; the wine will run out and the skins will be spoiled. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are kept. (Matthew 9:17).
This lesson in “new wine” was also recorded in Mark 2: 18-22 and Luke 5: 33-39, reinforcing its significance on how Jesus symbolically represented the “new wine” that cannot be contained in an old skin. He came to fulfill the Old Testament – the old wine kept in the old skin. He taught how new wine is “ruined” when poured into old goatskins which “burst” after being stretched to its limit from the time the old wine is fermented and developed.
Jesus’ symbolic identity with wine is reinforced in his famous first miracle when he turned water into wine. The miracle only appears in the gospel of John when Jesus, his mother and his disciples attended a wedding feast at Cana in Galilee which (gasping) is about to run out of wine. Mother Mary presses her son for a miracle, and Jesus at first refuses to say, “My hour has not yet come. Take a moment and read the short passage.
After Jesus quietly changes six large jars of water into wine without fanfare, the “banquet master” comments to the groom on his unusual feast etiquette, saying:
“Everyone brings out the wine of choice first, then the cheapest wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have kept the best until now ‘” (John 2: 9-10).
The last verse explains the purpose of the miracle:
“What Jesus did here at Cana in Galilee was the first of the signs by which he revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him ” (John 2:11).
A colleague of mine, Russ Bréault, wrote of the first miracle, explaining, “Transformation is the key. Turning water into wine is a metaphor for what Jesus wants to do in the life of every believer. His first miracle reveals the central mission of his ministry – the gospel message has the power to transform. Jesus later calls him ‘born again,’ “And Russ again emphasizes the real reason for the miracle,” the first of the signs by which he revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.
Then about three years later, on the night he was betrayed during the Last Supper, Jesus transformed the wine (and bread) again. On this occasion in his blood and his body as reported in three Gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke, and I Corinthians.
“While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after giving thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, ‘Take and eat; It’s my body. ‘ Then he took a cup, [of wine]and when he had thanked, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you. This is my covenant blood, which is shed for many in remission of sins. I tell you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine any more until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom. ‘ ” (Matthew 26: 17-29).
Every Sunday around the world, in Catholic, Orthodox and some Protestant churches, believers renew their faith through the sacrifice of the body and blood of Jesus in a ritual known as the Eucharist – the climax, and some would say the reason for – the mass Protestant churches call this ritual communion. Nevertheless, in both religions, the faithful ingest a small cake for His body and take a sip of wine (or grape juice) for His blood.
Wine is then mentioned at the time when Jesus is crucified, to alleviate the pain:
“So they offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he didn’t take it.” (Mark 15:23).
Let us go back for a moment in the ministry of Jesus – well before the Last Supper – to emphasize the importance of wine. (In vol. 34 we already discussed bread.)
John records a glimpse of what Jesus would say again at the Last Supper:
“’Truly I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. Because my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them. (John 6: 53-59).
Please don’t think Jesus is talking about cannibalism. The truth is that Jesus presents himself as the source of eternal life – his body and his blood, which he will sacrifice on the cross for our sins – the bread and wine of the Eucharist.
Let us return for a moment to human failures. In the New Testament, wine is also mentioned in conjunction with excessive alcohol consumption and other destructive behaviors in a few passages. here and here, as well as from a more positive angle:
“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do everything to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).
There are many other Bible passages related to wine that you can read here.
To close today’s study, I asked the learned Reverend David G. Caron, OP, director of Spiritual Outreach for Cross Catholic Awareness, to offer a quote on Jesus and wine. He wrote:
“St. Catherine of Siena speaks of a relationship with God as holy drunkenness. Catherine said: ‘… a wine that intoxicates the soul so much that the more you drink, the more you want to drink.’ Jesus, with his life and his teachings, introduced people in his own way to holy drunkenness.
Let’s raise a glass of wine (or grape juice) to this truth.
Myra Kahn Adams is a media producer and a conservative political and religious writer with many national credits. She is also the executive director of www.SignFromGod.org, a ministry dedicated to the education of the Shroud of Turin. Contact: MyraAdams01@gmail.com or Twitter @MyraKAdams.